Small-plane maker on inspirational ride
Staff ReportNovember 6th, 2014
Quest Aircraft Co.’s foray into the Asian market, which Journal reporter Mike McLean wrote about in our last edition, is a soaring inspiration for other Inland Northwest businesses that hope to find a market niche they can pursue internationally. More generally, it also is a big plus for the Inland Northwest business community on several fronts.
The Sandpoint-based small-airplane maker stands to raise, at least modestly, the profile of the region’s aerospace industry, which is steadily becoming stronger. And perhaps most importantly, it’s providing jobs in a community hit hard by the downfall of one of its biggest employers, former women’s apparel retailer Coldwater Creek.
As the Inland Northwest Aerospace Consortium reports, the Spokane area is home to more than 60 aerospace companies, and good news in that sector appears to be rolling in on a regular basis. Exotic Metals Forming Company LLC, the Kent, Wash.-based aerospace supplier, is expected to open its new facility on the West Plains next summer and to employ 150 people there. Spokane-based Associated Painters Inc., which paints jetliners, began expanding into a second hangar at Spokane International Airport last spring. And SIA has put out an invitation for what it refers to as an “important aerospace business recruitment announcement” on Nov. 20 that Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to attend.
Quest Aircraft inked an agreement with SkyView Aircraft Industry Co. to sell and service its rugged Kodiak light airplane in parts of Asia. In coming years, it will help SkyView ramp up its manufacturing capabilities, and by 2019, the Chinese company is expected to make the Kodiak planes it sells. To be clear, Quest isn’t outsourcing manufacturing to China; the Sandpoint company will continue to make the planes it sells domestically and in other markets.
As SkyView ramps up, Quest will send new planes from Sandpoint to Asia. The company expects to deliver ten aircraft, which have a base price of just under $2 million, to Asia through that relationship between now and the end of 2015.
The company’s expanding presence brings some welcome diversity to the aerospace industry, since most of the Inland Northwest’s aerospace manufacturers are tied closely to Boeing Co. Its growth also adds diversity to the region’s exports.
Greater Spokane Incorporated estimates the Spokane area’s annual exports total about $662 million, and its top exports mostly involve agricultural products, including wheat, apples, and cattle. That shouldn’t change any time soon, gratefully, but it’s good to see companies in other industries pursuing broader markets.
Quest isn’t expecting to add many more employees at its Sandpoint facility as a result of its international expansion, but since its inception in 2001, the company has grown to employ about 175 workers, making it one of Bonner County’s larger employers.
The Sandpoint company’s story should serve as inspiration to those in aerospace and those looking to do business internationally. Let’s hope there are more stories like theirs to be told in the future.