Cash for jobs helped seal the deal north of Austin
Jason Darley’s favorite aspects of working in the aviation industry are the continuous growth, plus the constant demand and product innovation needed in the space.
That’s why he’s especially excited as his company, Georgetown-based Enflite LLC, gears up for a massive expansion within the city that will provide the company as much as 65,000 square feet of manufacturing space. The capital investment of at least $2 million will help it to continue making cabin accessories for business jets. The company could more than double to 200 employees within the next few years.
They will occupy part of a 200,000-plus-square-foot industrial development at 2010 Lakeway Drive that is being built by Texas Outdoor Power Equipment and Headwater Commercial Realty LLC. The project is adjacent to the Georgetown Executive Airport. It’s also near two industrial parks being built by Albuquerque-based Titan Development Ltd. and the new Costco Wholesale Corp. store.
“It’s a never-ending manufacturing loop, and that’s exciting,” said Darley, Enflite’s CEO. “I really enjoy that.”
The expansion marks a significant milestone for the company that dates its presence in Georgetown back to 1993. It essentially makes interior components for some of the most well-known jet planes, such as Gulfstream, Bombardier or Falcon, but also for commercial planes and the aerospace and defense markets.
Those items range from electric and manual pocket doors, sidewall tables and pedestal table mechanisms to appliances, such as ovens, refrigerators and coffee makers.
It’s work that’s “super challenging,” Darley said. For example, his team is working now on a microwave for business jets because actual microwaves can disrupt critical systems needed to fly a plane. He said nearly half his staff are engineers that work on building those technologies.
“Our focus there is to provide a business jet with comparable performance and quality to what you have in a high-end commercial or a high-end home type of an application,” he said.
The veteran-owned business has been growing rapidly. Darley said it’s doubled revenues over the last several years and maxed out its 30,000-square-foot space at 105 Cooperative Way. Executives wanted to stay in Georgetown for talent-attraction reasons and because of financial support from city leaders.
TOP and Headwaters’ new building will be 200,000 square feet, or roughly the size of two Walmart grocery stores, according to TOP Equipment Distributor Inc.’s Jarrod Elliott, who expects dirt to move in January. He said the shell should be complete by the end of next year and Enflite could occupy in early 2025.
TOP, which is best known for selling lawnmowers, weed eaters and other equipment, will use 145,000 square feet for storage to augment a 225,000-square-foot facility next door at 2301 Airport Road.
That leaves about 55,000 square feet of space in the new facility for Enflite. Executives there do plan to move into the space in early 2025 and have an option for another 10,000 square feet that they hope to occupy by 2027, Darley said. They currently have 90 employees, and Darley said they could eventually reach 200 when it’s all said and done.
“It’s just more space to do what we do currently,” Darley said. “We’re kinda busting at the seams. All functional areas are really running out of space, but primarily production.”
The expansion came with support from the city in the form of $250,000 in grants. The company on Oct. 10 was unanimously approved by the Georgetown City Council for an incentives agreement, which was codenamed “Project Wings” in economic development discussions. The agreement provides a maximum of $250,000 in grants based on certain job amounts. The company will receive $108,000 if it relocates a base number of 88 jobs to the facility. It is eligible for an additional $142,000 if it hits 121 additional employees.
Here’s how the subsidies break down: $3,000 per job that pays over $90,000; $2,000 for employees that are paid between $80,000 and $90,000; and $1,000 per job that pays below $80,000 annually. The company is required to invest at least $2 million in the space, occupy at least 50,000 square feet and move in by the end of 2025.
“We’re really working to diversity to the economy in Georgetown,” said Cameron Goodman, the city’s economic development director. “There are a lot of new high-tech manufacturing jobs coming to our area. Enflite being in the aerospace industry was really attractive to us and helping grow a company that has been here for 25 years. … We felt like it was a good opportunity to help them remain in Georgetown and continue growing here.”
Enflite will continue to establish Georgetown as a manufacturing and aerospace hub. The city is about 30 miles north of downtown Austin. Last year it was the fastest-growing city of its size in the country, reaching an estimated population of about 86,000, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
The city has millions of square feet of industrial space under construction, much of it already spoken for. Manufacturers that have recently announced moves or expansions the city, include ZT Systems, which builds components for data centers, and CelLink Corp., an electric vehicle parts supplier. Both could employ at least 1,000 people. The largest private-sector company is currently AirBorn Inc., which is a military and aerospace supplier that designs and manufactures high-reliability electronic systems.
Darley said workforce is always a challenge, as they have stressed culture when looking for employees that fit the company. He said it’s an effort they take seriously, including being transparent regarding what’s working and what’s not. They’ve seen good signs in retention and other metrics.
But ultimately the work is fun. Darley has worked in aerospace and ran companies — including Washington-based LifePort, which is similar to Enflite, except it designs pieces for medical and military aircraft – for his entire civilian career.
He said he loves the competition, loves the projects and loves the connections he’s made, all of which he’s confident have set Enflite up better for the future.
“We know how to do it, we know how to grow it,” Darley said.
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