In early 2019, a Swiss helicopter manufacturer held a press conference to tout its plans to “conquer” the U.S. market from its new factory in southern Louisiana. Three years later, things haven’t exactly gone according to plan — in fact, it turns out the company has pulled the plug on the project altogether.
Kopter, a maker of single-turbine helicopters for transportation services, utilities, and first responders, reportedly selected a location in Lafayette, Louisiana, ahead of dozens of potential sites. The company bought out the lease at a former Bell Helicopter facility at the city’s airport and vowed to invest more than $4 million in the complex. The plant was reportedly in line to make a new helicopter for the company, creating more than 120 new jobs — and receiving millions in incentives from the state.
Less than a year later, however, Kopter was acquired by Italian aerospace company Leonardo, whose primary U.S. operations are in Philadelphia and which operated a maintenance facility in nearby Broussard, Louisiana. Although Kopter continued to operate independently, by the following March, the fate of the Lafayette project was apparently already in jeopardy.
Later in the year, the company sought to buy out the remainder of its lease, and the deal was terminated in September.
In a letter to local airport officials, the company blamed the pandemic and the collapse of the oil and gas sector in the Gulf of Mexico, and said it could not find a way to incorporate the facility into its five-year planning. But Kopter told the Arcadiana Advocate this month that the decision stemmed from its integration with Leonardo, and that its operations will move to Philadelphia.
Despite the blow, state and local economic development officials aren’t giving up on the site altogether. The Advocate reports that some potential tenants have already toured the facility, while officials will showcase it at a site selector conference and at a major helicopter trade show.