259 jobs coming to air park

With the announcement of 259 jobs coming to the Wilmington Air Park, state and local elected officials said Tuesday that the sun is starting to come up over the horizon after a dark period of job loss and economic uncertainty in Clinton County and surrounding areas. 

Standing underneath the wing of an aircraft surrounded by park employees, John Limbert, chair of the Clinton County Port Authority, made the announcement of Airborne Maintenance & Engineering Services Inc.'s construction of a $15 million aircraft maintenance facility Tuesday. He was joined by Gov. John Kasich; Joe Hete, president and CEO of Air Transport Services Group Inc.; Rep. Cliff Rosenberger; Sen. David Daniels; Speaker of the Ohio House Bill Batchelder; and local elected officials and community members. 

"We're here today to formally announce the construction of a 100,000-square-foot air craft hangar, and resulting 259 jobs that come with the completed facility," Limbert said. "This project truly represents the involvement of government, schools and the private sector to create well-paying, meaningful jobs."

Limbert said that through the negotiating process, ATSC extended its 10-year-lease with the air park to 23 years to coincide with the new hangar lease. 

Rosenberger quoted Kasich from a speech the governor had previously given in Wilmington. 

"You said that we needed to push and pull together," Rosenberger said. "And we've done just that. And you said during that visit that we will all get to a brighter future and to a brighter day. We've pushed and pulled. The sun is coming up gently over the horizon here in Wilmington, and a new day is beginning." 

Hete said that the new jobs, which are anticipated to be added by 2013, will range between $11 and $25 an hour.

"It's been a long time since we've been able to talk about some new construction around here," Hete said. "Anybody who has been a long-term employee of ABX Air or ATSG knows what it was like back in the '80s and '90s in terms of all the construction that took place. We've all heard the adage of 'when one door closes, another one opens.' I think when you go back to the announcement that DHL made in May of 2008, you can clearly say that was a major door - equivalent of a barn-size door - that was closing on this community at that point in time. One of the things that we committed to do was to look for those other doors that needed to be open."

Hete said that ATSG began with the formation of Airborne Maintenance & Engineering Services (AMES) to take over the hangar facility and "make a viable business, which would create jobs and hold on to the skill set, which so many of our technicians had here in Wilmington, Ohio. Since then, we've continued to expand the fleet under the ATSG umbrella, we have invested over $270 million in terms of aircraft acquisitions and modifications, without which we probably wouldn't be standing here talking about this hangar because clearly having those additional assets, which do require regular maintenance, was a key driver in terms of pushing this new facility forward." 

Private business came together to work with the state of Ohio, Clinton County, the City of Wilmington and the Clinton County Port Authority, according to Hete, "with one final goal, which was to get this hangar built to create additional jobs in the community, and we're ecstatic about being here today to say that this project is a go." 

Through the process, Hete said, Ohio 86th District Rep. Cliff Rosenberger (R-Clarksville), was a "key guy" who "had his foot on everyone's backside keeping it moving forward whenever they wanted to stop." 

According to The Dayton Daily News, "The Ohio Department of Development is providing financing of $14.7 million toward the project, including loans, state spokesman Nate Green said. The local share includes $460,000 in interest and $250,000 in bonds to be issued by the Clinton County Port Authority, authority chairman John Limbert said. The port authority, an economic development authority, will own the hangar and lease it to Aircraft Maintenance & Engineering Services, Limbert said."

Kasich praised the work of Daniels and Rosenberger in their efforts to help bring back some of the 6,000 jobs were lost when DHL left the airpark. 

"Cliff would tackle me when he'd see me," Kasich said. "It's just that simple. We had more serious conversations, I think, with Cliff Rosenberger about economic development than anybody in the Legislature. We've had some very serious conversations about how we move the ball forward. Because it's easy to just kind of rest. But we can't rest down here. There are too many people hurting."

Kasich echoed Rosenberger's thoughts, that slowly, the economic horizon is starting to change.

"As Cliff said it in the right way, it's just kind of peeking over the horizon. We lost 8,000 jobs down here," Kasich said. "So we've got 259. That's 259 better-off families."



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