Ribbon cutting held for new plane building facility in Jacksonville

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Brazilian defense contractor has cut the ribbon on its new facility at Jacksonville International Airport.

Embraer Defense and Security and its U.S. partner Sierra Nevada Corporation recently won a government contract to build 20 A-29 Super Tucano airplanes over a five-year period. The contract with the U.S. Air Force is worth roughly $427 million.

"This is the first defense and security assembly operation outside of Brazil, so it's an important project for us," said Gary Spulak, president of Embraer Aircraft Holding Inc.

The new facility will support 1,400 jobs across the U.S., including 50 local high-paying positions.

The planes will be used to provide light air support, reconnaissance and training capabilities to the Afghanistan military.

It's projected to be a vital element of the U.S.'s Afghan withdrawal strategy.

Gov. Rick Scott was among the attendees Tuesday morning at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

"Every family when they get a job, it changes their life," Scott said. "They can live their version of the American dream and the have the funds to invest in the priorities of the state, which is happening in education."

Mayor Alvin Brown said the airline company chose Jacksonville as its assembly site because of its facilities, logistics and skilled labor force in being a big military town.

"It is business friendly. It has a skilled workforce," Brown said. "We have experience, and one of the things I did as mayor is find jobs for veterans."

The governor says aviation is a rapidly growing business, and the state is No. 2 in aerospace and aviation jobs. He said if this project goes well, the sky's the limit for Florida.

"This is the state to do business in and the reason why we are a right-to-work state," Scott said. "You don't have to be the member of a union if you don't want to. There's no income tax, no business tax, a very pro business attitude at the state level and local level."

The first aircraft is scheduled to be built and delivered by this time next year.

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