By SARAH E. MORAN , Staff Writer
WEST WHITELAND -- Keystone Helicopter Corp. plans to double its
Chester County work force to 600 when it builds a massive new facility in
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
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
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
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
Local News 2002