Kit-plane maker Epic Aircraft eyes expansion in Bend, Ore.

BEND, Ore. — A kit-plane manufacturer is eyeing a vacant manufacturing plant to expand its operations in Bend.

The city council voted last week to transfer a lease of airport land from Cessna Aircraft to Epic Aircraft, and officials say the two companies are negotiating on a sale of the building.

Epic wanted Cessna’s vacant building to expand production beyond kit planes into aircraft certified by the Federal Aviation Administration, City Councilor Jim Clinton told The Bulletin. He noted that Central Oregon is still home to a large group of workers skilled in aircraft assembly, many of whom have been getting by with part-time work since the loss of Cessna.

Epic chief executive Doug King said he couldn’t discuss the deal because of a nondisclosure agreement.

“What I can say is that Epic Aircraft is growing, both in kit sales, as well as our certification effort,” King wrote in an email. “We expect to hire 40 to 80 new staff in 2013. Our commitment to Bend continues.”

FAA certification of Epic’s plane would let the company’s workers to manufacture and assemble the plane model’s parts, instead of selling them to buyers in packaged kits.

The city owns the Bend Municipal Airport land. Companies that buy property in the airport can own their building, but lease the land it sits on. The lease transfer has an effective date of Dec. 14, the date the city believes Epic and Cessna plan to close a deal on the building, Assistant City Manager John Skidmore said.

Cessna formerly employed nearly 500 people in Bend before leaving the city in 2009 saying it wanted to consolidate operations closer to its headquarters in Wichita, Kan.

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