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Old Posted Nov 1, 2007, 4:07 AM
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SA: LV Based Silver State Helicopters Relocating to New Braunfels

Choppers moving to New Braunfels

Web Posted: 10/31/2007 08:33 PM CDT

Sean M. Wood
Express-News Business Writer

One of the fastest-growing helicopter and flight-training operations in the country is moving its corporate headquarters from the bright lights of Las Vegas to the comparatively bucolic setting of New Braunfels.

Silver State Helicopters will move about 159 people from Las Vegas over the next 14 months and hire another 100 for its headquarters at New Braunfels Municipal Airport.

The company plans to be a major player in the areas of flight training, maintenance, charter and commercial services with New Braunfels as its base. It already runs two training facilities there with 40 employees.

"When you look at building a company, there are a lot of political issues," said founder and Chief Executive Officer Jerry Airola. "New Braunfels has been nothing but green lights for us. It seems that a lot of times if we need something we don't have to ask. And when we ask for something, they give us more than we need."

Silver State set up a flight school in New Braunfels more than two years ago. Airola said the company hasn't taken any tax cuts in return.

The city has built a hangar for Silver State. It has also built an air traffic control tower and turned its operation over to Silver State in exchange for an air traffic control school run by the company. That school opened last summer.

"They've already done so many things for us. Their presence at the airport has given us the impetus to show other companies the benefits of locating at a small airport like ours."

Silver State also plans to set up a third training facility to teach aircraft maintenance — a large boost for South Texas, which has a need for people trained in that industry. The only aerospace academy in the area is affiliated with the Alamo Community College District.

"Students here in the area that are looking for future careers have had their choices expanded," said Andy Spinks, director of the New Braunfels airport.

The flight school in New Braunfels is one of 44 that Silver State operates across the country.

The company was founded in 1999 in Henderson, Nev., with a flight school supplemented with sightseeing and V.I.P. charters.

Over the years, Airola, a former police officer, has contracted with law enforcement agencies for helicopter services. The company also provides firefighting services.

"We bring a lot of good people," Airola said. "We're bringing people out who have the right heart, right mindset, and are very loyal to our business."

He said the contents of one of Silver State's hangars in Las Vegas would be relocated to New Braunfels by Monday and as many as 100 employees will be relocated by mid-February. The move is expected to be complete by December 2008.
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