COVINGTON COUNTY, AL (WSFA) - "I am proud to tell you we have got somebody in those hangars," exclaimed Jed Blackwell, the executive director of the South Alabama Regional Airport.
No one was more pleased than Blackwell to announce the arrival of the Yulista Holding Company. It was two years ago when he thought he had a big deal locked up to rent out the two large hangars, an avionics company that promised hundreds of jobs and a long-term commitment. They pulled out at the very last minute, forcing Blackwell and his team to start over and wonder if they would ever find a tenant.
"Well, we certainly had times where we questioned ourselves and question the route we were going but I am a glass-half-full person and I felt confident we would land something," Blackwell stated.
Fast-forward and here we are. Yulista will pay $30,000 per month in rent, hire 25 people initially with the possibility of 150 in the future depending on military contracts.
"Why we're here? The opportunity and the need clashed," said Yulista President and CEO Josh Herren.
Yulista maintains and repairs military planes with a special focus on modifying them. They were recently awarded a $4 billion contract by the U.S. Army over a nine-year period.
"Say the Air Force comes in and says I want to modify a door or insert some new technology, we are very rapid response company," said Vice President and COO Paul May.
Headquartered in Huntsville, Yulista has operations in 14 states. Covington County will become the company's second location in Alabama.
"This is a red-letter day," said Andalusia Mayor Earl Johnson.
Yulista is here for at least 18 months but has already indicated they want to be here much longer. Blackwell no longer dwells on what could've been, only what he has now.
Yulista company leaders say they plan to be in business in those hangars by December.
The average pay for those jobs will be in the $70,000 range, and they'll be working on primarily cargo and surveillance planes.