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American Eurocopter

American Eurocopter, a Business Unit of EADS North America, began its rich history in Grand Prairie, Texas when two aerospace organizations, Aerospatiale and LTV Aerospace, formed a helicopter company in 1969, which ultimately became American Eurocopter. When American Eurocopter explored potential assembly sites throughout the United States to grow the business, Mississippi was a front runner on its list.

The Columbus location had immediate potential due to its proximity to the Columbus Air Force Base; several colleges including Mississippi State University (MSU), East Mississippi Community College (EMCC), and the Mississippi College for Women; engineering research facilities at the Thad Cochran Research, Technology and Economic Development Park in Starkville; and the Golden Triangle Regional Airport. The local community was also important; American Eurocopter prides itself on its “I AM QUALITY” mentality, not only in reference to its custom rotary-wing aircraft, but also to its employees.

Starting with a temporary airplane hangar and eight employees in 2003, American Eurocopter has taken Mississippi by storm, bringing rapid economic growth and job opportunities to the state. By 2004, it had already expanded to employ 44 workers housed in a new 92,000 sq. ft. state-of-the-art facility. By 2006, American Eurocopter had secured a 10-year program with the U.S. Army to produce and deliver nearly 350 UH-72A Lakota Light Utility Helicopters out of the Columbus facility. With this new undertaking, American Eurocopter expanded for the third time in three years with the addition of the Lakota assembly hall, flight line, paint shop, warehouse, flight operations, and flight test engineering space totaling over 200,000 added sq. footage. Now in 2009, the 325,000 sq. ft. facility has nearly 250 Mississippi workers, and is continuing to recruit and expand.

American Eurocopter produces 12 models of rotary-wing aircraft customized for the specific mission of each individual customer. It has become the leading provider of helicopters, holding more than half of all helicopter sales nationally for U.S. civil, law enforcement, military, state and federal agencies. More than 1,800 Eurocopter aircraft are currently in use in the public and private sector. Clients include corporate and business entities, hospitals and emergency medical units, tourism operations, law enforcement and homeland security agencies (including U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Department of Justice, and the FBI), as well as the U.S. armed forces. The Coast Guard inventories approximately 105 HH-65 Dolphin search and rescue aircraft, while the Army currently operates the UH-72A, produced at the Columbus facility.

Because helicopters are in such high demand during emergency and crisis situations, American Eurocopter springs into action during a time of need. In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, American Eurocopter made its private aircraft available to government officials needing immediate transport to the Gulf Coast. It also aided in the rescue efforts bringing civilians to safety and transporting supplies to regions inaccessible except by air.

In 2008, American Eurocopter was named Industry of the Year by the North Mississippi Industrial Development Association. The company has definitely expanded industry in the region and it also works closely with the local community at all of its locations on a day-to-day basis.

President and CEO Marc Paganini is an active member of the Advisory Council for the Bagley College of Engineering at MSU, and has provided many opportunities that work symbiotically for American Eurocopter and the university. American Eurocopter works with faculty and students on research projects and hands-on development of new technology at campus research centers. It also provides scholarships and cooperative opportunities for area students extending beyond just the university. It has implemented electrical/avionics, metal, and mechanics training courses with EMCC and research opportunities with the College for Women.

Working closely with students from all over the state in training for these high-paying technical jobs provides not only an abundance of opportunities for the students fortunate enough to train with American Eurocopter, but also a pool of skilled workers in the region to fill job openings as they become available. For more information on American Eurocopter and its products, visit www.eurocopterusa.com

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