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Cirrus Aircraft expands its Duluth headquarters

The company rises to new heights with continued investment through a 16,000 square-foot expansion, adding 50 high-tech, skilled positions.

Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, fourth from right, celebrates as Patrick Waddick, President of Innovation and Operations at Cirrus Aircraft, cuts a ribbon during the grand opening of the Paint and Finish Facility Expansion
Duluth Mayor Emily Larson, fourth from right, celebrates as Patrick Waddick, president of Innovation and Operations at Cirrus Aircraft, cuts a ribbon during the grand opening of the Paint and Finish Facility Expansion at Cirrus on Friday, July 15, in Duluth.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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DULUTH — The Duluth Cirrus Paint and Finish Facility's 16,000-square-foot expansion became fully operational Friday, July 15, bringing the overall center to 86,000 square feet.

The additional space will allow for a 35% increase in aircraft spray capacity. The facility is dedicated to finishing the end stages of the manufacturing process. After assembly, Cirrus airplanes come to Duluth for personalized touches. The modernized facility will help reduce Cirrus' cost structure and improve efficiency, according to Patrick Waddick, president of innovation and operations at Cirrus Aircraft.

Waddick spoke to community members and business leaders who gathered to celebrate the milestone with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Friday. Attendees had an opportunity to tour the state-of-the-art Cirrus Paint and Finish Facility.

People take a closer look at the new Aircraft Paint and Finish Facility Expansion at Cirrus Aircraft
People take a closer look at the new Aircraft Paint and Finish Facility Expansion at Cirrus Aircraft during a grand opening ceremony on Friday morning, July 15, 2022 in Duluth.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

As its best-selling SR Series and Vision Jet gain popularity, the company continues to grow. There are currently over 9,000 Cirrus aircraft around the world.

"Our mission is incredibly important, and that is to deliver easily accessible personal aviation experience. That is the pinnacle of innovation, quality and safety to our customers," said Waddick.

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Cirrus has six locations throughout the country: Duluth; Grand Forks, North Dakota; Knoxville, Tennessee; Greater Dallas, Texas; greater Phoenix, Arizona; and greater Orlando, Florida.

“We are proud to expand the Cirrus Paint and Finish Facility at our Duluth headquarters,” Chief Executive Officer of Cirrus Aircraft Zean Nielsen said in a press release. “These investments allow us to both meet the increasing demand for our leading-edge aircraft and create additional jobs in our local communities.”

Patrick Waddick, President of Innovation and Operations at Cirrus Aircraft, addresses the crowd
Patrick Waddick, president of Innovation and Operations at Cirrus Aircraft, addresses the crowd at the grand-opening event for the Paint and Finish Facility Expansion at Cirrus on Friday morning, July 15, 2022 in Duluth.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

Cirrus currently employs 130 people at its Paint and Finish Facility and plans to add 50 high-tech and skilled positions to its team following the recent expansion.

Waddick said: "These investments result in not only real outcomes for Cirrus, but also for the community. Fifty or more new jobs; these new jobs don't just allow us to build more airplanes here and welcome new folks into the Cirrus family. They also spark investments at our local partners. When we grow, they grow, and that's good for Duluth; that's good for the state of Minnesota."

"It really telegraphs a bright future for Duluth with companies like Cirrus at the center of the airline cluster industry," said Chris Fleege, Duluth Economic Development Authority executive director and director of Planning and Economic Development. "It's been a good public-private partnership. We hope they can continue to expand here in Duluth. The airline cluster is built up of businesses that support Cirrus in Duluth, such as avionics, parachutes, assembly of composite materials and engines, metal stamping, manufacturing, in addition to the natural gas and other consumables it uses to operate. The entire aviation industry draws employees from across the Iron Range."

The authority has a mission to drive economic prosperity in the city of Duluth, and also works on broader issues of workforce housing and child care that may impact growing businesses such as Cirrus. The city of Duluth has also partnered with Cirrus by advocating at the state level to address any tax, workforce and housing concerns.

DEDA was instrumental in supporting Cirrus to navigate the expansion process, Fleege said. It provided assistance with the permitting process by hiring Barr for additional engineering and environmental consulting services, and helped Cirrus apply for Minnesota Employment and Economic Development Job Creation and Investment Funds.

Folks mingle before the grand opening event for the Paint and Finish Facility Expansion at Cirrus Aircraft
Folks mingle before the grand-opening event for the Paint and Finish Facility Expansion at Cirrus Aircraft on Friday morning, July 15, 2022 in Duluth.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram

The airport property is exclusively owned by the city of Duluth. The majority of property leases are paid to Duluth Airport Authority, or to the city for a few locations. The only exception is for the Duluth Maintenance Repair and Operations facility on the north side where DEDA is the lessee, subleasing to tenants like Cirrus and Lake Superior Helicopter.

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Cirrus currently subleases the north side of the Duluth Maintenance Repair and Operations Facility from DEDA. The lease agreement with Cirrus alleviates the authority's costs of $57,000 a month to operate the building's utilities, Fleege said. DEDA is also working to relocate its subleasing tenant, Lake Superior Helicopter, Fleege added.

The space previously occupied by AAR Corp. was vacated in July 2020 due to the unforeseen business circumstances related to COVID-19 and its impact on the commercial airline industry. According to Waddick, Cirrus plans to purchase the AAR building on the north side of the airport facility in the near future. It is planning to make significant investments to create a new innovation center there to allow Cirrus to invent new airplanes.

"For 30 years, we have been headquartered in Duluth with further plans to invest here, not just in our facilities but in our employees," Waddick said. "There is a ripple effect and a multiplier effect that will spread new innovation and new growth between our partners and in the community."

Prior to cutting the ribbon, Duluth Mayor Emily Larson said, "A company like this matters. One thing that I think we should be talking about more is the incredible impact Cirrus is having on the world. They won an award that has exceeded NASA. They won an award that is actually in the Smithsonian. These are incredible testaments to the hard work, to the vision, to the investment and the ongoing commitment to absolute innovation and excellence. We're really proud to be here today. Cirrus continues to be an enormously strong partner with the city of Duluth, so we're excited. We will step up every time, all the time for this company because you step up for us, and it really means a lot to us."

This story was updated at 8:28 a.m. Aug. 8 to correct the number of employees at the Duluth campus. There are 130 employees at Cirrus Aircraft's Paint and Finish Facility in Duluth. It was originally posted at 7:55 p.m. July 15. The News Tribune regrets the error.

Related Topics: BUSINESSDULUTHCIRRUS AIRCRAFTMANUFACTURING
Brielle Bredsten is the business reporter for the Duluth News Tribune.

She earned a bachelor's degree in Professional Writing & Technical Communication, with minors in Advertising and Creative Writing from Metropolitan State University, in addition to a two-year professional paid internship as reporter/editor of the student newspaper.

She is an award-winning professional writer, photographer and editor based in rural Minnesota. Over the past decade, Brielle Bredsten has contributed more than 1,000 articles, feature stories, non-profit press-releases, photographs and columns. Her work has been published in several community newspapers.

Send her story tips, feedback or just say hi at bbredsten@duluthnews.com.
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