Era helicopters to expand Lake Charles facility

Published 10:41 am Saturday, September 8, 2007

LAKE CHARLES, La. (AP) — Era Helicopters, an international aviation company based in Lake Charles, will use a $2.1 million Louisiana Economic Development Rapid Response Fund grant to expand its local training facility.

The total cost of the expansion project is $6 million, and Era will pay the remaining costs. The grant was announced late last month at Era’s current training facility at the Lake Charles Regional Airport.

The Rapid Response Fund was created following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Money from it funds economic development projects that create jobs and capital investments in the state.

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Era’s new training center will be in a refurbished 7,694-square-foot facility on airport property in Lake Charles. It will initially feature two high-tech simulators that will be used to train hundreds of pilots each year, company officials said.

“Our existing pilots are required to receive annual training, and all of our new hire education and training programs will be done here,” said Era CEO Ed Washecka.

“In addition to our own employees, we will conduct training for our partners and other third parties. We will have pilots coming from our bases in Alaska and other countries. They will train here, then return to their base of operations.”

Era has operated in Louisiana for more than 30 years and is based in Lake Charles. The company’s management center and facilities for training and maintenance are here and employ about 300 people. The company owns more than 160 aircraft.

The grant will help make sure the company stays, said Michael Olivier, secretary of the state Economic Development Department.

“This grant is an investment in our existing assets, an investment in our airport. Every time I come to Lake Charles, I see something new going on,” he said. “Lake Charles has been doing wonderful things after Rita, it has been a model for recovery. This expansion is one more example.

“We thank Era for locating and choosing to expand in this community. We need projects like this to show people around the globe that we can do business, that companies can locate and grow in our state.”