EXTENDS LEASE: Little Rock officials cheer extension of lease for Dassault Falcon completion center through 2040.

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  • EXTENDS LEASE: Little Rock officials cheer extension of lease for Dassault Falcon completion center through 2040.

Little Rock National Airport announced today that it had extended its lease agreement with Dassault Falcon, for its aircraft finishing operation, through 2040, with an option to extend.

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To hear Mayor Mark Stodola tell it, it wouldn’t have been possible without that expensive trip to Paris and all the fine meals he and his chamber of commerce buddy enjoyed, not to mention Gov. Mike Beebe’s own European trade mission. No doubt, though I suspect hard numbers were ultimately deal makers.

The promise of an extended presence of the plant, said to employ 1,800, is nothing but good news, but not a guarantee of the jobs. Dassault has laid off hundreds in Little Rock in recent years as the recession has hit private aircraft manufacturers. But it remains one of the area’s biggest payrolls and at good wages.

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I’m hoping for details on lease costs and space commitments and what the city spent for street and airport improvements as part of the deal. I’m also curious if the agreement includes any clawbacks if disaster happens and a factory is closed.

UPDATE: The old lease was due to expire in 2022, but had a 10-year extension. Here’s a summary of the new lease particulars, which shows the airport will take in $300,000 more a year over the previous $621,000, plus have an escalator clause. Dassault will be leasing 172,000 more square feet of land than previously.

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The city and state had earlier improved the 9th Street access to airport facilities at with a federal grant and government quick-action money, as well as airport enhancement money. Airport Director Ron Mathieu said he’s hopeful Dassault will expand on its new property. He said no incentives had been paid to hold the plant here. He said a worldwide operator such as Dassault could always be viewed as interested in building elsewhere and the new lease was an important achievement. Though the agreement contains no clawbacks, the improvements would revert to the airport in time if Dassault were not cease operations, he noted.