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OKC trust advances job-creation incentives for aerospace company developing 'ultra-persistent' drone

The Economic Development Trust has agreed to plans to offer $275,000 in job-creation incentives to an aerospace company planning to move its headquarters to Oklahoma City.

Skydweller Aero anticipates adding 75 jobs, at an average wage of $87,000, in Oklahoma City over the next five years.

The company is developing a solar-powered "ultra-persistent" drone that can remain airborne for long periods of time. The vehicle has communications and military/intelligence applications.

The company earlier this summer announced plans to locate facilities in Ardmore and Oklahoma City. 

The five-member Economic Development Trust voted Tuesday to authorize negotiations to finalize the agreement. The city council is expected to consider the deal Sept. 1.

Taxpayer-funded job-creation deals are performance-based, with payments made as recipients meet hiring milestones.

Read more on the company's plans here.

Skydweller Aero was formed in 2017 and acquired the intellectual property behind Solar Impulse 2, the first solar-powered aircraft to circumnavigate the globe, as well as the aircraft itself.

Skydweller intends to establish its global as well as U.S. headquarters in Oklahoma City, co-founder John Parkes told the Economic Development Trust. 

Most of its current workforce is in Madrid, Spain, Parkes said.

The company is relocating its headquarters from the Washington, D.C., area and chose Oklahoma City after analyzing options in New Mexico, Mississippi and Alabama, he said.

Its "strong preference" is to have engineers and executives downtown. Ardmore is being considered for a flight-test facility.

"We're looking to bring in a significant engineering talent pool," Parkes said. "We believe that we'll have a significant presence in Oklahoma long-term with hundreds and hundreds of jobs."

"We are doing something very hard to build this aircraft," he said. "It's really going to change aerospace and so we need the best talent that we can get."

Skydweller is in discussions with Oklahoma State University and the University of Oklahoma to conduct joint research that "will push the state-of-the-art in aerospace and high-reliability avionics," Parkes said.

William Crum

OU and Norman High School graduate, formerly worked as a reporter and editor for the Associated Press, the Star Tribune in Minneapolis, and the Norman Transcript. Married, two children, lives in Norman. Read more ›