On Monday, the expansion of Flying Tiger Aviation's operations in Northeast Louisiana was announced at the Airport Campus of Louisiana Delta Community College. Flying Tiger Aviation will be relocating from Rayville to the Morehouse Memorial Airport in Bastrop.

In his comments to the audience, Louisiana Economic Development executive Kelsey Short highlighted that the expansion will create 21 new direct jobs with an average salary of $61,000 per year plus benefits, and that LED estimates that the project will also create 10 additional indirect jobs. The company will also retain its existing 14 jobs in the region.

"With its relocation to the Morehouse Memorial Airport, the company will make a $847,000 capital investment," Short said, "and will partner with LDCC's Bastrop campus to develop training and curricula for the Louisiana Aerial Application Center of Excellence, which will be established here."

According to a LED release, at the Bastrop airport, the company will construct 20,000 square feet of hangar space, a 5,000-square-foot maintenance hangar and a 150,000-square-foot expansion of the tarmac.

In his comments, Strong said that LDCC will have the only workforce development program in the nation to produce pilots for agricultural applications, and that, as the company pursues its plans for the center of excellence, it will move into pilot training for both manned and unmanned aviation vehicles.

“Flying Tiger Aviation is a leader in agricultural aviation training, with 90 percent of its students coming from other states and even international locations,” said Short, executive director of Louisiana Economic Development’s Business Expansion and Retention Group, in an LED release. “With the establishment of the Louisiana Aerial Application Center of Excellence at LDCC in Bastrop, this facility will be poised to become a pre-eminent provider of aerial application flight training, not only in the field of agriculture, but also in other emerging sectors. Louisiana’s talented workforce and strong business climate continue to encourage companies to invest in our state, where today more Louisianians are working than ever before.”

The following information was provided by a Louisiana Economic Development News Release:

Flying Tiger Aviation, which offers courses for beginning as well as advanced pilots, is one of only two major agricultural flying schools in the U.S. Founded by co-owner Edwards Barham in 1998, the school provides aviation training, FAA certification, ratings and endorsements for row-crop, forestry and other applications, such as firebombing to control and contain fast-spreading fires.

“Northeast Louisiana has the demographics that make it an ideal location for the intersection of agriculture, aviation, engineering and information technology,” said Rolfs, also the chief operations officer for Flying Tiger Aviation. “The region has a rich history in all of these areas with the first aerial application flight occurring here. The largest concentration of aerial application pilots in the world is in the Delta Region. There is simply no better place for the end-to-end development of the science of aerial application to include the use of unmanned aircraft for precision agriculture.”

LDCC, combining with Flying Tiger Aviation’s resources as an agricultural aviation leader, will partner with company leaders to develop standardized instructional courses for pilots. LAACOE will be the first program of its kind to feature training for manned and unmanned aerial application systems that support agriculture and other fields, such as the oil and gas industry. Unmanned aviation vehicles, for instance, can be used for pipeline safety and surveillance work.

“We are humbled by the opportunity to serve the citizens of Morehouse Parish through this unique partnership and feel privileged to play a role in the Governor’s vision of advancing economic development by creating a skilled workforce for Louisiana,” said Chancellor Barbara Hanson of LDCC.

Construction at the Morehouse Memorial Airport in Bastrop will begin in November 2014, and Flying Tiger will begin the relocation to Bastrop from Rayville in March 2015. The company expects hiring to begin soon after the relocation, reaching full employment by the end of 2016. Operations will begin in Bastrop by mid-2015, but LAACOE will begin coursework earlier, in September 2014.

“The City of Bastrop is excited about the selection of our airport by Flying Tiger Aviation to establish a new aviation training center,” Bastrop Mayor Arthur Jones said. “This will provide Bastrop with a great opportunity to attract new technology-based jobs. We appreciate the confidence that Mr. Rolfs and Mr. Barham have placed in our city.”

Louisiana Economic Development began working with Flying Tiger on a potential expansion project in May 2014. To secure the expansion, LED offered Flying Tiger a competitive incentive package, including a $575,000 Economic Development Award Program grant that will be used by the airport to complete $275,000 in new hangar construction and $300,000 in tarmac upgrades for the project. Flying Tiger Aviation also is expected to utilize the state’s Enterprise Zone program.

“Flying Tiger Aviation will be a wonderful addition to the airport,” said Manager Brent Elton of Morehouse Memorial Airport. “It is the catalyst needed to move the airport in a direction of growth.”

“It is great to see individuals recognize the value of assets that we have available to aviation-related business,” said President and CEO Kay King of the Morehouse Economic Development Corp. “Flying Tiger Aviation will facilitate our airport in becoming a viable asset in the development of technology-based jobs for Bastrop.”