Unlike the Philip Roth novella, American Eurocopter LLC is saying hello rather than good-bye to Columbus -- Columbus, Miss., that is. Between $11 million and $12 million worth of plant and equipment is going into American Eurocopter's new production facility at the Golden Triangle Regional Airport in Columbus, a city near the Alabama border about 130 miles northeast of Jackson, Mississippi's capital. Ground was broken last August for the plant, which initially will employ 100 people. The land and building are being leased to American Eurocopter by the local airport authority. "We raised funds for the construction of the facility from the state, from regional economic-development organizations, and from local bonds and local grants," relates Nick Ardillo, executive director of the airport. American Eurocopter LLC is a wholly owned subsidiary of France's Eurocopter, which in turn is a unit of European Aerospace Defense & Space Co. NV (EADS), the Amsterdam-based company that also holds an 80% stake in Airbus SAS, chief rival of Boeing Co. in the global commercial aviation market. The Columbus, Miss., facility represents an expansion of EADS' presence in the U.S. American Eurocopter claims to be the largest provider of commercial and homeland defense helicopters in the United States, with nearly 400 customers flying more than 1,300 aircraft. In addition to corporations, the company counts the U.S. Coast Guard and the Federal Bureau of Investigation among its customers. "We are determined to increase our already significant role in the U.S. economy, providing employment and quality products for U.S. corporate, para-public and governmental customers," Philippe Camus, CEO of EADS, stated at the groundbreaking ceremony. "This is the first of many industrial milestones we intend for the U.S., and we can envision increased production presence in defense and commercial aerospace in the near future." Also at the groundbreaking, Marc Paganini, president and CEO of American Eurocopter, stated, "We have found the right home in Mississippi, a community strong in spirit and talented employees." Paganini, based at American Eurocopter's headquarters in Grand Prairie, Texas, will be responsible for the staff and operations at the Columbus plant. The new 85,000-square-foot Columbus plant, on a 40-acre site, is expected to open for initial operations in a few weeks. Until the plant is ready to begin building helicopters from the skids up, something that's expected to occur late this year, workers will do finish work on aircraft that have been imported from Eurocopter in France and Germany. The new plant also will fabricate such helicopter parts as horizontal and vertical stabilizers, tail booms and instrument panels, which will be used in production both at the Columbus plant and in France. While the plant has been under construction, American Eurocopter has been operating from a hangar at Golden Triangle Regional Airport, turning out helicopters for law enforcement customers.