The 370,000-square-foot complex will be the first “digitally enabled” maintenance, repair and overhaul facility in the aviation industry.
Boeing Global Services CEO Ted Colbert said when the company’s 370,000-square-foot facility at Cecil Airport opens in 2023, it will be the aviation industry’s “first digitally enabled” maintenance repair and overhaul site.
At a groundbreaking ceremony Oct. 27 for the eight-hangar complex in West Jacksonville, Colbert told federal, state and city officials at the event that the project will allow Boeing to understand the maintenance and repair needs of U.S. military aircraft before they land at Cecil.
“We don’t have to wait for the aircraft to arrive so that we can strip it down and do the analysis,” he said.
“We can get straight to the work using data insights to get the aircraft back performing for critical missions around the world.”
The estimated $116.5 million project is a partnership of Boeing, the Jacksonville Aviation Authority and the city.
Boeing reached a 25-year lease agreement with JAA on Dec. 17 to expand the aerospace company’s 400,000-square-foot operation at Cecil.
JAA CEO Mark VanLoh said before the event that the aviation authority purchased the steel for the project during the pandemic to control materials costs, which have spiked in recent months.
JAA will pay for the project through debt financing. VanLoh told attendees Oct. 27 that was a challenge to obtain during what he called “this little bit of a financial crisis in the aviation industry in the last 18 months.”
“(JAA CFO) Ross (Jones) and his team went out and received financing for this entire project under (the) JAA umbrella in an impossible period with hundreds of Zoom calls and most airports are still trying to find their way,” VanLoh said during the presentation.
The facility comprises about 270,000 square feet of hangar space and more than 100,000 square feet of office and support shop space on 57 acres, according to JAA.
VanLoh said Boeing’s MRO facility at Cecil will lead the aerospace industry in resource, skill and technology optimization.
“Their presence in Jacksonville, particularly here at Cecil airport, is important for demonstrating this region’s leadership in the aerospace sector,” VanLoh said.
Jacksonville-based architectural, engineering and construction firm Pond and consulting firm Haskell are working on the facility.
According to the city Office of Economic Development, Boeing will create 334 jobs for the facility at an average annual salary of $65,000.
The new jobs will be in place by Dec. 31, 2026, at a $21.7 million payroll excluding benefits, according to city documents.
Boeing has been expanding its Jacksonville workforce. The aerospace company opened the 23,000-square-foot Boeing Jacksonville Training Systems Center of Excellence at 6225 Lake Gray Blvd that Colbert said will employ 100 people.
Before the ceremony, Colbert said the jobs will be new roles at Boeing. He said the company’s growth in Jacksonville “represents a real strong foundational capability” and could continue.
“Honestly, what it really comes down to is our teams have got to execute and perform to the mission that we have with our customer,” he said.
“And if that works well, there could be more growth, right?”
The city is giving Boeing a $425,000 grant to assist with the estimated $3 million in infrastructure expenditures for the project over three years.
At the groundbreaking, Mayor Lenny Curry said the grant will help pay for stormwater drainage areas, fencing and extending sewer, electrical and water lines.
“Creating jobs and expanding our aviation manufacturing base here in Duval County is critical to establishing innovative, technological leadership,” Curry said.
Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez said Boeing’s investment at Cecil is part of the state’s overall strategy to grow Florida’s aerospace industry.
Boeing has operated its existing MRO facilities at Cecil Airport since 1999. According to a news release, the company has modified and upgraded 1,030 aircraft for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps including the F/A-18 A-D Hornet; F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet; and EA-18G Growler.
The company also uses Cecil to convert F/A-18 Super Hornets into flight demonstration aircraft for the Blue Angel squadron and modified retired F-16s into autonomous aerial targets for the Air Force.
Boeing’s Flight Control Repair Center provides structural repairs to F/A-18 A-F; EA-18G and the Navy’s P-8 aircraft.
Colbert said Boeing and its military customers are finalizing what equipment will be maintained at the new MRO facility.
JAA officials see the agreement with Boeing as both a revenue driver and marketing tool for Cecil Airport.
“We will certainly use this site to go out and get some other developers and other suppliers that want to be near Boeing,” VanLoh said.
City Council member Aaron Bowman, who is senior vice president of business development for the JAXUSA Partnership economic development arm of JAX Chamber, said the MRO facility will have hangars large enough to support any U.S. Department of Defense aircraft in the Navy or Air Force inventory.
He said this will be the first project in the 400-acre northeast section of Cecil Airport.
“The land is clear. We have a taxiway over here. It really does show anybody else who’s interested and needs a lot of space that we’re available for them right now,” Bowman said.
“Now having Boeing here, obviously an internationally recognized company that’s said ‘this is where we want to be,’ it speaks loudly across the industry.”
Photo above: Boeing leadership and state and local officials break ground on the aerospace company’s new maintenance facility at Cecil Airport in West Jacksonville. From left, Boeing Cecil Field Site Director Warren Helm; City Council member and JAXUSA Partnership Senior Vice President of Business Development Aaron Bowman; Council President Sam Newby; Council member Randy White; Jacksonville Aviation Authority CEO Mark VanLoh; Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Núñez; Boeing Global Services CEO Ted Colbert; Mayor Lenny Curry; JAA board Chair Ray Alfred; Haskell Chairman and CEO James L. O’Leary; and Pond President and Chief Operating Officer Lorraine Green.
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