In Tri-County Industrial Park in Piney Flats, Bell Helicopter builds new police and corporate helicopters with the latest avionics technology and Bell safety innovations. Contributed photo.
PINEY FLATS — A major business player has emerged in the region out of the shadows of an under-the-radar company that once focused on refurbishing and selling used helicopters out of the Tri-County Industrial Park.
Bell Helicopter's footprint inside the park continues to grow with production buildings and business segments employing about 500 people, said Chad Nimrick, general manager of the Bell's Piney Flats operation.
The operation was previously known in Northeast Tennessee as Edwards & Associates, which was founded in 1977. Edwards, with about 50 employees, quietly expanded into international markets, built a larger facility and earned certification as an Federal Aviation Administration repair station and Bell-approved customer service facility.
In 1999, Bell Helicopter and parent company Textron purchased Edwards and its subsidiary companies, and subsequently fully integrated the location by 2011.
Since then, Bell Helicopter has been adding hundreds of thousands of square feet to accommodate customizing and completing light and medium aircraft for non-military customers.
"Our customers are all over the globe," Nimrick said. "Over 50 percent of the aircraft that are completed at this location go to international customers or outside of North America. ... We have approximately 60 customers we serve in the local area."
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