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Wed, Mar 02, 2011

Wouters Says Cirrus Jobs Will Stay In Duluth, Grand Forks

Cirrus CEO Says Planes Will Be Made In Minnesota, Others Think The Handwriting Is On The Wall

Cirrus CEO Brent Wouters says that the company's new owners, Chinese Industry General Aircraft Company, is committed to continuing to build the popular GA airplanes in Duluth, MN. But some long-time industry watchers are not yet convinced.

Cirrus, which employs about 500 people in Duluth and Grand Forks, ND, announced Monday that the planemaker had been sold to the Chinese company. The move was applauded by former U.S. Congressman Jim Oberstar as being a good move for the company. Oberstar said that he would expect that there would be some migration to China "long term," but that he thinks there will be a strong relationship between the new Chinese owners and Duluth.

However, ANN E-I-C and Cirrus owner Jim Campbell told the Duluth News Tribune that he expects that the company will mostly be based in China within five to 10 years. "Among the Cirrus community, I’m seeing a strong reticence to do business with China,” he said. Campbell predicted that eventually there would be a "token presence," such as a service center, in the U.S., but that primary production would be overseas.

Wouters told the paper that, with nearly all the company's business in the U.S. and Europe, moving production to China would not be profitable.

Aero-Analysis: Wouters has told ANN (and others) that there was no sale to China in the works on a number of occasions over the past year, as documented in a number of interviews webcast online as part of ANN's Aero-Cast programming... So the questions is... was he "in error" when denied a China sale back then... or in promising that the company will not be moved to China, now? Based on his own statements, how can anyone believe him at this point?

Wouters promised Minnesota officials and media outlets that they have 'his word' in promising that Minnesota jobs will be preserved. Based on a number of comments we've been reading in local Minnesota media, few people find that comforting (or believeable). Based on ANN's own experience with a number of statements and assurances issued by Wouters in the past and their subsequent inability to appear/stay credible, we find little comfort in such pronouncements, and (frankly) don't believe them. More info to follow... -- ANN E-I-C Jim Campbell

FMI: www.cirrusaircraft.com, http://www.aero-news.net/fb/index.cfm?do=podcasts.episode&episodesid=4291

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