* U.S. planemaker decides to site center near local partners
* Boeing in the running for $4 bln Brazil fighter jets deal
RIO DE JANEIRO, April 9 (Reuters) - Boeing Co said on Tuesday it had chosen the cradle of Brazilian aviation as the site of its new research center in that country, tightening its relationship with local partners and a government mulling a multibillion-dollar jets deal.
The U.S. planemaker will establish the high-tech center in the city of Sao Jose dos Campos, in the interior of Brazil’s Sao Paulo state, said Donna Hrinak, Boeing’s top executive in the country, at the LAAD defense show in Rio de Janeiro.
Boeing’s investment in local collaboration comes as Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff mulls a bid for a $4 billion-plus fighter jet contract also contested by France’s Dassault Aviation SA and Sweden’s Saab AB.
Boeing executives said the company’s plans were bigger than any one contract.
“Whether or not we win the (jets deal) we see a long-term partnership with Brazil,” said Jeff Kohler, vice president of business development for Boeing’s military aircraft division.
Boeing said a year ago that it was planning to open a research center in Brazil. The choice of Sao Jose dos Campos confirms its plans to integrate with local aerospace companies such as planemaker Embraer SA based in the city.
The research center should be finished by November and will employ about a dozen people by the start of next year. Boeing and its partners at the center could be employing as many as 40 researchers by the end of 2014 on projects exploring remote sensing, biofuels and advanced materials, said Al Bryant, Boeing’s vice president of research and technology in Brazil.