Gulfstream announces bold expansion plans

 - November 30, 2010, 3:57 AM

Gulfstream Aerospace announced ambitious plans last month for a $500 million, seven-year expansion project at its Savannah, Ga. headquarters “to ensure that the company is well positioned to meet future demand for business jets and support services.” To facilitate the new development, the aircraft manufacturer entered into a 50-year lease with the Savannah Airport Commission to build additional facilities on 159 acres of airport land. The growth is expected to create 1,000 more Gulfstream jobs, which would bring its total employment in Savannah to approximately 6,500 by 2017.

“With our own sales trends and market forecasts suggesting an upturn over the next decade, we want to ensure Gulfstream is well positioned to meet the demand in terms of products and services,” Gulfstream president Joe Lombardo said during the November 15 announcement. “We are already beginning to see signs of a modest recovery. In the third quarter, we booked more orders than we had in any quarter since the downturn began in mid-2008. Furthermore, as flying hours have increased, Gulfstream service centers have enjoyed a significant increase in service volume. This expansion is necessary to meet the projected increase for new business jet aircraft and the maintenance that will follow.”

In the presence of state and local dignitaries, including Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, Lombardo said the expansion will include building new facilities at the northwest quadrant of the Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, renovating several existing facilities on the main campus off Gulfstream Road and expanding office and lab facilities at the Gulfstream Research Development Center in Crossroads Business Park.

A Gulfstream spokeswoman told AIN that the $500 million estimated cost will cover construction, renovations, tooling and equipment. “Our primary focus will be on research and development and manufacturing facilities, but will include the expansion of other existing Gulfstream operations as well,” she said. “We’re still in the planning stages, so we’re not prepared to provide any specific details on the buildings or how they will be used.”

Teal Group aviation/aerospace analyst Richard ­Aboulafia told AIN that the expansion plans are “probably the start of serious investment in Gulfstream’s long-awaited G350/450/550 replacements. Assuming the company moves aggressively with this new family after the G250 and G650 enter service [next year], Gulfstream could be able to gain and hold the number-one spot in the industry for some time.”