WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Bombardier is showing its appreciation for its Wichita workforce and programs. On Tuesday, the company named Wichita its new U.S. headquarters.

“The history of business aviation was written here, and I am so pleased to announce a new chapter here today,” said Michel Ouellette, the executive vice president of Specialized Aircraft, Programs and Engineering. “We’re all part of it. So be proud. This is a great moment in time.”

He said Bombardier U.S. Headquarters in Wichita will shape the future of business aviation. The company says the Wichita headquarters is a key pillar in Bombardier’s long-term strategy for its presence and growth in the U.S.

The company is actively recruiting to immediately fill more than 180 jobs in Wichita and close to 500 jobs across the U.S.

Bombardier U.S. Headquarters will host an open house on April 23 for employees and invited guests to showcase the site’s expansive facilities and for job applicants to meet with recruiters.

Ouellette said Bombardier is proud of what the Wichita workforce is accomplishing. He specifically named the Bombardier Wichita Service Center, which works on all the company’s aircraft, the Bombardier Flight Test Center, which assures the safety of all its aircraft, and Bombardier Specialized Aircraft (BSA), which transforms business jets into specialized aircraft.

He announced that BSA will now be known as Bombardier Defense because the expanding defense market is a key area of growth for the company. The reinvented Bombardier Defense will be led by Steve Patrick, vice president of Bombardier Defense.

Ouellette gave the example of the United States Air Force (USAF) Battlefield Airborne Communications Node (BACN) aircraft. Last year, USAF awarded Bombardier the contract to modify six Global 6000 business jets to become E11-A BACN platforms. On Tuesday, Bombardier said the USAF has converted options for more of the planes into firm orders.

Ouellette said the contracts Bombardier receives are a direct result of the quality of the Wichita team.

Bombardier President and CEO Éric Martel was expected to fly to Wichita from the company’s Montreal headquarters for the news conference, but his plane did not arrive on time. A spokesperson said a heavy snowfall delayed the plane.

The company released a statement including a comment from him:

“Wichita was the obvious choice as the home of Bombardier’s new U.S. Headquarters and Bombardier Defense. For more than 60 years, the established skills and expertise from the Air Capital of the World is second to none, and this latest confirmation from the United States Air Force is a testament to the confidence they have in our aircraft and importantly, in the strength of our people in Wichita.”

Éric Martel, President and CEO, Bombardier

With the announcement of Wichita as Bombardier U.S. Headquarters, Bombardier also announced that Tonya Sudduth, former vice president of operations in Wichita, has accepted the newly created role of head of U.S. Strategy.

Bombardier said its Wichita service center has expanded from three hangars just four years ago to seven hangars today. The center serves Learjet, Challenger and Global aircraft operators.

During Tuesday’s news conference, the company also announced that it is establishing a scholarship at Wichita State University.

“This establishment of the scholarship is our pledge to support education right here in Wichita and continue to promote the rich aviation culture and talent that has been part of Wichita’s DNA for the last 60 years,” Sudduth said.

Several Kansas politicians were at the news conference and talked about the announcement.

“The assets that we have in space, in defense and in commercial aircraft exceed every place else in the world,” U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran said. “It is the Air Capital of the World, and we have a lot to highlight.”

“It makes us proud when we as Kansans learn that somebody decided that we’re the place they want to be,” he said. “But, maybe it’s even more significant when somebody that knows us so well, somebody that knows us as well as Bombardier, decides we want not only to be here, but we want to expand our capabilities in being in Kansas and being in Wichita.”

“What we’ve seen today with this announcement is the future — the commitment we’ve heard from bombardier to double-down on Wichita, double-down on the Air Capital of the World, to double-down on the state of Kansas, and we couldn’t be more proud to be in this relationship together with Bombardier,” Kansas Lt. Gov. David Toland, secretary of commerce, said.

He said people worldwide are taking notice of Kansas in a new way.

“For back to back years, Kansas has garnered the most new capital investment by businesses in the history of our state,” Toland said. “As a result, we’ve won what’s called the Gold Shovel Award and, most importantly, what’s called the Governor’s Cup. And that’s because the State of Kansas had the most economic development investment of any state in the country on a per capita basis last year. Kansas.”

“We’re opening a new chapter of partnership and growth, solidifying Kansas’ reputation as the Air Capital of the World,” Governor Laura Kelly said. “We’re pleased to see this legacy continue today as Wichita becomes the new home to Bombardier’s U.S. Headquarters and the launch of Bombardier Defense.”

“So many of us have worked in the aviation industry, including myself, at this very facility,” U.S. Rep. Ron Estes said.

He spoke about global issues and how Wichita has an important role.

“Global events the last few months have shown that the world is still a dangerous place,” Estes said. “We need to be prepared for whatever issues arise and be able to address those as they come up. Now is the right time for Bombardier and our Wichita workforce to expand defense capabilities to serve our men and women in uniform.”