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Austrian business jet interiors manufacturer lands in Montreal

If you have expertise in interior design or refurbishment of business and private jets, F. List Canada would like to hear from you.

The Montreal company, a subsidiary of Austrian F. List GMBH that manufacturers high-end interiors, will open an aircraft finishing and after-market retrofit facility in the area later this year that it hopes will eventually generate around 100 jobs.

“For the next four years, we want to invest around $20 million and see the potential of having at least 100 employees here,” Michael Groiss, chief executive officer of F. List, based in Thomasberg, Austria, told Skies following the announcement at Aeromart Montreal 2017 on April 6. “We feel this is not the final stage. This is only one step.”

The company has yet to select a site for what it says will be a “state-of-the-art” production facility, but Groiss said he had a shortlist of locations in the Montreal area, and expects to decide in the next few weeks.

F. List will begin by transferring the production of its fire-retardant wood veneer line and other key components of its finishing business from Austria. Groiss said the facility should be up and running with around 15 employees by the third quarter of 2017, and would aim to ramp up quickly beginning in early 2018, to around 50 employees by the end of the year.

“We will increase the headcount quite fast,” he said.

Among the skill sets the company will be seeking for that first cadre of employees are cabinet makers, engineers and Canadian managers.

F. List provides cabinets and other unique cabin finishing designs for aircraft like the Bombardier Challenger 350, Embraer’s Legacy 450 and 500 and the Lineage 1000, and the Pilatus PC-12, as well as 

customized refurbishments for used aircraft.

Most business aviation forecasts show modest growth over the next 20 years, with corporate and private customers likely to trade in and replace their jets roughly every three to five years, an encouraging indicator for customized after-market work.

A footprint in Montreal could help expand F. List’s products and services and extend its customer base much deeper into the North American market.

“This is one of the reasons we decided to come across the ocean,” said Groiss, acknowledging that to work with North American aircraft manufacturers and their customers, it helps to be located where they are. “We see Montreal as a perfect location for going from there to [elsewhere in] Canada and, of course, the United States.”

A North American facility should also shorten production lead-times, speed up deliveries, and enable better on-site support for products delivered from its Austrian plant.

The company has developed interior solutions for rotorcraft and sees possible opportunities with Bell Helicopter as well as other OEM and Tier 1 integrators. And while the early focus will be on launching its production shop and showroom, F. List will also entertain partnerships with Montreal-area companies.

Through a joint venture with Lufthansa known as INAIRVATION, F. List in May 2016 struck a deal with Peterborough, Ont.-based Flying Colours to perform business jet cabin upgrades using a proprietary integrated approach to design, engineering, and installation.

“We see good potential…to do retrofit and [other] innovation projects with local partners,” Groiss said.

Hubert Bolduc, president and CEO of Montreal International, a non-profit supported by the city, province and private sector to help attract foreign investment and skilled talent, said initial discussions began about 10 years ago, but “intensified” in past three years. Aerospace “is a sector in which we are very active,” he said. “We look at the value chain and try to identify where the holes are. And there was definitely a hole there.”

“F. List is positioning itself as a technological leader in its sector and Montreal International is very proud that a few years of mutual exchanges led to this decision to select our city for growing its business,” he added in a prepared statement.

Groiss said he investigated possible locations in the United States and Canada over the past year and selected Montreal because of the aviation sector’s strength and its relationships with area colleges and universities.

“We see ourselves as quality and innovation leaders in this market,” he said, and you can only be that “when you have the best people.”

by Chris Thatcher

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