HARRISBURG, PA — State Senator Andy Dinniman announced that he continues to work with state, county, and federal officials to save jobs at Sikorsky helicopter’s Coatesville facility.
Earlier this month, Lockheed Martin suddenly announced plans to close the 465-employee facility by year’s end. According to Lockheed Martin, about 75 employees would have the opportunity to transfer to a facility in Valley Forge, with another 75 having the chance to transfer to jobs in either New York or Connecticut.
Dinniman acted immediately to begin working to do anything and everything possible to save jobs and keep jobs in Pennsylvania.
“I am extremely concerned about the future of Sikorsky and all 465 of its employees,” Dinniman said. “This plant has a long history here in Chester County and some of its employees have worked here on helicopters for decades. It provides high-paying, skilled jobs that contribute significantly to the local and regional economy. I’ve worked with the company in the past to keep these jobs here and will continue to do so.”
Last week, he met with Robert O’Brien, Executive Deputy Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, to review state funding received for projects at Sikorsky facility over the years and discuss potential strategies and options to keep the facility up and running and discuss what assistance is available to employees if it closes.
The Coatesville facility traces its history to Keystone Helicopter, which began in Malvern in 1953 and was one of the oldest and largest helicopter services companies in the world, prior to being acquired by Sikorsky.
In 2002, under the Schweiker administration, Keystone Ranger Holdings (the company later acquired by Sikorsky) received $1.3 million in grants, employee training support and tax credits to expand and relocate its manufacturing plant from a site in West Chester to its current location near the Chester County G.O. Carlson Airport in Coatesville.
In 2008, under Governor Rendell, Keystone Helicopter received $1 million in grants, employee training support, and tax credits to develop, build, and test new commercial helicopters. Dinniman worked with the governor to get the support and create additional jobs.
In 2014, Senator Dinniman helped secure a $2.5 million Economic Growth Initiative Grant for Sikorsky to engineer and construct a vehicle tunnel under Washington Lane connecting its existing manufacturing facility to a 12-acre parcel of land adjacent to the Chester County Airport. According to the proposal, the tunnel would have allowed continued vehicle access on Washington Lane, so Sikorsky could have direct aircraft access to the airport, freeing it from restrictions such as having to shut down the road when flying overhead. That grant funding came through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP), a reimbursement program. The tunnel was never built, and Sikorsky never received the funds.
Dinniman expressed frustration that he and others worked extensively on several occasions to help keep Sikorsky in Chester County and Pennsylvania, only for them to abruptly announce their departure earlier this month.
“A few years ago, they said they needed this tunnel, or they would move to Texas. So, we worked to set aside grant support. Ultimately, they opted not to build the tunnel and though no state funds were expended, considerable time and energy was spent freeing up the money in the budget,” Dinniman said. “We’ve shown we’re willing to work to do what we can to keep these jobs here. We just hope and expect that Lockheed will make a good faith effort to work with us.”
In addition, Dinniman said that he was waiting for Lockheed Martin to provide the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry with an official notice of the closing under the federal Working Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act. The WARN notice, required by federal law, provides 60 days advance notice to employees in the case of a business closing or layoff impacting 100 employees of more. The notice was expected to come out last week but has not yet been released.
Dinniman also said that at his request, the department’s Rapid Response Coordination Services is reaching out to Sikorsky to prepare for assisting employees with health and pension benefits, unemployment insurance, job search activities, education and career training programs, crisis counseling, emergency assistance, and social service programs.
Source: Andrew E. Dinniman (D), Pennsylvania State Senate, Senate District 19
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