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Taking off: Cirrus Aircraft seeks state money to expand in Duluth

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One of the most successful businesses in Duluth is looking to expand its operations there, and is asking the state for some funding to help pay for it.

Cirrus Aircraft officials announced Friday the company wants to build a new $10 million production facility near the Duluth airport, which would house the final stages of the aircraft manufacturing process, the Northland News Center reports.

The City of Duluth has pledged $6 million in tax incentives and lease payments that Cirrus would pay for use of the 60,000-sq.-ft. building. Mayor Don Ness said he's asking state lawmakers for the additional $4 million.

Cirrus CEO Dale Klapmeier said the expansion plans are being driven by the company's new aircraft, the Vision jet, which is starting production soon. More than 500 advance orders are already in for the $2 million plane.

"We expect to see customer deliveries within the next year, and then the growth path to meet those demands is what determines that timeline for the building," said Klapmeier Friday, according to the News Center.

Ness compared the request to the Legislature's $585 million support of the Destination Medical Center in Rochester, a multi-billion dollar project to support the expansion of the Mayo Clinic there.

"Just as [the state] stepped up for Rochester and Mayo to facilitate that project, we need the state to help Duluth, to fulfill our tremendous potential in aviation," Ness said, according to MPR News.

Klapmeier said Cirrus has created more than 300 new jobs in the past three years, and expects to add about the same number in the next three, if the expansion moves forward. Cirrus has about 600 employees right now.

Both Klapmeier and Ness say it's important to get started on the expansion this year, which is why they're asking the Legislature to approve the funding during the current session.

If that happens, the new facility could be ready in the summer of 2016, WDIO reports, adding that the company and the mayor both said there are no other options if the state doesn't pitch in.

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