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Exotic Metals Forming Co. opening plant in Airway Heights

An aerospace company that manufactures parts for the aviation industry announced Thursday that it will bring a 150,000-square-foot plant to Airway Heights employing up to 150 people once it begins operation about a year from now.

Exotic Metals Forming Co. LLC, of Kent, Wash., is buying a 56.6-acre property on the south side of McFarlane Road at Lawson Street for $743,000.

The site is owned by Spokane International Airport, which helped recruit the company to the Spokane region.

The company makes machined sheet metal parts for commercial aviation globally. Among its more than 100 customers are Boeing Co. and United Technologies, said Doug Gines, company vice president and chief operating officer.

The company was formed in 1966 and is family-owned and privately held with 900 employees. Gines said the company spent six years searching internationally for a site before settling on the Spokane region. Ultimately, the company decided it preferred a U.S. site for expansion, he said.

Business recruiters in Spokane have been working in that time to land the company, which slowed its search after the global economic recession hit in 2008 and 2009, said Todd Woodard, airport spokesman.

Gines said the type of workers it could hire here weighed into the decision.

The company places a premium on high-quality employees for its people-oriented culture. “We were looking for people who thought like us,” Gines said.

Airport and county officials said the jobs created would be “living wage” jobs.

The company made its announcement Thursday during a reception at Northern Quest Casino attended by about 200 community leaders.

“This is a big deal,” Spokane Mayor David Condon told the crowd.

Exotic Metals will be eligible for a reduction of the state business and occupation tax granted by the Legislature last fall as an incentive to Boeing Co. and the aerospace industry. The incentive was part of the state’s effort to persuade Boeing to build its new 777X aircraft in Washington.

Exotic Metals’ “biggest tax liability is the B&O,” said Alex Pietsch, director of aerospace in the state Office of Economic Development and Competitiveness.

In addition, the state contributed $200,000 to pre-planning work under the governor’s strategic reserve fund for economic development. That money was managed by Greater Spokane Incorporated, the region’s economic development organization and chamber of commerce.

Also, a state work training grant of $100,000 is available to the company as it gears up. Again, GSI is handling the money, which can be used for company on-site training or training through Spokane Community College, said Robin Toth, GSI’s vice president for business development.

Other incentives are coming from Airway Heights, which is paying two-thirds of the $167,000 cost of extending a sewer line to the site. Airway Heights will also make improvements to the intersection of McFarlane and Craig roads within the next six years.

Airway Heights officials also guaranteed that the city would review building permit plans within 48 hours of their being submitted, said City Manager Albert Tripp.

Airway Heights will provide water to the site.

During Thursday’s announcement, Gines said the area’s infrastructure and the support of the community were factors playing into the decision to expand in the Spokane area.

In addition to nearby utilities, the site is close to Interstate 90, Spokane International Airport and the Geiger Spur rail line, although the company is not likely to use rail transportation, local officials said.

Walker Construction Inc. and Bernardo Wills Architects were chosen to design and build the project, officials said.

Construction is expected to begin in late spring or early summer, with completion by spring 2015.

The Spokane airport had to win approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to sell the property to Exotic Metals, said airport CEO Lawrence Krauter.

The Airport Board is expected to finalize the land deal next month. The airport is jointly owned by the city of Spokane and Spokane County.

The airport has made it known that its holdings on the West Plains are available for economic development.

Airport Board Chairman Skip Davis said that developing the aerospace industry in Spokane has been an economic development priority for the past several years. “This airport has lots of land and lots of opportunity and lots of assets,” he told the audience during the announcement.

One of Exotic Metals’ reasons for building a plant in a new location is to decrease the overall risk that comes with having a single manufacturing site, if an unlikely disaster strikes, Gines said.

Airway Heights officials said in a companion news release that they hope to create an “Aerospace Center of Excellence” in Airway Heights and that the arrival of Exotic Metals is a first step in that effort.

The proximity of Fairchild Air Force Base and its trained workforce is seen as a drawing card for aerospace industry recruitment since many Air Force workers shift to civilian careers after military service.

The land for the factory is outside the accident potential zone for Fairchild.

The news release said that Exotic Metals has been a Boeing “supplier of the year” six times.

“State-of-the-art, high-temperature, high-strength sheet metal designs and fabrications are produced” for Boeing and other manufacturers, the release said.