BROOKSVILLE — A company that designs and builds airplane components at the Hernando County Airport is ready to expand its operation and is seeking financial incentives from the state and the county.
Airdyne Aerospace Inc. began leasing a 6,000-square-foot hangar at the airport in October 2009, using the space for research and development and storage of components for C-130 transport planes. Now the company wants to move to a larger manufacturing space at the airport and begin building the components it has designed.
County commissioners on Tuesday will consider approving the project for incentives — including one for the creation of jobs — since Airdyne plans to add at least 17 high-skill, high-wage jobs in the first two years of operation. Currently, Airdyne has fewer than 10 employees.
The average wage for the new jobs is estimated to be $57,762, which is twice Hernando County's average wage.
The commission will also be asked to consider whether Airdyne's expansion is eligible for a combined state and local incentive for "qualified targeted industries.'' The county pays a 20 percent match, with the state paying the remainder, for that incentive.
If the commission approves, the county will pay a total of $74,800 in incentives over the next five years.
The company is still awaiting approval for the state incentives, according to Michael McHugh, the county's business development manager.
Airdyne, which is only about 5 years old, is headquartered in California.
Hangar space, research and development offices, and manufacturing facilities include the Hernando operation, a Canada-based division and several other field offices across the United States.
Just this week, the company demonstrated one of its products on a C-130 that was flown to the Hernando airport. It was a special door to replace the original door on the plane.
Instead of a solid door, Airdyne engineered and built one with a special bubble window that would provide more visibility to those inside.
Whether that visibility is needed for a search-and-rescue mission or for a military application, it was a good example of what Airdyne does, McHugh said.
"In essence, their products can be installed or retrofitted into existing aircraft, making them safer or more capable instead of buying another airplane,'' McHugh said.
The products include a mounting arm that could provide a platform for radar or sensors, like a sensor attached to a plane flying a mission to Antarctica. The sensor will allow the pilot to determine the crevices in snow fields to figure out where to land safely.
Other equipment allows upgrades to fueling or firefighting functions, McHugh said.
The new manufacturing building has features that Airdyne will need as it expands its operation, including easy access for supply trucks and a top-flight security system since some of their products are designed for military use, he said.
The building is also close to the airport's runways so that customers can fly into the airport and have their retrofitting completed or see demonstrations of how equipment works.
"I think this has got high potential,'' McHugh said.
Expanding at the airport was an easy choice, said Mike Hillestad, vice president for sales and marketing for Airdyne.
"It's a very hospitable area,'' he said, praising McHugh, the county airport staff and members of the aviation authority for their willingness to work with the company to make the expansion happen. State and local incentives were also attractive.
In addition, many of the materials that the company needs for its operation are located in and around the airport, and Airdyne intends to shop locally, Hillestad said.
Plus, he said, being in Central Florida, there are plenty of out-of-work engineers who used to work at Cape Canaveral who might be available to fill the new positions.
"We can't afford not to be there,'' he said.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (352) 848-1434.