Bell's Ozark facility could see workforce increase

April 05, 2012
April 5, 2012, Ozark, Al. - A self-funded project involving the maintenance of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) could potentially increase the workforce at Bell Helicopter’s Ozark facility, officials confirmed this week.
Bell Helicopter, which is based in Fort Worth, Texas, plans to begin the project later this year. Barry Ford, general manager for the Ozark facility, said there could be a need for more personnel depending on the number of aircraft modifications seen at the Ozark site.

Company spokesman Greg Hubbard said a Manned Unmanned Operations (MUMO) Capability Development Laboratory the company is developing in Huntsville could also involve maintenance work in Ozark within the next two years.

Ford said the Ozark site currently employs 142 workers, at least half of whom perform total refurbishments, heavy maintenance repair and overhaul on a majority military fleet.

Historically, the Ozark site has employed between 250 and 350 workers.

Ford said work on UAVs could present more opportunities for students completing studies at the Alabama Aviation Center in Ozark, which is a branch of Enterprise State Community College. Ford said the facility is working with the center to implement a course of instruction specific to unmanned vehicle maintenance.

Eric Basinger, executive director of the Ozark Dale County Economic Development Corporation (ODEC), said Dale County is positioned better for aviation industry advancements than many other areas in the state for various reasons, including the aviation training at the college.

“UAVs are a tremendous growth market in the aviation industry and expect to be over the next several years. … It is exciting to know that Dale County has an excellent opportunity to be one of the first communities in the Southeast that will experience growth in UAV aircraft production,” Basinger said.

According to its website, Bell Helicopter is a Textron company that produces commercial and military, manned and unmanned vertical lift aircraft and tilt rotor aircraft for customers in more than 120 countries.

The company operates plants in Amarillo, Texas and Mirabel, Canada, and maintains key logistics supply and service centers for vertical lift aircraft in Europe, Canada, Singapore and the U.S., according to its website.

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