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By SARAH E. MORAN , Staff Writer                                                                                              

October 24, 2002 

WEST WHITELAND -- Keystone Helicopter Corp. plans to double its Chester County work force to 600 when it builds a massive new facility in Sadsbury Township.

Steve Townes, chairman and chief executive of Keystone Ranger Holdings Inc., an aviation venture capital group that bought Keystone Helicopter in January, made the announcement Wednesday with Gov. Mark Schweiker and Sam McCullough of the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

Townes is also chairman and chief executive of Keystone Helicopter.

Keystone employees and state government dignitaries huddled Wednesday for the announcement inside a chilly tent at current Keystone headquarters on Phoenixville Pike.

The state anted up $3.3 million in tax incentives, job training and other benefits to keep Keystone in Pennsylvania.

The company will also pony up $12 million more to build its Heliplex, a state-of-the-art helicopter maintenance and repair site adjacent to the Chester County/G.O. Carlson Airport in Valley.

Keystone repairs, maintains and customizes helicopters, as well as providing air-medical helicopter operations for more than 25 hospitals east of the Mississippi.

It will buy the 52,000-square-foot Hoppe's manufacturing facility and its surrounding 15 acres Nov. 26, said Jim McCaughan, Keystone Ranger chief financial officer.

Hoppe's, a division of Michael's of Oregon, is in the process of moving its operations from Sadsbury to Idaho.

Keystone plans to keep the Hoppe's building, adding 110,000 square feet of office and technical space there.

The company hasn't formally hired an architect to design the new buildings, nor does it have a timetable yet for moving to Sadsbury, McCaughan said.

It will purchase the land and the Hoppe's building in late November.

What will happen to the West Whiteland complex, now owned by Keystone founder and Chairman Emeritus Peter Wright Sr., remains to be seen, Keystone marketing Manager Nancy Tuttle said.

Options include holding onto the building, developing it as tenant office space or selling it.

A member of the storied Flying Tigers air squadron during World War II, Wright returned home to "figure out how to commercialize that funny new machine called the helicopter," Townes recalled. Founding Keystone was the result.

Commented Schweiker, "Keystone Helicopter has called Pennsylvania home for nearly 50 years ..(the company) recognizes our first-rate work force and unmatched quality of life."

Keystone is now owned by Keystone Ranger, a venture capital group that includes Ranger Aerospace LLC, Meridian Venture Partners, CD Ventures, Argosy, and other private investors.  

İDaily Local News 2002


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