Stavatti Aerospace lands in Niagara County, aiming to create 590 jobs in next five years

By James Fink
Buffalo Business First

A California-headquartered aircraft design firm has selected a former U.S. Army Reserve Center in Niagara County for its prototype development and production facility.

Stavatti Aerospace Ltd., based in San Bernardino, California, has pledged to invest nearly $26 million and create 590 jobs within the next five years.

The nearly 20-acre site along Porter Road in the Town of Niagara neighbors Niagara Falls International Airport and the Niagara Air Reserve station — two factors that helped the region land the facility over places such as Myrtle Beach, South Carolina; Dayton, Ohio; and Winnipeg, Manitoba. Sites in more than 30 states and three Canadian provinces were considered.

"This site hit all the key points we needed," said John Simon, Stavatti chief strategic development and asset officer.

Stavatti made the deal official on Oct. 31 when it acquired the Porter Road property from Buffalo businessman and real estate investor Gordon Reger, paying $1.3 million, according to public records filed in Niagara County. The complex houses 10 buildings, including a 47,000-square-foot hangar. The buildings total more than 150,000 square feet.

Reger bought the complex shortly after the federal government declared it surplus in 2011.

Simon said renovation work began Nov. 2 and that Stavatti expects to begin working on the first of several prototypes — a military-style jet —by early December.

The prototypes are expected to cost about $14 million to develop. They will include what Simon called "next-generation" military, commercial and general aviation aircraft.

Stavatti has retained Silvestri Architects P.C. of Amherst to handle the design work. Blasdell's RP Oak Hill Building Co. will serve as the construction manager, and Sevenson Environmental Services Inc. of Niagara Falls will handle demolition and remediation work.

"We are hitting the ground running," Simon said.

Stavatti hopes to have its first 15 employees hired and working on the prototype within a month. The company could have 42 people employed by early spring.

How the region won over Stavatti

Several factors helped sway Stavatti to Niagara County.

• Access to the 10,800-foot linear runway at the Niagara Falls airport and the runway's ability to handle large, heavy aircraft.

"Having a hangar right there was a big factor," Simon said.

• A cooperative educational network — including Niagara County Community College, SUNY Erie, the University at Buffalo School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Niagara Falls City School District and Orleans/Niagara BOCES — that pledged to create aerospace design curriculum to give Stavatti the workforce it needs.

"We are going to need a steady pool of candidates within the next three years, if not sooner," Simon said. "The cooperation and interest we've received was a very strong variable."

• Nearby machine shops in Niagara County and portions of Erie County, many of which have the U.S. Department of Defense certification that Stavatti needs to fulfill some military contracts.

• Close proximity to companies such as Calspan Corp., Moog Inc. and Astronics Corp., all of which have extensive aerospace and military contract experience.

• Incentives including tax breaks approved in late October by the Niagara County Industrial Development Agency and plans to apply for 2.5 megawatts of low-cost hydropower from New York Power Authority. The application to NYPA has not, yet, been filed.

• A strong pitch from Invest Buffalo Niagara.

"Taken together, it was a very strong package," Simon said.

This article originally appeared in Buffalo Business First.