Purdue President Mitch Daniels joined Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb and Saab Group President Micael Johansson in opening the Saab manufacturing facility in Purdue’s Aerospace District.
During Wednesday’s conference, which was preceded by an energetic presentation featuring music and a light show, chairman of the board for Saab Marcus Wallenberg said this would generate 300 jobs in the West Lafayette area.
“As a Purdue alumni, this is one of the things we dream of,” Robert Ulibarrí, general manager of the West Lafayette plant, said. “We now have 60 employees, and I’m happy to say that 50% of our newly hired staff are Purdue alumni.”
This is Saab’s seventh foray into the United States market. Saab is a Swedish military defense and aircraft manufacturing company founded in 1937, according to their website.
The new plant emerged from a partnership between Saab and Boeing to manufacture parts for the Air Force’s new T-7A Redhawk jet. Following the production of the jets, Saab plans to shift to both manufacturing and research and development in the plant, Johansson said.
The culture and the student presence drew Saab to Purdue, Ulibarrí said.
“We have always seen this as a responsibility and a great opportunity because of the faculty and student talent needed for a high-tech economy,” Daniels said. “What we’re trying to create in Discovery Park is a boom town of high-tech businesses.”
Aside from the presence of Purdue, the Indiana Economic Development Corporation will be offering Saab $3.9 million in conditional tax credits and $1.15 million in training grants, according to a press release from the state of Indiana.
“Of course we want to make sure we make money,” Johansson said. “We want to speed up the factory and manufacture hundreds and hundreds of these T-7As, but I want to put a lot of attention to the arrangements and initiatives we’ve already started with Purdue.
“There’s so many technologies out there today that will change the defense industry, and unless you invest in creating new products in a new way, it will be lost.”
Saab leadership praised Purdue throughout the conference for its commitment to what they called the triple helix approach, which consists of the government, industry and academia all working in part, Johansson said. He said this had been exactly the case with their partnership with Indiana, and hoped this approach would allow Saab to thrive in West Lafayette.
“We have about 60 employees right now on site, and I think that in the next two years we hope to reach 100 employees,” he said. “We plan to ramp up production by then and begin to invest in many new technologies, and if we can find good initiatives with local industry here at Purdue, we’ll invest there.”
Saab is the latest company to set up a plant at Purdue’s Discovery Park. This will be followed by the construction of the world’s first Hypulse wind tunnel, which is part of Purdue’s new Next Moves initiatives.
“People notice when companies make a move like this,” Daniels said. “We believe we have others coming that will build on our current momentum. I think we’ve started down that process of acceleration, but we think Saab is the first big step.”