Kestrel Moves to Wisconsin

Big financial incentives may bring former Cirrus employees back to work.

Kestrel

Kestrel

With an enticing financial package offered by the City of Superior, Douglas County and the State of Wisconsin, Kestrel Aircraft has decided to move its headquarters and manufacturing facilities from Brunswick Landing, Maine, to Superior, Wisconsin, bringing with it a total of around 600 new jobs to the area. According to Kestrel spokeswoman Kate Dougherty, who was Cirrus's spokeswoman for many years, this accounts for around the same number of employees laid off by Cirrus since 2008. Cirrus is located in Duluth, Minnesota, only a stone's throw from Superior across the Blatnik Bridge.

Kestrel plans to break ground on its new composite facility this spring in an industrial area of Superior and begin building its assembly plant next year at the Richard Bong Airport (KSUW). The airport is located near the center of Superior and has two paved runways – one 4,000 feet, the other 5,100 feet. While no takeoff and landing specs have been released, this should be plenty of runway length for the Kestrel K-350 turboprop currently in development.

Kestrel has, however, announced approximate numbers for range (1,300 nm) and speed (325 knots). "As we continue to work on design details of the airplane we're very happy with the way the performance calculations are shaping up," Kestrel's CEO and Cirrus founder Alan Klapmeier told Flying.

The deal includes a total of $10 million in city, county and state loans and grants, and more than $100 million in tax credits, according to a press release from the City of Superior. Klapmeier said those tax credits should translate into an additional $20 million in cash for the company.

Klapmeier said about 25 people are already hard at work in Superior and he expects 150 people to be working there by the end of this year. With all the former Cirrus employees looking for work, Kestrel won’t have any trouble finding a talented workforce, he said.

And while the prospect for hundreds of Kestrel jobs in Brunswick Landing is now unlikely, the move isn’t the end for the Maine facility. An engineering team of 25 people is currently employed there and Klapmeier says the facility will continue to grow. “Several pieces of the project still make sense to do there,” he said, including the Kestrel Aeroworks, announced during EAA’s Airventure last summer -- a project that upgrades Cirrus SR22s and Piper Meridians with new interior, paint and, most importantly, panel configuration, including Avidyne’s Entegra Release 9 avionics.