Saab plans Air Force jet facility near Purdue campus

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. (AP) — Swedish manufacturer Saab plans to open an Indiana manufacturing site as part of its production of a new Air Force training jet, bringing a major aviation project to Purdue University's research and business district.

Company officials announced Wednesday it would spend $37 million on building and equipping the facility at Purdue's Discovery Park District near the West Lafayette campus. The move comes as Saab serves as a top supplier to Boeing on a $9.2 billion contract awarded by the U.S. Air Force last year to build at least 351 T-X training jets.

Saab CEO Hakan Buskhe said the facility is expected to open next year and will eventually have 300 workers. The company said those positions would include assembly operators, airplane mechanics, manufacturing engineering and management.

Buskhe said he envisioned the West Lafayette facility becoming one of Saab's most important around the world in production, research and development.

"The ecosystem consisting of both the university and the many companies that has clustered around it is something we definitely would like to be a part of," he said.

Buskhe made the announcement inside a Purdue University Airport hangar with Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb and other state and local officials.

Purdue President Mitch Daniels said Saab's facility will bring more research partnerships with the university's faculty and boost the region's economy.

The Saab project comes as Purdue pushes development of the Discovery Park District on 400 acres (162 hectares) owned by the Purdue Research Foundation west of its main campus.

An electric power industry equipment manufacturer started construction last year on a research center in the district. Officials last week announced plans for a single-family housing development and four-story buildings with apartments and commercial space.

State incentives to Saab include about $4 million in tax credits and up to $1.15 million in training grants based on the company's investment and job creation plans, according to the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

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This story has been updated to clarify that Saab is a supplier to Boeing instead of that both companies won the Air Force contract.