Bell Helicopter leaving Lafayette; agreement ends with state

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LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) – Bell Helicopters is shutting down its operation at the Lafayette Regional Airport. 

The facilities are on Jet Ranger X Drive, where the 505 Jet Ranger X was assembled.

Bell officials say employees were notified Monday, and on Tuesday Louisiana Economic Development released a statement saying the state’s contract with Bell is being terminated.

Two weeks ago to the date, a source told News Ten that Bell Helicopter was packing up and relocating its assembly center.

We spoke with Bell representatives then, who denied those allegations and assured KLFY Dalfred Jones there would be no changes at the Lafayette location in the near future.

LED said the state ended its contract with Bell because of four years of underperformance.

Governor John Bel Edwards says, “At this point in time we have an obligation to the taxpayer, to protect them. The contract required them to perform, they did not meet their obligations.”

The state funded the 26 million dollar project back in 2013, during Governor Bobby Jindal’s administration, under the impression there would be an economic boost. There was not. Now, the state is hoping to recover a large portion of the initial investment.

“There are provisions in the contract where we should be able to get back a significant portion of our investment so that we can make that investment again in what will be a productive and successful venture”, the governor said.

Amendments were made to the contract in 2016 when the company failed to meet benchmarks. Again, underperforming, it’s now two years later and the state is cutting ties.

“They needed to get excused from their original obligation, we did the that and they were going to do some sub cabin assembly for a separate aircraft, but ultimately, they weren’t able to make that work either. They haven’t produced the number of jobs that they guaranteed us and they weren’t the types of jobs that they were supposed to be” Edwards said.

L.E.D. also says the amended agreement required the company to provide 25 new full-time jobs in 2017 and 95 new full-time jobs in 2018. Today, Bell Helicopter employs 22 at the site.

In a statement, Bell says they strongly dispute violating the contract and believe they have remained in compliance with the agreement.

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