A couple that teaches flight lessons out of Sanford plans to open a facility in Halifax County that will build small airplanes designed in the Czech Republic.
Their company, LSA America, will receive state and local incentives worth up to $272,000 if it meets it goals of hiring 34 people and investing $400,000 in the production facility, Gov. Bev Perdue's office announced.
LSA is a four-year-old company started by Doug and Betty Hempstead, who also run B Bar D Aviation, the Sanford flight school. LSA has been the U.S. distributor for the Allegro light sport aircraft and recently bought the Czech company behind the brand.
Worldwide production will be out of Littleton, said Doug Hempstead. The company had considered opening its manufacturing facility in Wisconsin, but decided on Halifax County.
"Between the incentives and the dedication of the Halifax County people, it was an easy decision," he said. "The governor's One North Carolina fund was the clincher."
The state will provide a grant worth up to $136,000 from the fund, which requires matching local money. Perdue's administration has said it wants to attract more aviation industry jobs to North Carolina.
LSA expects to begin production this month in a leased building on Highway 158 in Littleton, and build a new production hangar at the Halifax-Northampton Regional Airport, about 85 miles northeast of Raleigh.
The light sport aircraft industry is relatively new, with the first U.S. sales starting in 2005 after winning approval from the FAA. The Allegro planes start at about $89,000 and have much lower maintenance and operating costs than other types of aircraft.
"It's not cheap, but there are boats and cars out there that sell for a whole lot more," Hempstead said. "When you're talking about aviation, it's very affordable."
LSA target markets include flight schools and individual pilots.