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Canadian aircraft company chooses homeland over Mo. for plant site

Sunday, July 13, 2008 | 5:44 p.m. CDT; updated 4:37 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

KANSAS CITY — After months of effort and a $240 million incentive package, Missouri officials lost their bid to lure Canadian aircraft giant Bombardier’s multimillion dollar plant to Kansas City.

On Sunday, Bombardier, the world’s third-largest civilian plane manufacturer, announced in England that it would manufacture its new C-series aircraft at Mirabel, a suburb of Montreal, with the wings made at a site in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Kansas City was the only other competitor for Bombardier’s proposed $375 million plant, which could employ up to 2,100 people.

Earlier this year, Gov. Matt Blunt signed into law legislation authorizing $240 million in tax incentives for the Canadian airplane maker. The law represented Missouri’s largest-ever offer in the international competition for big-ticket business projects.

On Sunday, Blunt said the outcome was not what he had hoped for, but that “future partnerships” with Bombardier were a possibility.

“I met personally with Bombardier officials last week and they expressed a desire to consider future partnerships with our state knowing our commitment to collaborations with the growing aerospace industry,” Blunt said in a statement.

“Our discussions with Bombardier will continue and we will seek additional opportunities with this company and others in the aerospace industry to bring jobs and economic growth to our state.”

Although a weak American dollar made building the plant in the United States financially attractive, the Canadian company came under heavy lobbying pressure to build the bulk of the 110- to 130-seat aircraft in its home country.

Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser also said in a statement that he was disappointed with the decision, but that the effort the city put forth could eventually pay off.

“We put forward an aggressive but very responsible package,” Funkhouser said. “I know Kansas City will have many more opportunities like this, and the relationships we put together in this effort will serve us well.”

Missouri promoted land near Kansas City International Airport as an alternative to Bombardier’s previously expressed preference of Mirabel, Canada, just north of its Montreal headquarters.

The law enacted by Blunt would have offered up to $240 million in tax credits over eight years, beginning in 2013, based on the number of employees the company hires at the plant. Bombardier would have repaid the tax credits, plus a 5.1 percent rate of return, by giving Missouri a fixed amount of money for each plane it sells from the plant.

Kansas City also would have issued bonds under which the city would own the property and lease it to Bombardier.

The C-series aircraft are expected to carry 110 to 145 passengers and are designed to compete against the aging Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 jets — as well as the 98 to 114 seat ERJ 190 by regional jetmaker Embraer, or Empresa Brasileira de Aeronautica SA.

Bombardier’s largest plane currently flying, the CRJ-900, has a maximum of 88 seats.


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