VACAVILLE — ICON Aircraft wants to bring its production facility and headquarters to Vacaville’s Nut Tree Airport and to begin that process, the company’s CEO, Kirk Hawkins, presented a non-binding letter of intent to the City Council, Tuesday night.
If the process plays out as both parties hope, the facility could bring hundreds of manufacturing and other jobs to the city starting as early as next year.
In a 4-0 voice vote – Councilman Curtis Hunt was not present – the council approved a resolution directing City Manager Laura Kuhn to sign the letter of intent and begin negotiations to bring the aircraft manufacturer to Vacaville.
Hawkins said in a press conference before the council meeting that Vacaville is the company’s No. 1 choice, though sites in Arizona and Texas are also under consideration.
ICON is looking at a pair of warehouses at 2141 Beechcraft Road, next to the Nut Tree Airport, that fit its ideal size and location for the production facility.
“What brings us to Vacaville really is we’re looking for a production facility,” Hawkins said. “We did a nationwide search and narrowed it down to Texas, Arizona and California. A lot of good reasons to be in California, there’s a lot of good reasons not to be.”
Among the negatives for California is the cost of being in business.
“The cost of doing business is definitely higher, so we’re going through a process of looking at these different areas,” said Hawkins, a former Air Force fighter pilot and commercial airline pilot. “I’ll tell you right now that Vacaville is our top choice. We hope to reach an agreement.”
The letter of intent accepted by the council marks the official opening of negotiations between the city and ICON on matters such as permits, construction and economic incentives.
Tuesday night, the council adopted a resolution authorizing the negotiations, and that indicates there are special considerations for ICON in the works.
Among those is a rebate, “based on a formula for a percentage of sales tax.”
Also in the resolution is a “loan for permit and development impact fees based on production and quality of jobs for the region.”
The council also “proposed to ensure expedited plan checks and other items to facilitate the project.”
Kuhn, said in the council meeting the city could loan ICON the cost to cover permit fees and development fees, which could be around $250,000, although no firm number was discussed or approved.
The resolution states that ICON must reach a “number of milestones and achievements” for those incentives to become a reality.
None of that has been approved and will need council action should the city and ICON come to a binding agreement.
Once the company is up and running, Hawkins said ICON could employ close to 500 people building its light sport aircraft, the A5, which is positioned as a low-cost, consumer-oriented way to get into flying.
With changes in the way the Federal Aviation administration regulates and classifies aircraft, ICON is hoping to launch a new industry, and it has nearly 1,000 pre-orders in hand for the A5, which takes two weeks to learn to fly and get licensed for, Hawkins said.
The A5 is a two-seat airplane with wings that fold up. It can be transported on a trailer and is meant as a fun, low-cost, hobby aircraft for consumers.
Hawkins said the A5 has a flight range of about 300 miles and it runs on regular auto fuel.
The four council members present Tuesday night voiced their support for ICON’s plan, as did a number of other entities, including the Solano Economic Development Corp., the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce and several local pilots.
“We’re going to do everything possible to get you guys here,” said Councilman Ron Rowlett.
Mayor Steve Hardy agreed.
“I look forward to the possible day when it’s a done deal,” he said.
Reach Mike Corpos at 427-6979 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/mcorposdr.