by Max Brantley
Little Rock National Airport announced today that it had extended its lease agreement with Dassault Falcon, for its aircraft finishing operation, through 2040, with an option to extend.
To hear Mayor Mark Stodola tell it, it wouldn't have been possible without that expensive trip to Paris and all the fine meals he and his chamber of commerce buddy enjoyed, not to mention Gov. Mike Beebe's own European trade mission. No doubt, though I suspect hard numbers were ultimately deal makers.
The promise of an extended presence of the plant, said to employ 1,800, is nothing but good news, but not a guarantee of the jobs. Dassault has laid off hundreds in Little Rock in recent years as the recession has hit private aircraft manufacturers. But it remains one of the area's biggest payrolls and at good wages.
I'm hoping for details on lease costs and space commitments and what the city spent for street and airport improvements as part of the deal. I'm also curious if the agreement includes any clawbacks if disaster happens and a factory is closed.
UPDATE: The old lease was due to expire in 2022, but had a 10-year extension. Here's a summary of the new lease particulars, which shows the airport will take in $300,000 more a year over the previous $621,000, plus have an escalator clause. Dassault will be leasing 172,000 more square feet of land than previously.
The city and state had earlier improved the 9th Street access to airport facilities at with a federal grant and government quick-action money, as well as airport enhancement money. Airport Director Ron Mathieu said he's hopeful Dassault will expand on its new property. He said no incentives had been paid to hold the plant here. He said a worldwide operator such as Dassault could always be viewed as interested in building elsewhere and the new lease was an important achievement. Though the agreement contains no clawbacks, the improvements would revert to the airport in time if Dassault were not cease operations, he noted.
The Little Rock National Airport (LIT) and Dassault Falcon Jet Corporation announced Tuesday an amended lease agreement effective through at least 2040 with an additional 10-year option at the end of 2040. This agreement will keep the jet fabricator at the airport through the next four decades.
Under the new lease, Dassault will gain use of additional land and facilities at LIT for its operations that currently employ 1,800 people with an annual payroll of $150 million. Dassault is one of the largest employers in Arkansas.
“We are happy to announce the extension of our agreement with Dassault Falcon Jet here at the Little Rock National Airport,” said Airport Executive Director Ron Mathieu. “This is a great accomplishment for LIT, the City of Little Rock and Central Arkansas. I would like to thank the Commission for their vision and leadership during the lease negotiation process, and staff for their hard work and dedication. I would also like to thank Dassault for being a good corporate partner and their commitment to Arkansas.”
“We are pleased to continue our 30-year relationship with Little Rock National Airport, the City of Little Rock and the State of Arkansas,” said Jeff Griffin, Vice President of Finance for Dassault Falcon Jet. “I commend the Airport Commissioners and staff as well as local leaders in Little Rock for continuing this partnership that has created good paying jobs for this area."
The City of little Rock in conjunction with the federal Economic Development Administration committed to improve the access to the Dassault facilities, and other job sites on LIT property, resulting in the new 9th street extension.
"I am very pleased that all our hard work and discussions with Dassault Falcon Jet, both here and in France, have paid off ensuring the continuation and future expansion of one of Little Rock's most important industries,” Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola said.
“I am very proud of our staff for working diligently over the last two years to secure this extension that will save jobs and also add good paying jobs in Little Rock in the future. I am also proud of the leadership that was provided by Governor Beebe and Mayor Stodola in helping to make today’s announcement a reality. This announcement along with our current terminal expansion project are clear examples of the economic impact and benefit of the airport to the City of Little Rock and the State.” said Virgil Miller, Chairman of the Little Rock Airport Commission.
Under the new agreement, Dassault will lease more than four million square feet of land and 900,000 square feet of total hangar and office space.
“This announcement once again proves that LIT is a job creation engine for Little Rock and the entire state,” said Little Rock Regional Chamber of Commerce President Jay Chesshir. “State, City and Little Rock National Airport officials have worked closely with Dassault leaders in Little Rock and in France to ensure that we keep these jobs right here at our airport.”