By Carson Gerber
Tribune staff writer
Peru — Texas-based Dean Baldwin Painting is set to begin operations out of a renovated hangar at the Grissom Aeroplex in early March, after winning a contract to paint American Airlines jet planes. The company said it plans to hire 200 workers this year.
CEO Barbara Baldwin said the company already has hired 60 people, and 30 are currently working and undergoing training. She estimated 160 employees would be working at the facility by the end of April.
The company was awarded its first contract in January to paint American Airline planes. The airline company announced earlier this year it was changing its logo and livery on all its planes for the first time in 40 years.
“We were fortunate to win a piece of this,” Baldwin said. “The contract we won is good and long.”
She said the company plans to paint and service more than 200 airplanes a year out of the new facility, which could attract other aviation businesses to the area.
Miami County officials worked for nearly four years to secure funding to renovate the hangar at Grissom Aeroplex to accommodate Dean Baldwin.
The $13.8 million project expanded the hangar by 50,000 feet on the east and west sides to accommodate massive jets like the Boeing 747.
Construction is complete on two service bays on the west side of the building, and the east side bays should be complete by mid March, said Jim Tidd, executive director of the Miami County Economic Development Authority. The facility should be totally complete in May, he said.
“This facility is one-in-a-million,” Baldwin said. “It’s really state-of-the-art, and it’s going to start showing itself off once we’re up and running.”
The expansion project was funded by a $7.2 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state loans totaling $5.1 million and more than $1 million in local funding from Miami County.
Dean Baldwin Painting signed a 30-year lease agreement with Miami County to use the hangar. Tidd said the yearly lease payments will go toward paying off the federal and state loans.
Baldwin said the company will hire more than 200 workers by the end of the year, with an annual payroll of around $6 million.
Tidd said studies estimate the facility will have an economic impact of $162 million in the area over its first five years of operation.
The expansion nearly doubles the size of the company, which currently employees 240 people at its facilities in New Mexico, Texas and Arizona.
Dean Baldwin previously was set to move into the new facility in December, but two fires and delays in supply deliveries delayed the renovation project.
“We’re anxious to move in,” Baldwin said. “We can’t wait to get started, and we’re almost there. But we wish we could have moved in earlier.”
Tidd said county officials are currently trying to attract other aviation-related companies to Grissom Aeroplex that could offer services on all the planes flying in to be painted by Dean Baldwin.
“I wish the hangar renovation project would have happened sooner and on schedule, but there’s always unexpected things that come up on these kinds of projects,” he said. “But after four years, it’s really great to see it all coming together.”
Carson Gerber is a Kokomo Tribune reporter. He may be reached at 765-854-6739, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.