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Bell Helicopter Breaks Ground On Headquarters Remodel

(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Joel Thomas
Joel is an Emmy Award winning journalist with more than 15 year...
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FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – They build world class aircraft.  And now, Fort Worth based Bell Helicopter is rebuilding its image with a $1 billion investment in the future.  And they’re rebuilding hopes for some desperate neighbors, too.

Jaikrishna moved his restaurant across the street from Bell Helicopter in east Fort Worth 8 months ago.  He was hoping to lure some of it 3,500 employees in for lunch.  But instead he’s left with empty tables and a question.

“Where are they?” Jai asked with a nervous laugh.  “We are over here waiting for them and I don’t know if they’ll try to come in.”

Despite the patriotic trappings of American flags and fading, painted patriotic slogans on the building, there is little to make workers stop in the area next to the Bell site.  There are small mechanic shops next to old motels and boarded up shops. But that may change.

Bell Helicopter broke ground Monday on a major overhaul of its plant.  It is part of a $1 billion investment in modernizing the company and it could mean big dividends for surrounding businesses.

Bell is constructing a new, global headquarters on the site.  It says right now it is difficult to lure world-class talent to work at its outdated facilities.  Bell will consolidate operations from other sites around North Texas to East Fort Worth, including training and maintenence facilities. The $235 million construction program will bring 2,000 more workers to the location.  And the growth may spill into neighboring areas too.

“This development and the development around it — new homes, you’re going to see a hotel on the north side of it, along with some retail —  it’s going to be a great kick off to that rehabilitation,” said Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley.

“And all of that just contributes to the entire Tarrant County health of our community,” said Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price.

Jai says if it weren’t for his landlord Sonny helping with the rent he’d probably have to close his doors.  So the sooner the helicopter manufacturer expands, the better it is for him.

“Oh! That really makes me really excited,” Jai exclaimed.  “I think that may really open the door for business. We are here to serve them good food in a great quantity.”

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