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BAE reaffirms ties to area

Defense giant shops for a new home – in Allen County

Benzing

BAE Systems on Friday declared its allegiance to greater Fort Wayne.

The local employer also confirmed it is in the market for a new place to call home.

The British defense contractor has been the subject of speculation in recent days as rumors have spread that the manufacturer was looking at land in Van Wert and Paulding, Ohio.

But spokesman Jeff Benzing shot down that talk with a company statement.

“BAE Systems is working to relocate its world-class aviation and electronics operations currently situated in Fort Wayne,” he said. “While final site selection has not been made, BAE is committed to remaining in Allen County. We look forward to announcing a new home for our aviation operations in the near future.”

BAE has increased its local workforce from about 760 in 2006 to about 1,100. The manufacturer has consolidated production over the years, moving jobs here from Texas in 2009 and 2012.

The local operation has changed hands twice. BAE acquired it from Lockheed Martin Control Systems in 2000. Lockheed Martin bought it from General Electric Co. in 1996.

A GE official said his company isn’t pushing BAE out of 2000 Taylor St.

“Their lease is up for renegotiation, and we would be pleased for them to stay in the space,” Jim Rogers, general manager, said in an emailed statement.

Benzing declined to answer additional questions about BAE’s potential move within the county.

Local economic development officials are trying to attract new companies and hold onto employers whose existing space isn’t big or modern enough.

They launched a program this year that would add to the county’s industrial inventory.

The Fort Wayne-Allen County Economic Development Alliance received more than 125 requests for existing building space from January 2011 through the end of March 2013.

The Alliance, now part of Greater Fort Wayne Inc., has tracked requests for square footage, height and other requirements. Data show a local need for large industrial buildings that new employers can move into quickly, officials said in July.

In more than a third of cases, Alliance officials have been unable to suggest an existing building that meets necessary criteria.

Ashley Steenman, the Alliance’s vice president of business development, has described the lack of shell buildings as a gap in what Fort Wayne has to offer.

CME Corp. broke ground in July on a 60,000-square-foot shell building near U.S. 30 and Interstate 69.

The $3.3 million project, scheduled to be completed by Thanksgiving, will allow its future occupant to specify interiors, including where offices, restrooms and additional partitions should be placed.

The Klink Group owns the property and is paying CME to construct the building. The structure, which can be expanded to 120,000 square feet, will be available for sale or lease.

sslater@jg.net

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