October 13, 2021

Saab holds grand opening of new West Lafayette manufacturing and research facility

Saab CEO Michael Johansson, Purdue President Mitch Daniels, and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb cut the ribbon for the new facility. - Ben Thorp/WBAA

Saab CEO Michael Johansson, Purdue President Mitch Daniels, and Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb cut the ribbon for the new facility.

Ben Thorp/WBAA

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, Purdue President Mitch Daniels, and officials with Saab gathered in West Lafayette Wednesday for the grand opening of a new manufacturing and research facility.

The Swedish-based aerospace company expects to bring 300 new jobs to the area by 2027.

The event felt at times like a rock concert: huge video projections of jets and waving American flags were paired with blaring guitar music.

Daniels said the facility fits in with the university's goal of serving the interests of national security. The comments echo earlier statements from Daniels after Purdue announced a partnership with U.S. Space Force in September.

“We believe that as a public, land grant university this is not only an opportunity -- this is seriously a duty that we have,” he said.

Daniels added that he hopes the Saab investment will continue to attract more faculty, students, and technology-based businesses to the region.

“We will always look back on Saab’s decision as the decisive step in getting that going,” he said.

Daniels said he has advice for corporate partners like Saab.

“Companies are always so gracious and say what can we do as a corporate citizen and I would always say: make money,” he said. “It’s in our mutual interest.”

Gov. Holcomb quipped that organizers could have “opened for AC/DC.” He said the facility represents the kinds of jobs he hopes to attract to the state.

“We’re going to continue to lean in, especially in areas like this one, where there are high demand, high wage, critically important careers available,” Holcomb said.

“This is going to create even further pressure that we skill up folks throughout the whole state of Indiana to make sure they are filling these careers and these job openings,” he said. “If you’re not growing, you’re dying -- the state of Indiana is growing at an unprecedented rate right now.”

Saab CEO Michael Johansson described the building as costing “in the range” of $50 million dollars to build. The project was announced in early 2019 with construction beginning in 2020.

The facility will manufacture the aft section of T-7A Red Hawk trainer jets but also expects to engage in research and development projects in collaboration with Purdue.

Johansson said connecting to the U.S. supply chain is important for a long-term project like this one.

“One of the reasons establishing ourselves here is that we will be here for decades to come,” he said. “This cannot be the global approach so to say because the security of the supply would be too sensitive.”

Saab officials declined to get into specifics about how much the jets will cost, but said they were already contracted for 351 aircraft.

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