An international defense company plans to build a production facility in Kenai, company officials said. That will mean high-tech jobs based in the community, but when the plan will become reality is still sketchy.
Last week, officials from European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company said they expect it will be about two years before they can begin their aeronautics guidance testing operation near the Kenai Municipal Airport.
"Right now, we are in the design phase," said North American CEO Ralph Crosby. "We're hopeful that 2005 will be the time."
EADS manufactures Europe's Airbus jet liners for airline and airfreight companies, among other products, and is one of the world's largest aerospace firms. The company anticipates generating as many as 25 jobs to conduct final assembly, testing and maintenance of a helicopter laser guidance system it hopes to sell to the Pentagon.
Crosby and Samuel Adcock, company vice president of government relations, were in Kenai last week to participate in the Kenai Classic, the two-day fishing tournament co-hosted by U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens. Stevens is the Senate's most senior Republican and chair of the Appropriations Committee. Stevens also heads the subcommittee that writes the military spending bills, so he's especially important to the defense industry.
EADS was one of a number of defense contractors that underwrote parts of the tournament, and Crosby admitted his company's participation was spurred by Stevens' influence.
''Frankly, he's the reason I think all of us are here,'' Crosby said.
He also acknowledged bringing jobs to Alaska would probably please the senator.
''That benefit is not lost on us,'' Crosby said.
The system will be designed to help helicopters avoid earth-bound obstacles and flight hazards like trees and power lines and is being geared to work with several military special operations aircraft currently in combat use.
Adcock said the federal government has requested designs for guidance systems to fit additional models, but has yet to contract out the task of actually producing and installing the system.
He said current world affairs have slowed progress.
"Special ops has been a little busy lately, fighting two wars," Adcock said.
"It's going to be a little while before we can be moved up in priority."
EADS is a contract-based company, and its growth depends on demand, both for existing and proposed products. Crosby said the company's goal is to establish itself with the guidance system it is developing for the federal government, then grow roots with the community here.
"We're trying to get a foothold here and demonstrate that this is a place we can grow, building upon success," he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
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