JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- It took more than a year to confirm, but the Department of Defense announced Wednesday that Jacksonville International Airport will soon be home to a lucrative military contract.
A contract to assemble and test the A-29 Super Tucano Air Force fighter plane has been awared to international defense company Embrarer -- again.
The original $350 million contract was annouced by city leaders in December 2011 but two months later it was put on hold, after a rival company argued it wasn't given an opportunity to submit a bid.
The Air Force decided to reopen the bid process in February 2012, and today it announced Embraer once again won the bid for a now $427 million agreement according to the Mayor's office.
Embraer consultant (Ret.) Admiral Bob Natter told Action News he's glad the debate is over.
"This is good news not only for Jacksonville, but also the Air Force. We have great ports for transfer of those aircraft pieces as well as the airport. That's the perfect location."
Natter says it has been a frustrating wait, but it was the right thing to do.
"I'm sure they dotted their I's and crossed their T's. They certainly took their time to do it, and I'm confident they did it right this time."
A 27,000-square-foot hangar at JIA has been waiting for a permanent tenant for 15 years. Over the past year, JIA has invested $1.1 million to upgrade the facility in anticipation that a new contract would be confirmed this year. Action News is told Embraer plans to hire 50 skilled workers with high salaries, and that the contract has the potential of increasing to nearly $950 million in just a few years.
"This plane really is of great value to the Department of Defense because it is so capable of many things. I think with our budget woes that we're going to be facing now and in the future, we may see this thing in other areas and in other applications."
Mayor Alvin Brown has been pushing for the Embraer contract since his trip to Brazil with Gov. Rick Scott in 2011, where they first met with Embraer executives. He calls it "a real team effort" and says the contract is "a critical initiative for our armed forces and economy."
Congressman Ander Crenshaw added, "This contract underscores the deep confidence by our military that Jacksonville continues to be a military aviation center of excellence."