Honda: Engine Plant Location Not Yet Final

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If Honda Aircraft Co. Inc. doesn't set up a plant to manufacture its forthcoming jet engines in Burlington, N.C., city fathers may have a local politician to blame. Last Friday, state Representative Cary Allred let it slip that North Carolina transportation department officials told him Honda and Burlington would announce a deal to locate the new plant "in about two weeks." Honda, which typically would frown upon letting such a cat out of the bag, took a predictably dim view of the shenanigans, allowing Jeffrey Smith, the vice president of corporate affairs for American Honda Motor Co. Inc., to say only, “Honda is considering its options both within North Carolina and within other states. Nothing is a done deal at this point.” Honda is gearing up to produce its new HondaJet at the nearby Piedmont Triad International Airport in 2010, but has yet to establish a facility to manufacture the HF120 engines it will use. According to published reports, Burlington has been -- or at least thinks it has been -- a candidate location for the engine manufacturing facility.

In fact, Burlington's airport authority has gone so far as to take steps allowing it to acquire land for the factory and extend its runway. So far, the panel has agreed to a $5 million loan allowing it to buy 120 acres next to the airport "for economic development" and for fill dirt slated for the runway project. The airport authority also has discussed what would be necessary to develop the adjacent land, to the tune of $6 million. Other local officials in Burlington were keeping mum, however; they seemed content to let Allred twist slowly in the breeze. The Honda engine manufacturing plant is expected to employ "only" 50 or so workers. Once full production begins, Honda Aircraft Co. Inc. has said it expects to manufacture as many as 400 HondaJets each year. At least 100 orders for the $3.65-million, to-be-certified light bizjet have been received, according to Honda.