Jet Maker Evicted From Opalocka Airport
By Sherri C. Ranta
Jet development company Safire Aircraft is looking for new investors after being evicted from offices at Opa-locka Airport.
Miami Executive Aviation, a fixed-base operator at the airport, locked Safire out of its leased offices Sept. 9 after Safire failed to make rent payments, said Tom Monaghan, business development director. Miami-Dade County officials had hoped Safire would stay and build an assembly plant at the general aviation airport.
"We’re sad to see this happen. It would have been a good thing for Opa-locka to have this plant and the employment," he said. "We believe they’re still talking to several groups about investment, but we’re basically to the point where we had to move on."
Safire President Camilo Salomon said this week the company is in "a sensitive moment." He said he was negotiating with investors who had asked him not to comment.
Safire laid off most of its 80 or so workers in June after efforts to obtain new financing failed. The company is developing a light jet priced at about $1.4 million it hopes to have ready to sell in 2006.
Miami-Dade County aviation and economic development officials began talks with the company more than a year ago about locating its $45 million assembly plant at Opa-locka Airport, said Susan Warner Dooley, assistant aviation director for business development.
The plant was forecast to employ about 800 with an average salary of about $40,000, according to Beacon Council figures.
Mr. Salomon and Safire’s "new potential owner," she said, met with county officials about two weeks ago. She declined to identify the investor who she was told is interested in "buying out" the company and locating the assembly plant at Opa-locka Airport.
"I had assumed the closing had taken place at this point," Ms. Warner Dooley said this week, after responding to inquiries regarding Safire’s status.
At this point, she said, county officials are waiting for Safire to complete its conceptual plans and come forward with a proposal. Depending on the site of the plant, she said, Safire would then enter into a lease with the county or a sublease with one of the other entities with development agreements at the airport.
Companies with such agreements include Opa-locka Community Development Corp.; J.P. Aviation Investments, 35 acres; Opa-locka Aviation Group, 240 acres; and Renaissance Airport Corp., 176 acres.
The eviction, Ms. Warner Dooley said, would not affect the county’s negotiations with the company insofar as Safire could offer proof that it is "financially feasible."