Santa Rosa County leaders today joined officials from Leonardo Helicopters to cut the ribbon on a new maintenance facility at Peter Prince Airport where the company will begin local operations. Leonardo is an Italian aerospace company with North American headquarters and industrial operations in Philadelphia, PA that is expected to bring 50 new, high-paying jobs to the area.
Representatives from the county applauded the coordinated effort that took the project from concept to design, construction, and completion in just 16 months – even as the COVID-19 pandemic forced changes and delays.
Santa Rosa County Chairman and District 4 Commissioner Dave Piech is an engineer who retired from the US Air Force after 27 years. Among many other duties, he managed the construction and operation of aviation facilities during his military service.
“I can tell you with some authority that what we’ve been able to accomplish in such a short time is incredibly impressive,” he said. “It’s also important because it sends a message out to the entire aviation and aerospace community: Santa Rosa County is serious about the industry segment. We understand it, appreciate it, and celebrate it.”
Leonardo was awarded a contract with the Navy to deliver and maintain up to 130 new training helicopters that will be used at NAS Whiting Field. With infrastructure funding from Triumph Gulf Coast, constructions will begin soon on a larger facility at the new Whiting Aviation Park. Once it is complete, the company will use both facilities.
“It is our distinct pleasure to cut the ribbon on this new maintenance facility, as it signifies an important step in our partnership with Santa Rosa County,” stated Bill Hunt, Chief Executive Officer, Leonardo Helicopters in the U.S. “This space allows us to begin operations even before the permanent facility is complete, better serving our Navy customer, providing jobs and making a positive impact on the local economy.”
Vice Chairman and District 2 Commissioner Bob Cole, who serves as the county’s economic development chair, said that Leonardo’s expansion into Santa Rosa demonstrates that the county’s strategy is sound.
“You attract high-quality companies like Leonardo because you set your sights on them,” Cole said. “We’re here today because we were willing to put our time, talent, and treasure into the effort to get them.”
Erica Grancagnolo, Santa Rosa’s associate director of economic development, said her office served as “the tower and ground control,” coordinating the financial, and logistical aspects of the project.
“Call it ‘airfield of dreams.’ If we build it, they will come,” she said. “Leonardo is officially on the ground in Santa Rosa County and we could not be more pleased.”
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