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New Goose could be on the loose next year 

Antilles Seaplanes, the Gibsonville company that wants to resurrect the famed Grumman Goose seaplane (cover story, July 2006), plans to have a production line running early next year. The company has purchased two buildings in Graham to house production of the $2.9 million aircraft.

CEO V.L. Manuel says he’s in the middle of hiring about 100 employees to add to the 30 who were working for the company in late February. In the meantime, Antilles continues to make parts and check them against those in existing aircraft. “We’re doing all the preliminary work except pumping planes out the door,” Manuel says. It’s waiting on two things: Federal Aviation Administration approval of its process to build the planes and solid orders for them. “We have more than 30 letters of intent to buy, but it’s real easy to sign a letter. We’re trying to get deposits.” He doesn’t expect problems on either front. He already has conquered what he says was a bigger hurdle — finding investors. He won’t say who they are or how much they’ve put into the privately owned company, referring to them just as “a group of guys out of Greenville.”

Manuel and a partner, who has since left the company, started Antilles in 2000, sinking about $7 million into it initially. Since then, he and others have been developing methods to make the parts and figuring out what to up-- date. His version will be powered by jet turbo-props, for example, instead of radial engines.

The company can’t sell any of the parts it turns out because it is still waiting on FAA certification. “We’re helping a lot of people in the aviation business as consultants, but as far as a real revenue stream, we don’t have that.”

Another thing the company is short of is luck. Two employees were injured in January when a Goose the company bought crashed off the Florida Keys. Manuel wouldn’t identify them but says both are doing well. The pilot suffered deep cuts, and the passenger broke a leg. While an official ruling had not been issued on the crash, Manuel says there was no sign of mechanical failure. “The passenger said they came down for a landing, and the plane was running fine until it hit something in the water and flipped.”

While the first planes will hew closely to the old Goose design, created in 1936, Manuel and company also are working on an unnamed updated version. “We’ve got an expert in marine technology and some boat engineers. A new modern version of the Goose is on the drawing board. It’s sleeker, faster, more modern. But the first thing we have to do is finish what we started.”

GREENSBORO - O’Reilly Automotive, a Springfield, Mo.-based auto-parts retailer, is building a distribution center here. It will employ more than 350 within three years.

GREENSBORO - The Wyndham Championship golf tournament will move from Forest Oaks Country Club to Sedgefield Country Club — and a course designed by Donald Ross — starting in August. The tournament has been played at Forest Oaks for 31 years.

WINSTON-SALEM - R.J. Reynolds Tobacco will receive $387.6 million from United Kingdom-based Gallaher Group to terminate a joint marketing venture in Europe. Reynolds, part of Reynolds American, will receive $155 million by April 20 and annual payments of $38.8 million starting in April 2009.

MOUNT AIRY - Perry Manufacturing will cut about 150 of the 180 jobs at its headquarters and factory here. The company makes knit and woven casual apparel, mostly overseas, and employs about 4,000.

MEBANE - Clinton, Mass.-based Nypro plans to add about 75 employees, for a total of 300, to its plastics factory here. No timetable has been set. The plant added about 60 employees after it moved from Graham last year.

RURAL HALL - Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Ken Garner Manufacturing, which makes counterweights for excavators and other construction equipment, plans to open a factory that will employ more than 70 here within three years.

THOMASVILLE - Old Dominion Freight Line bought Sidney, Mont.-based Bob’s Pickup & Delivery. Terms were not disclosed. The trucking company says Bob’s gives it full coverage of Montana. It has full coverage in 38 other states.

RALEIGH - State regulators denied permission to build two hospitals that would have been only four miles apart. Forsyth Medical Center wanted to build a 50-bed, $96 million hospital in Clemmons. Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center wanted an 81-bed, $125 million one in Advance. Both were expected to appeal.

WINSTON-SALEM - The city wants private companies that do business with it, including those that take incentives, to do more to keep illegal immigrants off their payrolls. City contracts specify that employers comply with federal laws that require them to verify the citizenship status of new hires.

GREENSBORO - Columbus, Ohio-based Skybus Airlines, which has a hub at Piedmont Triad International Airport, hiked fees for checked baggage. The discount-fare carrier now charges $12 — $10 if the bags are checked in online. The fee had been $5.

GREENSBORO - Steven D. Bell & Co., which manages a property portfolio valued at $5.3 billion, and New York-based DRA Advisors purchased more than 25,000 apartments in 86 properties across the U.S. from Denver-based UDR. The deal is the largest by Bell since its founding in 1976. It will add 200 employees, giving it more than 2,600.

REIDSVILLE - Annie Penn Hospital will close its birthing center July 1. It blamed a shortage of obstetricians and neonatal specialists. The hospital is directing deliveries to The Women’s Hospital of Greensboro. Both are part of Greensboro-based Moses Cone Health System.

WINSTON-SALEM - Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice law firm laid off 15 of its 650 employees here. Most were secretaries.

WINSTON-SALEM - SilkRoad Technologies, which provides management software to employers, received $10 million in venture capital from Azure Capital Partners of San Francisco. SilkRoad plans to expand its sales and marketing.

WINSTON-SALEM - Sports marketers International Sports Properties and Dallas-based Learfield Sports purchased Alcoa, Tenn.-based Action Sports Media, which manages marketing rights for arena and stadium signs at seven universities. ISP and Learfield plan to rename Action Sports and run it as a joint venture. Terms were not disclosed.