Pueblo: L3 Doss Aviation to expand business, economy

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Pueblo will see increased economic impact from L3 Doss over the next decade, thanks to a $2.9 million grant from the city of Pueblo and the renewal of a 10-year pilot training contract with the Air Force.
A military flight training facility located next to the Pueblo Memorial Airport, L3 Doss will bring a total of 192 jobs to Pueblo by 2020 and will expand the number of pilots trained at its facility.
The city of Pueblo granted L3 Doss the funds in exchange for 62 additional jobs. The money will go toward $7.5 million in expansions and capital improvements and provide full-time employees with an average annual salary of $54,000. The government contribution will also help update planes and equipment used for training purposes.
“It’s a unique project where you have a company that lives and breathes on one contract,” said Jeff Shaw, president and CEO of the Pueblo Economic Development Corporation. “This is an opportunity to increase their employment count as well as partner with them to keep the project in Pueblo.”
According to Mark Lester, vice president and general manager for L3 Doss, the process to renew the Air Force contract was competitive; three companies from Texas, Alabama and Florida also bid.
“[If] another competitor came in … Pueblo would lose out on 200 jobs,” Lester said. “[Initial Flight Training] operations would cease to exist if that occurred.”
In the 2006 grant from the city, L3 Doss was expected to provide 121 jobs by 2016, and now that’s increased to almost 200, said Lester.
“We’re very confident that we’re going to be meeting that number before April 2020,” Lester said. “The growth has already started to occur. We are actively hiring more certified flight instructors.
“Just like in the past 10 years, we always met or exceeded the number in the initial grant requirement.”
L3 Doss is also expected to generate around $50 million in annual sales by the end of 2017.
The Air Force’s contract, worth $280 million, is an important asset to the community, Shaw said, adding that L3 Doss jobs create additional employment in and around the Pueblo community.
“[For] each job Doss is creating … with their pay scale and the impact it has on the community, it’s probably creating two [additional] jobs,” Shaw said. “Any company that’s employing primary jobs — we’re going to do whatever we can to keep them and grow them.
“[L3 Doss] will maintain the employment it had, it will increase the employment count … you’ll have the 10 years of tax revenue come in from real estate, you’ll have the employees spending money in the community [and] you maintain a high traffic count at the airport, which they accounted for a large majority of our airport activity,” Shaw said.
In the last decade, L3 Doss trained and graduated 14,665 aviation students and commissioned officers, according to Paul Walker, IFT program director.
“Once they graduate and successfully complete our program, then they go on and complete the next level of flight training, navigator training or RPA, then they become operational,” Walker said. “That’s what we’ve done in the last 10 years.”
Through the new contract, Walker said he anticipates L3 Doss training up to 17,500 aviation students by 2027.
“It’s a big deal for the Pueblo community,” Walker said.
Formerly known as Doss Aviation, L3 Doss was purchased in September by L3 Technologies, a global aerospace and national security company headquartered in New York.
Through the Air Force contract, L3 Doss will provide ground and flight training to pilots, combat systems officers, remotely piloted aircraft pilots and international military students, which is a new addition to the training program.
Training international military students from ally nations is necessary, Walker and Lester agreed.
“Training with our allies in all the military services is very important,” Walker said. “If you train together and they know how we will fight and because of how we train … it makes for a much more effective fighting force when we have to fight together.”
L3 Doss is known as the gateway to Air Force aviation, said Lester and Walker.
“Pueblo has a long history of military flight training dating back to WWII and training aviators then,” Lester said. “Now with the IFT program we continue that heritage.
“I think this is a really good cultural fit to the region — from an economic perspective, not only the base, the operation is centered at the Pueblo Airport, we’re using 12 auxiliary fields around Pueblo.”
According to Shaw, Pueblo City Council approved the funding for the pilot training facility in a 7-0 vote after PEDCO recommended it go to L3 Doss.
Pueblo has a half-cent sales tax that funds the attraction and expansion of new businesses, Shaw said.
The $2.9 million came from an $8 million fund generated through the half-cent sales tax, which has been voted on by Pueblo citizens since around 1985.