Along with that increase, Duluth-based Cirrus Aircraft’s workforce in Grand Forks has grown by almost 75 percent in the past 18 months. And with new projects in development and the national economy slowly improving, Cirrus executives are optimistic about the future.
“We’re a little bullish,” said Bill King, the company’s vice president of business administration. “We actually think (2014) is going to be better than last.”
Still, the 276 planes Cirrus delivered in 2013 are just a portion of what it sold in the years before the recession. King said the entire aircraft industry is still feeling the effects of the economic downturn.
King said he doesn’t expect to Cirrus sales to return to pre-recession levels any time soon. The company shipped 710 planes in 2007 before dropping to 268 in 2009, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.
“We don’t see it happening in the very near future, but we do think it will happen,” King said. “It’s certainly not something we’re structuring for over the next year or two, we think it’s further out than that.”
“But if it happens … we’ll find a way to build ‘em,” he added.
Cirrus’ sales numbers last year represented its largest shipment since 2008, and its share in the single-engine piston market grew to a record 37 percent, the company reported.
The company has been able to dominate the sector, King said, simply because they’ve been able to offer quality planes at a decent price.
“In this day and age, people want value,” King said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re buying cars, planes or pencil sharpeners.”
Its workforce here has grown from 83 to 144 in the past 18 months, King said. In Duluth, it employs about 500 people.
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