GE considering Ohio for systems center

VANDALIA, OHIO - Ohio’s technology-supporting Third Frontier program is offering General Electric Co. an incentive grant of $7.6 million in an effort to persuade GE to build a center in southwest Ohio that would expand the company’s ability to supply electric power systems for the nation’s Joint Strike Fighter and civilian aircraft.

Ohio is the leading candidate for the center, which would allow its engineers to develop, test and certify aircraft electric power systems in one location, GE executives said, during a meeting with state and University of Dayton officials at the university.

GE’s goal is to decide in March 2010 whether to go ahead with the project — which would take 18 months to construct — and where to build it, said Vic Bonneau, president of GE’s Electrical Power Systems business.

“It’s important for the business,” Bonneau said.

GE wants to respond to rapidly increasing demands for expanded electrical power systems for military and civilian aircraft, he said.

If Ohio is chosen, the center would be constructed at either GE’s Electrical Power Systems operation in Vandalia or GE Aircraft Engines in the Cincinnati suburb of Evendale, Bonneau said. That gives Ohio an edge because of GE’s engineering expertise at those key locations, he said.

GE has told the state it would commit $50.75 million to the Electrical Power Integrated Systems Center, which would initially employ 10 to 15 people but could eventually employ 100 to 300 people if the company’s Electrical Power Systems unit approaches its goal of doubling its annual sales to $700 million by 2019.

GE has said it also is considering sites at operations it has in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Erlanger, Kentucky, and Cheltenham, England.

GE said its goal is to win contracts to supply electric power systems for the country’s next-generation military bomber aircraft and derivatives of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and civilian planes including the Boeing 737 and Airbus 30X.

The University of Dayton Research Institute would be a partner for GE and host a GE-funded satellite center of two or three people for at least the first three years, according to GE’s proposal to Ohio.

If the project happens, it would fit into Ohio’s effort to boost development of its aerospace industry along the Interstate 75 corridor. In September, Gov. Ted Strickland designated Dayton as a hub of aerospace innovation and development, setting up the region to receive continuing state support for aerospace development. In November, the state said it will provide a 15-year, $120 million tax credit to support GE’s plan to invest more than $100 million in capital improvements during the next several years at the GE Aviation plant in Evendale.

“It is a natural fit to the developing aerospace hub in Dayton,” said Eric Fingerhut, chairman of the Ohio Third Frontier Commission and chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, who met with GE and UD officials. Ohio’s $7.6 million offer is contingent on GE deciding to build the center within the state.


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