Raleigh Durham International Airport could be in the running to land an expansion or perhaps even the relocation of NetJets, a global operator of hundreds of small corporate jets. Billionaire Warren Buffett controls the company
RDU, the North Carolina Department of Commerce and the Research Triangle Regional Partnership had little to say about reports in Florida and Ohio newspapers that listed Raleigh as one of four finalists in a bidding war for NetJets.
As many as 2,000 jobs could be at stake.
Maryann Aarseth, vice president of communications for NetJets, did confirm to WRAL.com that the airline is looking to expand.
“As NetJets business continues to grow and as we expand and add more employees and more aircraft we also must add new infrastructure to maintain the highest standards of service and safety,” she said in a statement. “We are looking at adding new buildings in Columbus and perhaps outside the Columbus area as well.”
NetJets works with jet setters, Hollywood celebrities and wealthy individuals who buy what is called “fractional ownership” in corporate jets. The airline offers its owners access to jets ranging in size from six to 18 passengers, and the aircraft are available within four to 10 hours of the request. It is part of Berkshire Hathaway, a Buffett-controlled company.
NetJets, which maintains its corporate headquarters in New Jersey, operates across the United States, Europe and the Middle East with some 700 jets.
Most of the airline’s 1,500 employees are in Columbus.
However, that could be changing. WRAL.com has learned that some employees have been told they may be relocating to either Raleigh or Orlando, Fla., based on which metro area wins the bidding for NetJets’ business.
Both the Orlando Sentinel and Columbus Dispatch have listed Raleigh, Orlando and Columbus as the competitors for NetJets. The Orlando newspaper also said Fort Worth, Texas, was in the running.
When asked about media reports and the NetJets statement, Raleigh-area officials stayed mum.
“I don’t have any information on that,” said RDU spokesperson Mindy Hamlin.
Charles Hayes, chief executive officer of the Research Triangle Regional Partnership, also declined comment.
Deborah Barnes, spokesperson for the North Carolina Department of Commerce, withheld comment as well.
The bidding for NetJets apparently is expensive. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Florida legislators could get access to a $250 million “innovation incentive fund” and a $45 million “quick action closing fund.”
The Orlando newspaper also reported that a delegation from that city and state is lobbying NetJets under the code name “Project Horizon.”
A decision by the airline could come as early as Dec. 10, the Columbus newspaper said.
North Carolina has won a number of aviation related projects in recent months, including a HondaJet headquarters and production facility and an operations center for SkyBus airline at the Piedmont Triad International Airport. SkyBus also is based in Columbus.
The state has been very aggressive in awarding tax and economic incentives to land new businesses, such as the Dell computer and server manufacturing plant in Winston-Salem, several pharmaceutical, financial and life science company relocations or new plans or expansions in the Triangle, and a Google data facility in Lenoir.
NetJets operates an 825,000-square-foot facility in Columbus and has a lease on that building through 2019, according to the Columbus newspaper.