Friday, January 30, 2015

ICON Aircraft seen as a sign of good things to come

By Melissa Murphy, The Reporter, Vacaville

Posted: 01/29/15, 10:01 PM PST |

Solano County’s economic environment is taking off and the business community is hoping to ride the momentum created last year into 2015.

“Solano County is a great place to be and it’s important that we all work toward economic development,” said Laura Kuhn, Vacaville city manager and chair of the Solano EDC board of directors.

Sandy Person, president of Solano EDC, agreed.

“We are team Solano,” she said. “When we work together we make really good things happen.”

One of those “really good things” that happened during 2014 was the announcement from ICON Aircraft Inc. that it is relocating to Vacaville from Southern California. ICON is known for its A5, an amphibious light sport aircraft, that will be in production later this year.

Thursday afternoon during Solano Economic Development Corporations annual lunch, business leaders welcomed once again Kirk Hawkins, founder and CEO of ICON.

Hawkins shared with the full room that ICON was attracted to Solano County because of its business friendly atmosphere, facilities, proximity to world class destinations such as Napa, Tahoe and San Francisco, amazing terrain and nearby lakes, and year round flying weather.

He explained that ICON, a company of about 100 people, will expand to hundreds then to thousands of jobs and bring $350 million annually of economic impact to the region. Additionally, having ICON in Vacaville will bring global awareness to the area, according to Hawkins.

He added that the move would not have happened if it didn’t feel right. Vacaville was up against some stiff competition, he said.

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 by August.

Hawkins, a former Air Force F-16 pilot insists that the A5, a luxury recreational “power vehicle,” will not be as difficult as most think.

“It’s very automotive, very approachable,” he told the crowd as pictures of the plane were shown from a projector.

The gas-powered aircraft can take off and land on water as well as traditional runways. Hawkins explained that with a valid driver’s license and the 14 days of training that come with the purchase of the nearly $200,000 plane, having the ability to fly is obtainable.

“Flying isn’t all the same,” he said and added that there is a difference between flying a commercial airline jet and the sport plane. “It’s not as difficult as you think it is.”

For instance the sport plane will only be allowed to fly during the day and during the right weather conditions, according to Hawkins.

Hawkins said ICON is about democratizing aviation and that wanting to fly is deep within human nature.

“We want to bring that emotional connection to the consumer,” he said. “We’re looking to change people’s lives.”