Standing together in partnership representing business, educators, state and local governments during the March 12 announcement that NetJets will remain in Ohio with a $220 million expansion at Port Columbus Airport are left to right: Eric Fingerhut, Chancellor, Ohio Board of Regents; Lt. Governor Lee Fisher; Leslie Wexner, Chairman of Limited Brands (with arm around Fisher); Kathy Ramsier, Airport Port Authority; Richard Santulli, CEO of NetJets; Governor Ted Strickland; Dr. Joseph Alutto, James Cancer Hospital; Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman; Michael Mentel, President of Columbus City Council; Dr. Michael Caligiuri, CEO of James Cancer Hospital and Bruce Whitman, president and CEO of FlightSafety.
It’s one flight that local leaders can be glad did not get off the ground.
"NetJets is staying in Columbus, Ohio, and we are committed to building a world-class facility so all NetJets employees will be back together once again," announced Chairman and CEO Richard T. Santulli March 12.
Included in that commitment will be a $220 million campus expansion. Sister company FlightSafety International will also be building a new training center. Over 800 new jobs will be added, totaling about 3,000 employees over the next five to six years.
Mayor Michael Coleman pointed out that this is probably the most significant economic event in his 15 years as a politician.
"It’s not just the jobs provided, but the opportunity to get a foundation for the aviation industry in Columbus," Coleman said. "It’s just scratching the surface. NetJets is going to help us grow. This will be a new horizon, and new frontier for our city. Richard Santulli is a man of vision, and a great ambassador for NetJets and its employees. We are blessed."
Over the past couple of years several cities have been courting the world’s largest private jet firm. Santulli said that it was at a dinner in December hosted by Leslie and Abigail Wexner at their home in New Albany that he realized Columbus was the place to be.
Dinner guests included business leaders, educators, and state and local government officials. He referred to the dinner as the turning point.
"I just listened to the dinner group’s vision and commitment to making Columbus a better place for people to want to live and for bringing more businesses," he recalled. "OSU President Gordon Gee is the best salesman for promoting Columbus."
Santulli also spent much time asking his employees what they wanted for the company and their jobs and lifestyles. He shared how the company is one big family, noting that employees love coming to work.
Among the hundreds in attendance, he recognized Charlie Salsburey, who just celebrated her 40 years of employment.
He also shared a story about an employee, Reynoldsburg resident Peggy Windhurst, who loves her job so much that she began walking to work in the snow storm on March 7. She made it four miles before someone finally stopped to offer her a ride. She made it to work.
He emphasized that it is the hundreds of other employees like Salsburey and Windhurst who comprise the NetJets family.
The company started in 1964 as Executive Jet. Santulli purchased it in 1984. Two years later NetJets began offering fractional-aircraft ownership, much like a timeshare.
The investors, businesses and wealthy individuals, purchase a portion of an aircraft based on how many hours they average flying each year.
After being a customer for ten years, Warren Buffett and his company, Berkshire Hathaway, purchased the company in 1998.
Some the "timeshare" owners include Barry Manilow, Tiger Woods and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Santulli assured that the incentive package was not the determining factor, and that he will put all of that money back into the city and state.
The state, City of Columbus, Franklin County, and the Columbus Regional Airport Authority have offered a combined growth package that includes workforce development, job credits, tax abatements and other direct assistance valued at $67.6 million, including $37.4 million from the state, $22 million from the city and county, and $8.2 million from the airport.
This does not include about $30 million in incentives related to area site improvements, loans and marketing.
Santulli also announced that there will be an educational partnership with OSU, Ohio University and Columbus State Community College for internships, which have already begun.
A further commitment of $12.5 million for cancer research was made to the James Cancer Hospital and Richard Solove Research Center. Through biking events over the next five to six years, he anticipates raising an additional $60 million.
Governor Ted Strickland said that the future of aviation and future of Ohio are inseparable. He noted how eager the universities have been to participate in the project.
"I pledge to never take you for granted, and working in partnership with you as you take care of your company and family," promised the governor.
Lt. Governor Lee Fisher, who serves as director of the Ohio Department of Development, said, "We want to thank all of our partners who were instrumental in bringing the resources to the table that were fundamental to this project, and help us build upon Ohio’s aviation cluster. Most importantly, we want to thank NetJets, which challenged us to put together a partnership to accomplish what no one party could achieve alone."
Whitehall City Treasurer Chuck Underwood is an instructor at FlightSafety International, located on Hamilton Road.
He offered, "NetJets and FlightSafety work very good as a partnership. We train all their pilots, so when they expand, we expand. What’s good for NetJets is good for us."
More about NetJets:
NetJets, a Berkshire Hathaway company, is the worldwide leader in private aviation. Worldwide, they offer the largest and most diversified fleet in private aviation, which includes 15 of the most popular business jets in the world.
Access to the fleet is also available in the form of a short-term lease, sold on an all-inclusive, pre-paid basis in 25-hour increments, through an exclusive alliance with Marquis Jet Partners.
NetJets also offers aircraft management, charter management, and on-demand charter services through its subsidiary, Executive Jet Management. More information is available at www.netjets.com.
•In 2007 NetJets worldwide flew over 390,000 flights to more than 173 countries and employed nearly 7,300 worldwide (3,957 pilots, 400 flight attendants)
In the U.S., NetJets:
•Spent over $34 million on catering
•Arranged more than 100,000 cars and limos
•Landed at over 1,500 airports
•Spent $55 million on pilot training at FlightSafety International
•Required over 1.8 million maintenance work hours
Also, in 2007, Netjets directly spent nearly $300 million in Ohio.