By Carson Gerber
Tribune staff writer
PERU — It’s been four years since state and local officials began initial talks to entice Texas-based Dean Baldwin Painting to move into a vacant airplane hangar at Grissom Aeroplex.
Those talks started paying off last week when American Airlines flew a massive Boeing 767 jet to the hangar to get a fresh paint job by newly-hired workers.
CEO Barbara Baldwin said in a previous interview the company has already hired 60 people, and estimated 160 employees would be working at the facility by the end of April.
She said the company will hire over 200 workers by the end of the year, with an annual payroll of around $6 million.
Dean Baldwin Painting officially began operations out of the renovated hangar last week, after winning a contract in January to paint American Airlines jet 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 it usually takes around 14 days to complete a paint job, and the Boeing 767 should be complete this week.
Since the initial talks began four years ago, Miami County officials have worked to secure funding to renovate the hangar at Grissom to accommodate the company.
The $13.8 million project expanded the hangar by 50,000 feet on the east and west sides so large airplanes could fit inside.
“This facility is one-in-a-million,” Baldwin said. “It’s really state-of-the-art.”
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.
The expansion will nearly double the size of Dean Baldwin, which currently employees 240 people at its facilities in New Mexico, Texas and Arizona.
Federal Aviation Administration officials met Friday with company and local representatives to formally present a certificate of operation for the hangar.
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. Jim Tidd, executive director of the Miami County Economic Development Authority, said the yearly lease payments will go toward paying off the federal and state loans.
He said studies estimate the facility will have an economic impact of $162 million in the area over its first five years of operation.
Carson Gerber is a Kokomo Tribune reporter. He can be reached at 765-854-6739, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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