WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Global defense and security company Saab announced plans Wednesday (May 8) to locate a new U.S. manufacturing operation in Indiana. The facility, located at Discovery Park District Aerospace on the west side of the Purdue University campus, will support production of the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation T-X jet trainer and create up to 300 new jobs, with hiring starting in 2020.
The expansion is a fundamental part of the company’s strategy to grow its U.S. industrial and technology base. Saab also will collaborate with Purdue University to expand Saab’s U.S.-based research and development within possible areas such as sensor systems, artificial intelligence and autonomous systems. A photo gallery of the announcement is available here.
“Indiana has long been a national leader in manufacturing, and today’s announcement demonstrates how the Hoosier state continues playing a key role in propelling the industry forward by attracting investment from around the globe,” Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb said. “Saab’s decision to fuel its United States growth in West Lafayette is a testament to the state’s pro-growth business climate, strong aviation and defense sectors, and commitment to fostering innovation by collaborating with our renowned universities and businesses to solve 21st century challenges.”
The Stockholm-based company will invest $37 million to locate and build an Indiana-based workforce in West Lafayette. Saab will construct and equip a facility to manufacture a significant portion of the Boeing T-X advanced pilot training aircraft, which will help train future U.S. Air Force pilots for generations to come. Saab is both a partner and supplier to Boeing on the program.
The U.S. Air Force selected in September 2018 for the T-X pilot training program, and plans to purchase 351 jets from Boeing in the first phase. In Indiana, Saab will produce major aero structures for the Boeing T-X, which features an all-new aircraft designed, developed and manufactured by Boeing and Saab.
“This is a historic moment for Saab,” said Saab President and CEO Håkan Buskhe. “After careful consideration, we have chosen West Lafayette, thanks to the visionary leadership of both the state of Indiana and the world-leading Purdue University. Today’s announcement is a part of our growth strategy in the United States, and deepens our relationship with the U.S. customer. We see great possibilities here for this facility and our partnerships.”
Construction of the facility is expected to begin in 2020 at the Discovery Park District Aerospace to support the rapid Boeing T-X production rate demanded of the program. Saab expects to begin hiring for assembly operators and airplane mechanics as well as for logistics, manufacturing engineering, and administration and management roles the same year.
Discovery Park District is part of a $1 billion long-term project to transform the west side of the university campus, creating a preeminent environment for intellectual discourse and high-tech commercial enterprise. The district is being developed by Purdue Research Foundation in partnership with Browning Investments LLC for the master planning and development of the district. The Saab project is the sixth major project announced in the past two years for Discovery Park District.
“Purdue’s strong history in aircraft research and development makes Saab’s choice a natural fit,” said Purdue President Mitch Daniels. “But the even tighter fit is with our Discovery Park District concept. Saab’s investment will bring more cutting-edge research partnerships for our faculty, more high value employment and internship opportunities for our graduates, and more jobs and economic vitality for our neighbors.”
The Boeing T-X advanced pilot training program offers an all-new system purpose-built for the U.S. Air Force with aircraft, ground-based training and support designed together from the start. With suppliers including Triumph Group, General Electric, Collins Aerospace and L3 Technologies, the Boeing T-X will be more than 90 percent made in America and is expected to support more than 17,000 U.S. jobs. Initial operating capability of the T-X advanced pilot training aircraft is expected by the end of 2024 with full operational capability projected for 2034.
With operations on every continent, Saab continuously develops, adapts and improves new technology to meet customers’ changing needs. The company has over 17,000 employees and annual sales of $3.49 billion (Swedish Krona [SEK] 33.2 billion) in 2018, of which roughly 23% is reinvested in research and development.
“This collaboration involves many partners at many different levels who all came together to help make this momentous project happen,” said West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis. “We all felt that the entire Greater Lafayette community will benefit from Saab’s presence well beyond the economic development, but also the community enrichment that Saab employees and their families will bring to our area and Discovery Park District.”
The 176-acre Discovery Park District Aerospace, which was named an Indiana Certified Technology Park in 2015, is one of the few in the country that houses an active airport adjoining property that can support public and private aerospace research facilities. The district also is home to Purdue’s Zucrow Laboratories, known for jet engine research, Rolls-Royce’s jet engine component facility and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratory’s electrical engineering research and development facility, currently under construction, called SEL Purdue.
“We welcome Saab to Greater Lafayette,” said Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski. “This has been an important and rewarding collaboration between our cities, the county, Purdue University and the state of Indiana. Our partnership helps us meet the needs of our growing community and good employment opportunities. It also helps provide the best environment for our companies to grow and prosper.”
“Tippecanoe County is excited to welcome Saab to the community,” said Tippecanoe County Commissioners President David Byers. “Not only did the city of West Lafayette, city of Lafayette and Tippecanoe County financially support the project, but the Purdue Research Foundation is providing the initial research funding to help support graduate students and office space for Saab’s first West Lafayette employees. That just shows you how our community truly collaborates to ensure our economy stays strong now and into the future.”
Subject to approval of the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC) Board of Directors, the IEDC will offer Saab up to $3.9 million in conditional tax credits and up to $1.15 million in training grants over two phases based on the company’s job creation plans. The IEDC also will offer up to $200,000 in conditional tax credits from the Hoosier Business Investment (HBI) tax credit program based on the company’s planned capital investment in Indiana. These incentives are performance-based, meaning the company is not eligible to receive incentives until jobs are created and qualified capital investment is made.
Indiana partners in the project include the cities of West Lafayette and Lafayette, Tippecanoe County, Greater Lafayette Commerce and Purdue Research Foundation, all of which offered local and county tax abatements as incentives to bring Saab to the area.