Jet maker negotiating 50-year land lease near Opa-locka Airport
By Shannon Pettypiece
Safire Aircraft Co. is negotiating with the Miami-Dade Aviation Department for a 50-year lease on land next to Opa-locka Airport and has bids from five developers to build its assembly plant.
The company wants to build in Opa-locka, CEO Camilo Salomon said Monday, but will look elsewhere if it does not get a commitment from the aviation department within 60 days that it will be able to break ground by June.
Mr. Salomon also said the company needs direct access to airport runways, wants 40-50 acres and does not want to be a subtenant to another developer.
The jet manufacturer earlier this year set up temporary offices near Opa-locka Airport and began working on plans to build a $45 million, 500,000-square-foot jet plant there. Since then, Mr. Salomon said, he has been approached by local developers wanting to build his complex.
During the next four years, the company plans to add more than 1,000 employees. Safire had 13 employees when it came to Opa-locka in March and has grown to 70, Mr. Salomon said. The company plans to have 150 employees by the end of the year.
Safire is working with local schools to design a training program that would provide 200 skilled employees a year for the next four years, he said.
The company has pre-sold more than 700 of its six-passenger S-26 jets from a prototype, which it is working on in Opa-locka, Mr. Salomon said. He said the company plans to test its first jet in July.
Last week, Safire spokesman Clayton Callihan said the company hopes to get more business at the National Business Aviation Association show Oct. 7-9 in Orlando. The convention is expected to attract more than 30,000 industry leaders and could lead to new contracts.
Development by Safire could be a needed jolt for the area around Opa-locka Airport, officials from the Beacon Council, the county's economic-development agency, said earlier this year. Despite drawing interest from companies such as Sysco Corp. in the past several years, much of more than 500 acres near Opa-locka Airport is undeveloped.
Miami-Dade County owns the land controlled by three private groups - Renaissance Airpark, which controls 176 acres; Opa-locka Airport Group, 240 acres; and JP Aviation Investment, 35 acres.
Because the land surrounding the airport falls under Federal Aviation Administration regulations, a significant portion must be developed for aviation-related industries.
Rafael Villamizar of Grubb and Ellis, a real-estate advisor to Renaissance, said the company is planning a 3.5 million-square-foot industrial park that has been delayed until the first quarter of next year. Renaissance plans to have 2 million square feet of factory space, 500,000 square feet of aviation-related industrial space, 400,000 square feet of office space and 100,000 square feet of retail space. Mr. Villamizar said Renaissance has prospective tenants for 1 million square feet of space but doesn't expect financing to be settled until next month.
In all, the land surrounding the airport has hangars for 343 private planes, four runways and the basic necessities to run a general-aviation airport.