Follow CBSDFW.COM: Facebook | Twitter

LAFAYETTE, La. (AP) – Bell Helicopter Textron Inc. of Fort Worth, Texas, says its new assembly center in Lafayette is open for business.

The company said in a news release Thursday that it expects to begin production next year on the new Bell 505 Jet Ranger X.

Regulators including the Federal Aviation Administration must certify the aircraft before production can start.

Louisiana built the $26.3 million, 82,300-square-foot facility, which Bell Helicopter will lease from Lafayette Regional Airport. The state is also providing $8 million for infrastructure and equipment, relocation expenses, and performance-based grants for lease support.

Bell says it plans to invest $11.4 million in equipment and tooling.

Bell and state officials say the center is expected to hire 40 people this year and 115 by 2018, with average salaries of $55,000 a year.

(© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)