It's official -- ICON Aircraft is coming to Vacaville.
The announcement was made Wednesday to uproarious applause during a press conference at the Southern California-based company's soon-to-be headquarters on Beechcraft Drive.
Also applauded -- a model of the prototype of the A5, an amphibious light sport aircraft that's generated much excitement and more than 1,000 pre-orders even though it's not yet on the market.
"We spent the last few years looking for our future home and we looked all over the country and in many states," explained Kirk Hawkins, ICON CEO and cofounder. "As of today, ICON, not just in the state of California, but ICON and all its functioning departments, are moving to Vacaville."
ICON's aircraft design, manufacturing, sales, training, service and corporate headquarters are slated to move into its 140,000-square-foot facility near the Nut Tree Airport in Vacaville later this year.
That news has been at least three years in coming.
Back in 2011, Vacaville City Manager Laura Kuhn heard about ICON and that it wanted to relocate. After learning more about the company, she initiated contact and let Hawkins know ICON could be a great fit within the city.
For one thing, Vacaville is home to military veterans, close to Travis Air Force Base and boasts the Nut Tree Airport, which houses the planes of many recreational pilots. Hawkins is a former Air Force F-16 pilot with a determination to build the A5, a luxury recreational "power vehicle."
For another, the gas-powered aircraft can take off and land on water as well as traditional runways, and Vacaville is close to numerous waterways including Lake Berryessa.
The city is also located between major markets -- the Bay Area and Sacramento -- and the A5's clientele of recreational fliers would have the option of touring everything from San Francisco to the Napa Wine Country to Lake Tahoe and beyond. The plane reportedly can fly for three hours and 300 miles and has a gas mileage of about 20 miles per gallon.
Hawkins and his team soon connected with Kuhn, visiting the city about 20 times in the past few years. Meanwhile, ICON also considered locations in Arizona and Texas.
What turned the tide, Hawkins said, is that Vacaville met or surpassed every need. The city is business friendly, he said, has excellent facilities, is close to world-class destinations, has year-round flying weather and more.
He pledged job opportunities of at least 500 to upward of 1,000, all high-paying, and said the city is destined to become a global destination, with clientele from all over the world.
City officials have long touted the jobs aspect, which means qualified local residents could make a living wage and work closer to home.
Sales-wise, the company comes with a huge order for the planes, which carry a near-$200,000 price tag. Once the manufacturing plant is in place, production is said to take a couple of weeks. The first build is expected to be completed in early 2015.
Last year, the city approved an agreement with ICON including incentives such as sales tax rebates and the sharing of the transient occupancy tax. Aside from tax revenues, the city would benefit from clients staying and recreating locally during the mandatory two-week flight training they must undergo before taking possession of an A5.
Tourism is another potential benefit, with the Jimmy Doolittle Air and Space Museum also set to be built.
And, a partnership with Solano Community College and its aviation program is in the works.
SCC President Jowell Laguerre said the program is being redesigned with ICON in mind, in hopes of creating a labor pipeline for the business and guaranteed careers for graduates.
City spokesman Mark Mazzaferro said officials continue to help ICON through the permitting process.
Hawkins cautioned that there's more to be done.
"We've still got a lot of climbing to do, a whole facility to build," he said, adding that, already, Vacaville feels like home. "We're honored to be part of the community."
For more information on ICON, go online to www.iconaircraft.com.