Sullivan County

Sullivan Co. competing for Bell Helicopter expansion, 125 jobs

Bell Helicopter expansion

SULLIVAN COUNTY, Tenn. - The competition is on for more than a hundred new jobs in Sullivan County.

We've learned Bell Helicopter, which has a manufacturing facility in Piney Flats, is considering growing, and the Tri-Cities is up against Louisiana and Texas for that expansion.

Bell helicopters get their final touches in Piney Flats, and officials at NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership hope there's more of that to come.

"Bell Helicopter is proposing or planning an expansion of their helicopter production. We would like to see that expansion occur here in the Tri-County Industrial Park," said Jack Lawson, the director of economic development at NETWORKS Sullivan Partnership.

Bell Helicopter's communication manager Sara Monger told News 5, "as Bell Helicopter continues to grow its commercial business, we will need to ensure we have the correct facilities and customer support structure in place to meet the needs of our expanding customer base. In some cases, this may mean expanding existing facilities or growing in strategic regions worldwide."

We learned growing here could mean big things for our region.   

"The expansion of Bell in the Tri-Cities or here in Piney Flats would probably result in the increase of 125 jobs," Lawson said.

Lawson also added that those jobs were good ones, with an average wage of about $17.00 an hour.

Sullivan County Commissioner Dwight King is sponsoring two resolutions to get these jobs here.    

King said one would allow the county to sell Bell Helicopters 41 acres of land. The other would let Sullivan County apply for a state Fast Track grant that would help pay to get that site ready for construction as an incentive.

"The state would be [paying] $866,000 for their share, Sullivan County would put it in $195,000, and then Bell Helicopter would put in $109,000," King added.

But that's just part of what King said would be an $11 million investment locally, which would create tax dollars and more.    

"They would buy other material and maybe sub[contract] some of their work out to maybe other local companies," King said.    

Until the final decision is made, local leaders will keep crunching the numbers hoping for a victory on the job front.

King also told News 5 both resolutions passed the Sullivan County Administrative committee Monday night, and will have to go through two more committees. It will be brought up by the commission later this month.

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