Enstrom will expand, add to workforce
Tuesday, April 16, 2013 7:00 PM
MENOMINEE - Construction set to begin in less than a month at Enstrom Helicopter will not only drastically change the business, it will change the face of the west side of Menominee.
Jerry Mullins, president and CEO of the company, brought a 3-D depiction of what the company's new building will look like to show members of the Twin County Airport Commission Tuesday.
And what commissioners saw was an addition that will encompass the current facility, adding approximately 70,000 square feet in floor space by the end of the year.
"The facility is double the size of the current plant," Mullins said, adding that the building will expand to the west and the north and will include a second-floor mezzanine across the west side, where administrative and engineering offices will be relocated.
The entire project will cost about $8 million, he said, and the company chose Moyle Construction of Houghton, Mich., out of eight companies, to lead the project.
Moyle was the company that renovated The Harbors in Menominee, a project completed in 2009.
Mullins told the commission that Enstrom needs space for the helicopters it is building as well as for the employees who are building them.
"We did 20 some last year and 30 or so in the previous years," he said of helicopter production. But Enstrom is looking to ramp up production to 100 helicopters a year, including a new design.
Enstrom now employs 165 people, about 100 of whom were added in the past 16-18 months. "We will add 150-200 over the next two or three years," Mullins said.
Mullins said the board of the company, which was purchased in 2012 by Chongqing Helicopter Investment Co. (CQHIC), of Chongqing, China, approved the expansion project and the development of a new helicopter. "It's nice to have an owner that is willing to invest in growth," he said.
Enstrom also purchased a building across 22nd Street, which housed a dentist's office. It is being converted into living space to house at least six pilots in training at a time, he said.
He said bathrooms are being added, and bedrooms for at least six Chinese pilots will be part of the renovation.
"These are exciting times," Mullins said. "Good for the airport, good for the community. We look at hiring a lot of people."
The company is working with the Federal Aviation Administration, the Michigan Department of Transportation Bureau of Aviation and local units of government to acquire all the necessary permits for construction. Mullins said the company wants to have a groundbreaking ceremony in mid-May, and has invited Gov. Rick Snyder of Michigan to attend.
Commissioner Ted Sauve suggested Enstrom also contact Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin, since Enstrom employs many workers from Marinette County.
"There are jobs for people in both states," Mullins said. "This is truly one community."
Enstrom has contracts for 32 helicopters this year and 45 for 2014, a year when more site expansion is planned. Many of the helicopters built are going to Japan, Thailand and China - including those sold to their new owners.
"They bought 15 last year and are buying 15 next year," he said.
Mullins asked the commission to consider a request to offer Enstrom a concession on rental space for helicopters that are still in production, since they are in the process of retrofitting some radio-equipment changes and had to move several over to the airport for the time being.
Sauve said the commission would do what it could to work with the company.
Mullins said that construction would start soon after the groundbreaking and be visible to the community, which has shown support for the expansion.