FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Two years after committing to staying in Fort Wayne, BAE Systems celebrated its decision Monday by unveiling its new state-of-the-art facility on Airport Expressway. The company makes some military products, but focuses about 95 percent of its manufacturing on aviation technology.
After almost a year and a half of construction, BAE is transitioning into its new home. Company leaders as well as Indiana Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann spent Monday afternoon at the new facility. They said the ribbon cutting represents a necessary and exciting time of change for both BAE and Fort Wayne.
“This is an industry that’s so important to Indiana and to our nation. To see it continue to grow and we hope future growth will come as well, but to have that commitment right here is incredibly important to northeast Indiana and the state as a whole and that growing aerospace industry that we see before us,” Indiana Lieutenant Governor Sue Ellspermann said.
For the last 15 years, BAE’s based its Fort Wayne operations out of an aging building on Taylor Street. The facility has been around since 1942 and actually used to make several components of the B17 Bomber. Company leaders said they had a decision to make two years ago, knowing the lease would be up soon.
“We actually looked all over the country for places to build, and in the end between the environment here in Fort Wayne and in Indiana as a state and our workforce here, we’ve made this commitment right here to stay in Fort Wayne,” VP of Operations for BAE Systems Jeremy Tondreault said.
In May 2014, BAE broke ground on the new facility on Airport Expressway. The $39 million project takes up 334,000 square feet. It will house the company’s team of more than a thousand employees, one of the main reasons leaders decided to stay.
“First and foremost, it’s our workforce. We have a fantastic, well-trained team here that does a tremendous job for our customers and staying here allows us to keep our workforce,” Tondreault said.
“Having BAE Systems in this new facility recommitting to this thousand high-wage, high-skilled jobs to Fort Wayne is so important and it’s really a credit to Fort Wayne and northeast Indiana because this is where they wanted to be. This is a commitment for the future, and they are very proud of the work they do,” Ellspermann said. “I’ve heard nothing but strong words of praise for the workforce here, so a lot is to be said for the people who are here already that this is where BAE Systems, who could’ve gone wherever they wanted in the world wanted that. That choice was to remain here and to recommit to the future with this facility.”
The new facility has several perks like a wellness center and modern cafeteria for employees. There’s also an outside sitting area where employees’ families can come eat lunch or dinner with them.
More than 12,000 commercial airplanes across the country carry BAE parts like engine controls and cabin systems. The Fort Wayne location makes around a 100,000 parts annually. It’s that kind of production leaders said not only promotes the company, but also the city it comes out of.
“We really needed to keep them here to really make a statement that Fort Wayne is a place to invest and to stay,” Fort Wayne Mayor Tom Henry said. “I think that their statement that they are committed to Fort Wayne, that they want to stay in Fort Wayne, that they want to live in Fort Wayne, I think speaks volumes for them as a company and I think speaks volumes for Fort Wayne as a city as well.”
Around 200 employees are moved into the new facility already, but all operations and personnel should be completely switched over by the middle of December. There is no word yet on what will happen to the company’s old facility on Taylor Street.