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By Arkansas Business, 9/2/14

Dassault Falcon Jet on Tuesday broke ground on a $60 million expansion at its Little Rock completion facility.

 

The new hangar, expected to be operational in late 2015 or early 2016, will be dedicated to two Dassault models — the Falcon 5X twin jet, introduced in October 2013, and the ultra-long range Falcon 8X tri-jet, on the market since May 2014.

The company announced the project in May 2013.

The 250,000-SF hangar will be dedicated to production and completion of those models, and will bring Dassault's total Little Rock footprint to 1.25 million SF. In addition to the new hangar, the expansion will include renovations of older hangars and existing cabinet, upholstery and headliner shops.

Dassault Falcon Jet employs about 1,750 workers. 

Andrew Ponzoni, senior manager of communications for Dassault, told Arkansas Business that new jobs would be added as a result of the expansion, but he couldn't say how many.

"It depends on several things including the market for these two models once the facility is complete," he said.

A host of local and Dassault dignitaries joined hundreds of Dassault employees for the ceremonial groundbreaking. Joining Gov. Mike Beebe were Little Rock Mayor Mark Stodola; U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.); Jesse Mason, vice chairman of the Little Rock Airport Commission; Dassault Aviation Chairman and CEO Eric Trappier; Dassault COO Loik Segalen; and John Rosanvallon, president and CEO of Dassault Falcon Jet.

Trappier called the Little Rock facility, the company's largest industrial plant, an "industry leader in digital completion techniques, which Dassault pioneered."

"This undertaking demonstrates a commitment to continue our investment in Little Rock and to ensure the facility will remain at the forefront of completion technology," he said in a news release. 

Beebe credited Dassault's success to its workforce.

"We are proud to include Dassault among the world-class companies that call Arkansas home, and we appreciate its Little Rock workforce whose skill and hard work made this expansion possible," he said.

In 2009, Beebe and a contingent of state and city officials traveled to Dassault corporate headquarters in France to lobby for the Little Rock expansion. The company had considered other sites.

"Dassault has been completing Falcons in Little Rock for more than 40 years," Rosanvallon said. "Over that time, it has built up a wealth of completion know-how and experience that is unrivalled in the industry and is so critical to the quality and reputation of Falcon aircraft."

In 2008, Dassault launched a $20 million Little Rock expansion that added four paint bays and new production, design and warehouse spoace dedicated to the long-range Falcon 7X jet. 

The company came to Little Rock in 1975 when it purchased Little Rock Airmotive, a 61,500-SF hangar where FedEx founder Fred Smith converted a fleet of Falcon 20 aircraft to cargo transports and launched what became Federal Express.