Aerospace Supplier LMI to Expand Savannah Facility

Press release from the issuing company

Thursday, July 11th, 2013

Airframe parts supplier LMI Aerospace’s recent acquisition of a specialty machining and assembly firm will mean 100 new jobs for Savannah and the second expansion of LMI’s local facility in less than a year.

LMI and the Savannah Economic Development Authority made the announcement Tuesday following a SEDA board vote to grant LMI a $125,000 cash incentive toward the expansion.

The expanded facility will incorporate Valent Aerostructures’ expertise in producing sections of aircraft, specifically wings, into LMI’s main function locally: Providing individual parts to Gulfstream using a “just in time” delivery process.

“Given the growth in the aerospace sector in recent years, we’ve been looking at other services we might provide,” LMI CEO Ronald S. Saks said. “We do largely sheetmetal, while Valent does machining and assembly. We complement each other.”

The project will boost LMI’s presence at its Coleman Boulevard facility to 161,000 square feet and 155 employees. LMI has acquired the additional space and has purchased or has on order the new machining equipment. Valent already has contracts for the assemblies and sections to be produced in the expanded facility.

St. Louis-base LMI opened its Savannah facility in 2003 and counts Gulfstream and Boeing, which opened a plant in Charleston, S.C., in 2009, as its major customers. LMI completed its acquisition of Valent Aerostructures in December.

SEDA had courted Valent Aerostructures to Savannah prior to the company’s acquisition by LMI. Based in Kansas City with locations in Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma, Valent was looking to open a facility in the Lowcountry to be closer to Gulfstream’s Savannah home and Boeing’s Charleston facility.

Valent was “close” to committing to Savannah, according to SEDA’s Brandt Herndon, when the company broke off communications. SEDA would later learn LMI was negotiating the purchase for Valent, shifting the focus from a new facility for Valent to an expansion for LMI.

“What started out as a great business attraction project turned into a great business expansion project,” Herndon said.

The SEDA board unanimously approved the $125,000 cash incentive for LMI, which has a pullback provision should LMI fail to produce the promised new jobs. SEDA CEO Trip Tollison told the board the incentive was necessary to seal the deal with LMI, which was also considering a plant in Charleston.

“The incentive got us to the goal line,” Tollison said. “We needed to do this to win.”

Charleston is still in LMI’s future plans. Saks said plans were to open a satellite facility — one operated out of Savannah — near Boeing’s plants in North Charleston.

LMI’s expansion is the “starting point” for Savannah becoming the center of an aerospace supplier corridor, SEDA’s Trip Tollison said. Read about how SEDA hopes to capitalize on Savannah’s proximity to Boeing’s factory in Charleston, S.C., Gulfstream’s facilities here and Embraer’s Jacksonville plant in Sunday’s Exchange section.