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Courtesy images
This rendering by GMA Architects of St. Louis depicts BAE Systems’ energy-efficient, 334,000-square-foot building.

BAE breaks ground at new site

Officials, execs laud economic development

BAE’s new campus is on the northwest corner of Airport Expressway and Ardmore Avenue.

BAE Systems on Friday broke ground on a $46 million aviation electronics manufacturing center near Fort Wayne International Airport.

Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.; U.S. Rep. Marlin Stutzman, R-3rd; and Mayor Tom Henry participated in the celebration, which drew about 50 people.

The elected officials and BAE executives thanked one another as they huddled inside a tent on the 41-acre site.

“Wow. I didn’t think the day would ever get here,” said Bob Hoffman, local operations director for BAE.

Hoffman, his staff and economic development officials have been working on the project for more than three years. But the job is far from complete.

After construction, he said, manufacturing equipment will have to be moved into the 334,000-square-foot building at 4250 Airport Expressway before the transition from BAE’s current operations at 2000 Taylor St. is complete.

Hoffman effectively led the search process, making sure company officials had the information to make a good decision, said Ehtisham Siddiqui, BAE’s vice president and general manager of Commercial Aircraft Solutions.

“This was not a trivial matter for us. This decision weighed heavily on us,” Siddiqui said.

Local and state incentives were crucial factors, he said.

“It all comes down to financials,” Siddiqui said. “It all comes down to staying competitive in the marketplace.”

Remaining competitive, he said, requires not just holding costs steady but also cutting them every year.

The local plant ships about 5,500 parts to Boeing every month, Siddiqui said, for use on military and commercial aircraft worldwide.

BAE, a British defense contractor, employs more than 1,100 in Fort Wayne in engineering, management, operations and production jobs on three shifts. Plans call for them to move into the new building by the end of 2015.

The energy-efficient building will include 160,000 square feet of manufacturing space, a 3,200-square-foot wellness center, a family-friendly cafeteria/outdoor patio area and a walking path that connects to Fort Wayne trails.

Steve Schneps, BAE’s vice president of operations for electronic solutions, agreed with Hoffman’s assessment.

“The employees of Fort Wayne are the gem of our electronics business,” he said.