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North Bay Business Journal

Monday, May 26, 2014, 5:55 am

Icon Aircraft to relocate plant to Vacaville

Plans up to 500 new jobs as output ramps in 2015

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    The Icon A5 Light Sport Aircraft, shown without landing gear in the new corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility near Nut Tree Airport in Vacaville.

    The Icon A5 Light Sport Aircraft, shown without landing gear in the new corporate headquarters and manufacturing facility near Nut Tree Airport in Vacaville.

    VACAVILLE — After an extensive three-year nationwide search, Icon Aircraft plans to move from Los Angeles to a facility adjacent to the Nut Tree Airport in Vacaville later this year.

    The privately held company (iconaircraft.comemploys about 150 workers today and expects this total to increase to 500 or more high-paying advanced manufacturing jobs as full production ramps in 2015.

    The announcement came May 14 at a reception attended by more than 200 business leaders, elected officials, reporters and other guests, at the 140,000-square foot warehouse located at 2141 Beechcraft Rd., just off the Vacaville Parkway exit from Interstate 505.

    Icon Aircraft CEO and founder Kirk Hawkins

    Icon Aircraft CEO and founder Kirk Hawkins

    Icon CEO and founder Kirk Hawkins said that the company plans to consolidate aircraft manufacturing, sales, flight training, services and headquarters at this new site.

    “The selection of Vacaville as Icon’s new home is a major milestone for the company and a significant economic win for the residents of the region,” Mr. Hawkins said. “The entire community, the region and state, went above and beyond to be business-friendly.”

    According to an independent study, the presence of Icon can have an economic impact on Vacaville and Solano County estimated at $350 million annually through wages paid, local purchases made by Icon, and increases in employee and visitor spending, as well as sales and property tax revenues to the city and county once the plant is at full production.

    “This move will play a major role in achieving our goal to not only deliver the best consumer light sport aircraft in the world, but also a comprehensive flight training and operating experience that our customers and employees will absolutely love,” Mr. Hawkins said.

    The company intends to deliver its first customer aircraft in early 2015.

    The Icon A5 amphibious sports aircraft takes off from a lake.

    The Icon A5 amphibious sports aircraft takes off from a lake.

    Called A5, it is an amphibious two-seat, single-engine, light sport aircraft priced at an estimated $189,000. It has a range of 300 nautical miles, a top speed of 120 mph and runs on unleaded or aviation gas. Some 1,050 order deposits have been received from prospective customers.

    The sport aircraft Federal Aviation Administration classification requires pilots to fly lower than 10,000 feet, in uncongested air space, during the daytime and in good weather. A minimum of 20 hours of in-flight training is required. Icon will conduct two-week training classes at this new facility beginning next year for an as-yet-undetermined fee.

    With a cockpit designed like a classic sports car, the A5 also has wings that fold for easy trailer transport and storage. It comes with an under-belly rudder for water maneuvering, and for added safety, a cargo chute can be deployed if the engine fails.

    Mr. Hawkins said that the Nut Tree Airport location has a rare combination of key elements that makes it an ideal fit for Icon at this next stage of its growth — a large manufacturing building with access to a runway, outstanding weather and physical conditions for year round flight operations and training, as well as nearby lakes for water landings.

    Icon Aircraft plans to covert a Vacaville warehouse into a manufacturing plant, seen here in an architectural rendering.

    Icon Aircraft plans to covert a Vacaville warehouse into a manufacturing plant, seen here in an architectural rendering.

    The site is also near compelling recreation destinations in the San Francisco Bay Area, wine country venues and Sacramento amenities for visiting customers and employees.

    He said the Bay Area represents a strong cultural fit, since Icon was founded in Silicon Valley and the company draws heavily on the entrepreneurial drive and talent pool embodied in the area.

    “The decision to stay in California and relocate to Vacaville would not have happened without the proactive, tireless effort of airport officials, the Solano EDC, the city of Vacaville, Solano County supervisors, the Solano Community College and the governor’s Go-Biz office over the last several years,” Mr. Hawkins said.

    He also recognized the collaborative efforts of Assemblyman Jim Frazier and Congressman John Garamendi as well as Robin Hunt with the FAA, the Bureau of Reclamation, the Yolo Solano AQMD and the Nut Tree Airport for helping to provide Icon a community where it could work and grow.

    “To say we are pleased with Icon’s selection of Vacaville would be an understatement,” Vacaville Mayor Steven Hardy said. “We have much to offer Icon, as well as other businesses, and this seems like a natural fit to us. We look forward to a long, mutually beneficial relationship with this world-class operation.”

    Sandy Person, executive director of the Solano Economic Development Corp., said the company’s vision and growth plans that includes hiring locally is encouraging.

    “Icon is an economic developer’s dream,” she said.

    Solano County Supervisor John Vasquez said the company’s arrival will be good for the airport.

    “Icon will be the needed catalyst to ensure the long-term success of the Nut Tree Airport,” Mr. Vasquez. “The entire North Bay region will benefit from this project.”

    Patrick McGuire, senior business specialist with the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz), said staff helped the company extensively.

    “We worked closely with Icon to identify a number of available incentives, including hiring credits, training funds, the sales and use tax exemption for manufacturing equip and more,” he said.

    GO-Biz first engaged Icon in January 2011 and helped them identify over 20 possible locations across California and later conducted three rounds of site-selection tours.

    Icon was founded by Mr. Hawkins and Chief Operating Officer Steen Strand in 2006 in response to the 2004 Federal Aviation Administration’s decision establishing a the light-sport class of aircraft and an accompanying sport pilot certificate program.

    Mr. Hawkins had previously flown F-16s in the U.S. Air Force and Boeing 757s for American Airlines. Mr. Strand’s background is in product design, marketing and finance. The two met at Stanford University while attending a product design class in 1993.

    The first proof-of-concept A5 was built in 2008 and had its first test flight that July.

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