Landing Dassault Falcon: How Local Officials Collaborated on a $60M Expansion Deal

by Luke Jones  on Monday, Jul. 1, 2013 12:00 am  

AEDC also offered several incentives to the company. Dassault will receive a 3.9 percent cash rebate on retained jobs and any new payroll for 10 years, tax refunds on building the new infrastructure and $2 million from the Governor’s Quick Action Closing Fund toward building costs.

Eric Tate, Dassault’s vice president of human resources in Little Rock, said the expertise of the Little Rock workforce also helped in the company’s decision.

“In short, everything that is required for the successful launch of our new aircraft exists here, today, in Little Rock,” he said.

“Our employees have made tremendous strides as far as product efficiency by embracing the industrialization of our processes,”

The workers are “second to none,” he added, and the efforts made by the city and state sealed the deal.

Mathieu said the airport’s November 2012 loss of the Hawker Beechcraft completion center and 1,000 jobs after that company’s bankruptcy meant he was doubly driven to keep Dassault and maintain the airport’s purpose as a hub of economic development.

“This is not just a bus terminal where the buses have wings,” he said. “That’s not what this is: It’s an economic generator for the community. You’ll see us working closely with the state, AEDC, the chamber, doing whatever we can do to attract businesses here and keep those jobs.

“When we can do that, we make a positive impact on the community, and those folks come back dressed as passengers.”

Dassault Falcon Jet

Dassault Aviation of Paris has had a presence at Little Rock’s Clinton National Airport since the mid-1970s when Falcon Jet Corp., a joint venture between Dassault Aviation and Pan Am, purchased Little Rock Airmotive, which at the time was a 61,500-SF hangar. Before the purchase, it was used by FedEx founder Fred Smith as a completion center for his fleet of aircraft.

The Falcon Jet completion center is responsible for completion of all Dassault jets worldwide. Dassault’s “green” aircraft — essentially just fuselages and engines — arrive from its facility in Merignac, France, and are fleshed out with interiors, avionics and paint before being delivered to the buyer. The completion center averages 55 to 60 deliveries each year.

“As we are the end of a long assembly/completion process, and where the customer actually takes delivery of the airplane, we are essential to Dassault Falcon’s success in the marketplace, both in productivity and customer service,” said Tate.

The completion center finished a $20 million expansion in 2008. It currently occupies about 897,000 SF at the airport and will have more than 1 million when the new expansion is complete.

The site employs about 1,800.



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