Monday, June 03, 2013

Rock Valley College to tackle aviation mechanic shortage: School announcing program expansion Wednesday

Posted Jun 03, 2013 @ 05:18 PM 
Last update Jun 03, 2013 @ 06:22 PM 



Rock Valley College President Jack Becherer will announce plans to expand the school’s aviation maintenance program Wednesday to support a potentially far-reaching economic development project at the Chicago Rockford International Airport.

The airport has long sought a Maintenance Repair and Overhaul operation, essentially a jumbo hangar to accommodate jet service and repairs. Such a facility could create hundreds of jobs and make the airport attractive as an international cargo hub.

Dunn said Monday he did not know any specifics regarding Rock Valley College’s expansion plans.

"News to me," said Dunn, the airport’s executive director. "I don't know where they're expanding, but they're not going into any facility on the airport that I know of.”

College, airport and economic development leaders have strategized behind the scenes for more than a year on landing an MRO operator.

Tens of millions of dollars of taxpayer investment from the airport, RVC, the state and federal government may be necessary to close the deal. The return on that investment could invigorate the regional economy, which for more than four years suffered double-digit unemployment. The jobless rate finally fell below 10 percent in April.

Job creation is central to the economic agenda of the region, and for aerospace it means seeking new training opportunities.

There’s a shortage of qualified aviation mechanics around the country so local officials have been looking for ways to fill that gap with local and outside training programs where graduates earn Federal Aviation Administration certificates to work on aircraft.

For more than a year the region courted Florida-based Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which said it wanted to establish a four-year college in either Rockford or Houston. Instead, Embry-Riddle expanded programs in Rockford to provide advanced degrees for workers at companies such as United Technologies Aerospace Systems, Woodward and other manufacturers.

Embry-Riddle Worldwide will officially open its new classrooms at 7479 Walton St., on Rockford’s east side later Wednesday.

Read more later at or in Tuesday's newspaper.

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