Kalitta Charters, expanding in Ypsilanti Township, becomes first business to secure Aerotropolis incentives
The first company to take advantage of incentives under a newly created aerotropolis is relocating to Ypsilanti Township and bringing with it $3.8 million in investment and 50 new jobs.
Upon concurring with an agreement last month that gives Kalitta Charters a 100 percent abatement on personal property over six years, Ypsilanti Township’s board of trustees became the state’s first municipality to approve incentives under the Next Michigan Development Act.
The company is relocating from Van Buren Township to Ypsilanti Township, and was also being courted by officials in Tennessee and California.
In a recent letter to the Aerotropolis Development Corp., Doug Kalitta provided background on his company and explained his rationale for wanting to expand in Ypsilanti Township and Willow Run Airport.
Kalitta purchased the company from a struggling charter airline in 2002, at which time it solely maintained a fleet of nine small jets. Kalitta initially conducted business out of Willow Run airport and a small hangar in Tennessee.
Since then, the company has expanded to a fleet of 28 airplanes and acquired engine shops in Oklahoma, California and New Zealand, as well as a charter brokerage firm specializing in moving freight. Kalitta employed 81 people in 2002 and earned gross revenues of $13.4 million. The company employed 210 people last year and saw gross revenues of $60 million.
Kalitta said growth is due in part to diversification beyond the struggling automotive freight business. Kalitta expanded into the air ambulance business and secured contracts with the FBI, U.S. Department of Defense and other government agencies.
The firm now needs to expand its engine and turbine shop, but is limited by its physical space.
“The company is bulging at the seams,” Kalitta wrote in the letter. “Further growth is stymied by the size of the current facilities.”
Kalitta said the company could expand its operations in Tennessee or California, but Kalitta’s roots are at Willow Run and that is its preferred location. But, he added, the company would go where expansion is most economically feasible.
Township officials said the incentives would keep Kalitta in Ypsilanti Township, and they were pleased to see the Aerotropolis concept starting to pay dividends.
“Everyone is very excited about them being the first company in the aerotropolis,” Township Supervisor Brenda Stumbo said. “They would have gone to Tennessee if this hadn’t been fast tracked and they hadn't received these incentives.”
Washtenaw County, Wayne County, Ypsilanti, Ypsilanti Township, Belleville, Taylor, Romulus, Huron Township and Van Buren Township are under the Aerotropolis Development Corp. umbrella. The corporation distributes tax incentives and handles permitting and related paperwork.
Political leaders and economic development officials came up with the idea of the Aerotropolis — whose creation was approved in 2010 by the state Legislature — as a way to foster job creation among shipping and transportation companies surrounding Willow Run and Detroit Metro airports.
Township attorney Doug Winters said the area is "ripe for redevelopment."
"We have seen so much economic pain and upheaval, but we have so many great things to offer in this area and state," he said. "The payoff is going to be slow and maybe not as fast as we like, but unless we seize the moment and attract businesses like this, then we aren't going to recover."