Friday, December 28, 2012

New airplane hangar to add more than 250 jobs

WILMINGTON —   A new $15.5 million aircraft hangar will create more than 250 jobs and expand work on wide body cargo, corporate and commercial jets at Wilmington Air Park, according to authorities.

Wilmington-based Airborne Maintenance & Engineering Services Inc., and the Clinton County Port Authority reached agreement on a 25-year lease of a 100,000-square-foot building that will be constructed by early 2014, said Paul Cunningham, an Airborne Maintenance spokesman.

“That’s going to be a pretty good driver for the facility here as far as attracting new tenants, new business to the area, or at least that’s the hope,” Cunningham said.

The Wilmington region has been hard hit by job loss since DHL Express shuttered hub operations at Wilmington Air Park and laid-off 8,000 workers in January 2009. The company donated the privately owned airfield to Clinton County in June 2010. Local leaders have tried to find more uses and employers at the 1,500-acre airport.

Airborne Maintenance will lease the two-bay hangar from the Port Authority, which will retain ownership of the building. Construction will start next month and take at least a year to complete.

“I believe it’s a significant shot in the arm to the local economy,” said Kevin Carver, the Port Authority’s executive director. “Adding 250 jobs with this facility will certainly assist the local community and the surrounding area in its efforts to recover from DHL’s decision.”

The Wilmington Air Park, located 40 miles southeast of Dayton, is expected to be part of the state of Ohio’s bid to land one of six Federal Aviation Administration designed UAV test sites in the nation. The Air Force Research Laboratory has FAA approval to fly small, remote-controlled aircraft from the airfield.

The new hangar will double Airborne Maintenance’s hangar capacity and let workers service jumbo jets such as the Boeing 747 and Boeing 777, Cunningham said.

“It’s scheduled to fit some of the largest jets that we have,” he said. “There certainly is an opportunity to expand to different aircraft types.”

Today, the company’s more than 400-employee workforce maintains, repairs and overhauls Boeing 757s and 767s, DC-8s and DC-9s. Most of the planes are operated by air cargo haulers such as DHL, Cunningham said.

The added jobs will bring the number of Airborne Maintenance employees to about 640 workers at the air park within three years, officials said.

Jobs Ohio provided $14.6 million in low interest loans and bonds to help finance the construction of the hangar. The Clinton County Port Authority contributed about $3 million in financial incentives to secure the deal.

Clinton County, the city of Wilmington and the Wilmington Community Improvement Corp. have contributed a total of $525,000 in grants. The agreement will reduce the amount of rent on Air Transport Services Group Inc., parent company of Airborne Maintenance, by $200,000 a year for the next 13 years, Carver said. Officials did not immediately provide figures for how much the company will pay for the lease. However, Carver said the lease will cover the outstanding debt to build the hangar.

The company and state and local officials have been in talks for 20 months to reach an agreement, Carver said. “The complexity of the financing certainly added to the time to negotiate the project,” he said.

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