* Florida economic development agency to finance, own facility
* Embraer has assembly plant, customer center in Florida
* Engineering center to employ 200 people
By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., March 21 Brazil's Embraer , the world's third-largest producer of commercial aircraft, is expanding its presence in the United States with an aviation research, development and design center in Melbourne, Florida, the company announced on Wednesday.
Space Florida, a state-backed economic development agency focused on expanding aerospace and related business in Florida, will finance, build and own the facility, which is expected to employ about 200 engineers and other highly skilled workers, with average annual salaries of $70,000.
The first 40 positions will be filled this year, said Gary Spulak, president of Fort Lauderdale, Florida-based Embraer North America.
Space Florida will finance $18.2 million for the project, with another $6 million coming from the Florida Innovation Fund.
"This new state-of-the-art facility will increase the scope and depth of our engineering capacity, extending it globally," Spulak said.
"This is a very significant one-of-a-kind project and a big win for Florida, Brevard County and the city of Melbourne," he added.
The center, which initially will be focused on business jet interior design work, will be located adjacent to Embraer's newly opened 80,000-square-foot assembly plant, the first outside Brazil, and its 58,000-square-foot Executive Jets Customer Center.
Construction of the new 67,000-square-foot facility is expected to begin shortly and be completed next year.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who traveled to Melbourne for the announcement, said the state's business climate was key to landing the deal.
"We know that for companies to do well in Florida, they have to have lower taxes, less regulation and less litigation," Scott said. "We know that their customers expect that or they will never be able to compete."
An available pool of skilled labor, many idled by the shutdown of NASA's space shuttle program last year, also was a draw, added Spulak.