Cirrus Opens New Innovation Center


Cirrus Aircraft opened the doors to its new Innovation Center this week at the company’s headquarters in Duluth, Minnesota. Located in the former Northwest Airlines Corp. facility, the center includes a freshly renovated 189,000-square-foot building on 39 acres at Duluth International Airport (KDLH). Cirrus says it will use the Innovation Center to support development of its next generation of products and services.

“The Innovation Center is an incredible company milestone that supports the future development and endeavors of Cirrus Aircraft product development,” said Cirrus CEO Zean Nielsen. “We are continuing to invest in the company and the City of Duluth with the Innovation Center opening. We have worked closely with our partners to renovate the building and hire more engineers and technicians to join the new facility in Duluth.”

Cirrus announced plans to build the Innovation Center in September 2022. In addition to workspaces, the facility houses a material and processes lab, integration test lab, advanced design and development lab, environmental equipment and testing capabilities and space for development and testing. According to Cirrus, it currently has over 300 employees working at the facility.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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      • Is the rest of the GA world really oblivious to that FACT? Dave, you must be being sarcastic…its text, I cannot tell.

      • Yes, even if it’s a Chinese owned company. US entrepreneurs created a company and built it up and sold it to China. It’s an export success! And now China wants to invest more money in buying from the US. Where’s the problem?

        • And if you bought a Cirrus today or any day after the “export success”, where’s the money go? To the city of Duluth? Into the employee’s pockets? Another narrative twist on a false sense of American jobs creation. Please sit down.

  1. Where’s the problem?

    I would start by acknowledging that the runaway control of a country’s military and commercial power by China is a serious problem with far-reaching consequences for the United States and the world.

    • “Runaway control of a country’s military and commercial power”? We control our military power, they control theirs. We control our manufacturing base, they control theirs. Any outside control of ours is by design and permission. Cirrus was not going to survive economically as a US manufacturer of light planes. China stepped in by invitation and bought it. They are now investing in Cirrus which is good for Duluth, good for the US economy, good for the US worker. Apparently no US based investment gurus thought Cirrus was worth investing in. China did. Don’t be a sore winner RAF.

      • Another nonsensical belief that this story was a success from day one simply because additional W4’s were added. “We got to keep our jobs everyone!”. Complete false metric. This did not save the city of Duluth or GA. Stop lying.

        “Dear Cirrus company leadership: Who is AVIC and what do they do?”

  2. This is a tricky one. Support a company that’s owned by a foreign entity but employs almost exclusively Americans, or support a company that is owned by American C-suite and exports all the manufacturing labor to foreign soil? Which is more patriotic? Obviously I’d prefer Cirrus to still be American owned, but no matter how loud you scream you can’t deny they’re American designed and American built, and buying a Cirrus keeps American skilled labor employed.

    If you’re opposed to China owning Cirrus, hope you don’t ever get caught with a Continental within your cowl, btw…

    With that said, there’s no doubt in my mind that China is doing this for a reason, and it’s obviously not for the money. It’s for the technology and skilled labor.

    I’d bet that China has a revolving workforce in Duluth learning all there is to know about fabricating and fixing these aircraft, and that’s the primary goal in owning the company. I witnessed this firsthand in a previous career. They’d come in as “tourists” on vacation, but work 7 days a week until they went home a few weeks later and trade places with another group.

  3. Bruce Einhorn’s July 17, 2023, article in Bloomberg provides a detailed look at the complexities surrounding Cirrus’s ownership by AVIC. It’s an eye-opener for many. However, the U.S. government seems reluctant to impose sanctions on Cirrus, perhaps out of fear of harming the U.S. economy. It’s worth noting that the main concern is with AVIC, not Cirrus. The situation is complicated!

    “Sanctioned Chinese Military Giant’s U.S. Business Keeps Growing”

    BLOOMBERG Jul 17, 2023

    Cirrus Aircraft is proud of its history in the U.S. heartland: The private plane-maker’s website includes details such as the company’s 1984 launch in a Wisconsin barn, the opening of a Minnesota research and development center, and a North Dakota factory. But there’s something missing from the company’s All-American timeline: The firm’s ownership by a sanctioned Chinese military manufacturer. For more than a decade, Cirrus has been a subsidiary of Aviation Industry Corp. of China, a maker of fighter jets, helicopters, and drones for the People’s Liberation Army. AVIC, as the parent company is known, is also one of the world’s largest military contractors and is subject to U.S. sanctions.
    Cirrus isn’t a military manufacturer — its main products are single-engine planes used by private citizens and charter services — but some of its technology and manufacturing expertise could be valuable to the PLA, according to several aviation and Chinese military experts. In June, the company filed with the Hong Kong stock exchange for an initial public offering. Its expansion, despite deep tensions between Beijing and Washington, underscores the complex political calculations underlying U.S. sanctions.
    “There’s an imperfect, Swiss-cheese approach to this,” said Sarah Kreps, a professor of government at Cornell University. Policymakers “haven’t pulled all the threads to ensure there aren’t these blind spots in the sanctions regime that’s in place.”
    Cirrus hasn’t been accused of any wrongdoing and there’s no sign the U.S. is seeking to target the company. But its parent company is under a great deal of scrutiny.