The Aero-Flite expansion will create more than 100 jobs by 2025
Greater Spokane Inc. has been awarded a $450,000 grant by the Department of Commerce to retain Aero-Flite Inc. in Spokane by supporting the expansion and construction of a new aircraft hangar and facility to accommodate the company’s growth.
Aero-Flite is the largest private operator of Large Airtanker aircraft in the US, specializing in aerial wildfire suppression across the country. The company located in Spokane in 2014, leasing a World War II-era former military hangar from the Spokane International Airport. After a nationwide search, the company selected Spokane, WA and the Spokane International Airport as their preferred location for their expansion.
“We’ve made eastern Washington our home and are excited to make Spokane the hub of our future expansion. We are thankful for our partnerships with Spokane International Airport, Greater Spokane Incorporated, the City of Spokane, and the State of Washington. We believe that our growth will benefit the local economy while allowing us to continue providing critical aerial firefighting capabilities to the state,” shared Chris Niemann, General Manager at Aero-Flite.
The company is celebrating 60 years of experience in aerial forest fire fighting and they are getting busier year after year as wildfire seasons start sooner and end later across North America. Aero-Flite needed to expand its hangar space in order to increase its fleet size, building a new facility to accommodate up to 20 large air tankers. In addition to aircraft maintenance, the new facility will provide much-needed room for expanded manufacturing, repair, and overhaul, in addition to pilot training. The new 100,000 sq. ft facility is expected to cost $35 million. The $450,000 grant from the state’s Economic Development Strategic Reserve Fund will help with pre-construction costs at the site.
”Aero-Flite is already an important part of the robust and growing Interstate 90 aerospace cluster and surrounding communities,” said Commerce Director Lisa Brown. “We are delighted that they have chosen to expand the air tanker program here in Spokane – congratulations on continued success!”
Aero-Flite currently employs 160 skilled professionals, including aircraft mechanics and pilots. The company hopes to hire an additional 115 by 2030. Aero-flite is a strong company with a proven track record of supporting its employees and firefighter partners as they work to protect communities from wildfires. The company has been identified as one of the best places to work in the Inland Northwest for the past four consecutive years and highlighted as one of the top 100 companies to work for in the state in 2021 through the Best Places survey.
“Aero-Flite fights forest fires throughout the United States and Canada. They could have located this expansion anywhere in their service area and we are thrilled to keep them here in Spokane. GSI appreciates the support of our partners at the Department of Commerce, Spokane International Airport, and the City of Spokane for working together to retain a great company that is also a great place to work,” said Gary Ballew, VP of economic development for Greater Spokane Inc.
“This is an important investment in Spokane and the safety of the communities Aero-Flite supports with its aerial wildfire suppression fleet,” Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward said. “Wildfires impact our region every year and the jobs preserved and added by the state grant will benefit our community and beyond with the expanded tanker capacity.”
Spokane International Airport was crucial to Aero-Flite’s original move to Spokane and has been working hard to retain the company.
Airport Board Chair Nancy Vorhees said, “Airport CEO Larry Krauter and staff have been working closely with Aero-Flite to plan for future facilities that provide greater efficiencies and long-term growth opportunities for their important mission of delivering aerial firefighting services to our state and many other locations around the U.S. This grant recognizes the importance of bringing state funding resources that are needed for Aero-Flite to invest in and remain at Spokane International Airport and to continue to grow its family wage jobs in our community. We are thankful to the Department of Commerce and GSI for their support.”
The company plans to break ground in 2023.
Commerce works with local governments, businesses, community-based organizations and tribes to strengthen communities. The department’s diverse portfolio of more than 100 programs and effective public and private partnerships promote sustainable community and economic development to help all Washingtonians thrive. For more information, visit http://www.commerce.wa.gov. For information on locating or expanding a business in Washington, visit choosewashingtonstate.com
About Greater Spokane Inc.
Greater Spokane Inc. (GSI) is the Spokane region’s business development organization. GSI creates the place where organizations come together to advocate for the region, drive strategic economic growth, and champion a talented workforce. GSI is funded through a combination of private and public investment, including over 800 private-sector members; Spokane County; Washington State Department of Commerce; and the cities of Spokane, Spokane Valley, Cheney, Deer Park, Liberty Lake, Airway Heights, Medical Lake, Millwood, Newport, and the Kalispel Tribe of Indians. For more information visit GreaterSpokane.org.
Aero-Flite is one of the most experienced aerial firefighting companies in the US, delivering an extensive range of modern firefighting aircraft. Operating out of hangars in Spokane, Washington, the organization provides a comprehensive range of aircraft, crew, maintenance, and training to support government agencies across the country battling wildfires. The versatile fleet includes Land-Based Airtankers, including the Dash 8-400AT, the most modern airtanker in the world today, plus Amphibious aircraft, including four CL415, the largest newest model fleet of water scoopers in the US. A team of 160 skilled professionals ensures aircraft are ready to dispatch when needed, supported by the latest technologies. With a focus on safety, Aero-Flite is a world-leader in aerial firefighting training, offering pilots access to specialized aerial firefighting simulators, providing the tools needed to produce successful missions in real-world operations.