7E7 incentives race

CHARLESTON, S.C. – South Carolina is providing at least $116 million in incentives to lure a $560 million aircraft complex that will create 645 jobs, officials say.

Vought Aircraft Industries Inc. and Italy’s Alenia Aeronautica announced last week they are forming a joint venture to make fuselage sections for Boeing’s new 7E7 Dreamliner at Charleston International Airport, and then send them to Everett for assembly.

The package was approved on Monday by the state Senate’s Joint Bond Review Committee, said state Sen. Hugh Leatherman, the committee chairman.

The state Budget and Control Board is expected to approve the package next week.

The package could increase to $160 million if operations at the complex are expanded and at least 1,400 jobs are created.

State Commerce Secretary Bob Faith said the aircraft companies won’t qualify for funding unless they maintain certain employment levels and other commitments. “We worked hard to make sure it’s all performance-based, and it is,” he said.

The money comes from the sale of state-backed, tax-free bonds.

Two years ago, lawmakers approved a bill allowing the state to spend up to $250 million on land, infrastructure and other needs for companies investing more than $400 million and creating more than 400 jobs.

For Vought and Alenia, the state also has approved $50 million in incentives for air cargo businesses. But the state’s total commitment cannot exceed $160 million, Faith said.

Vought will build a 300,000-square-foot facility to manufacture the rear fuselage assemblies for the Dreamliner.

The center sections will be manufactured in Italy, then brought to North Charleston, where they will be joined with the aft sections at a similar-size plant being built jointly by Vought and Alenia North America Inc.

State money will help pay for the manufacturing complex, a 1,000-foot airport runway extension and a training and conference center.

The agreement includes the possibility that the site could be expanded for a facility to attach the Dreamliner cockpits to the fuselages. If that happens, employment could increase to about 900 workers and there would be $15 million more available for another 100,000-square-foot plant.

The companies would be eligible for another $25 million if they commit to further expansion by 2007 that boosts their combined payrolls to 1,400 workers, Faith said.

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