UPDATE: WICHITA, Kansas — The announcement of another round of layoffs at Bombardier in Wichita is a blow to workers at the aircraft company.
Over the next two years, the Montreal-based company plans to cut 7,000 jobs worldwide. Of those jobs, 220 of them are in Wichita.
Of those Wichita jobs, 150 will be in the Bombardier business aircraft division and 70 will be from its product development and engineering division.
That number is about 11% of the company’s Wichita workforce.
The latest round of layoffs has KSN asking questions about the financial help Wichita and Sedgwick County have given Bombardier.
KSN’s Brittany Glas sat down one-on-one with Wichita Mayor Jeff Longwell on Thursday to find out what he makes of the most recent layoff announcement.
Brittany Glas: “Are you committed to holding them accountable according to the contract?”
Mayor Jeff Longwell: “No question… That’s the reason we have clawback provisions.”
In November 2011, the city and Sedgwick County each provided $1 million as a matching grant to Bombardier. That cash was used to build a parking structure at the Wichita Learjet facility, providing for a nearly $53 million expansion at that location.
In June 2014, the Wichita City Council unanimously approved $52.7 million in Industrial Revenue Bonds, or IRBs, to provide Bombardier Learjet the funds for a new paint facility, delivery center, and equipment that would, by contract, meant 450 new jobs in Wichita through 2017.
So, how is our local government holding the company accountable for those jobs?
City Council member Pete Meitzner told KSN’s Brittany Glas the layoffs are not good news.
“Well, when we, when we first heard this morning it …Anytime there’s a layoff Brittany, it’s not fun,” Meitzner said. “There is a balance that we need to be responsible when we invest or, taxpayer money.”
In 2011, per the contract with the city, Bombardier was supposed to create 400 jobs. They created 413 jobs.
In 2012, the expectation was 625 jobs. Bombardier reported that it created 684 jobs.
In 2013, Bombardier was required to create 600 jobs. The company created 626 jobs.
Then, in 2014, the job-creation requirement was back to 625 jobs, but city officials won’t tell KSN whether Bombardier met that goal.
“Once we verify those numbers, we’ll workout whatever clawback provisions that need to be worked out,” said Mayor Jeff Longwell.
The company, however, reports that it did meet that goal.
Mark Masluch is a spokesperson for Bombardier.
“We did exceed our 2014 job commitment and surpassed our 2017 investment commitment through design, development, and capitol improvements, but in 2015, we were unable to meet the job requirement,” Masluch said.
Regarding the 2015 report, Mayor Longwell said, “Those are not the kinds of things we want to hear…”
Mayor Longwell says he is realistic about the city’s economic state.
“We’re worried about competing, we’re worried about diversifying our economy, we’re worried about jobs for our citizens, we’re worried about growth,” said Mayor Longwell. “We’ll continue to focus on those things that we think deserve our focus.”
Bombardier’s most recent layoff announcement is confirmation of the need, Longwell says, to diversify the local economy.
“No longer are we focusing on just aviation,” the mayor continued.
Expanding that economic focus, the mayor told KSN News, will come with the opening of Wichita State’s Innovation Campus.
“We haven’t even given the Innovation Campus a chance yet,” said Longwell. “I’m incredibly optimistic on what that’s going to do, truly, for developing and diversifying our job market.”
While the city wouldn’t give specifics on job numbers for the past two years, city council members say they continue to look into what actions the city can take after Wednesday’s layoff announcement.
“It is too soon to know what’s gonna happen with the contract that we have with Bombardier,” said Wichita Vice Mayor, City Council Member James Clendenin. “But, in all of our city contracts, we have certain clawbacks and accountability measures in there.”
KSN was told Wednesday that Bombardier likely will brief the City of Wichita within the next few weeks on the 2015 job numbers that reportedly were below the mark.
Meanwhile, the latest round of layoffs is just one of a string of ups and downs for the company that date back more than a decade.
In 2002, the company laid off 900 employees, and another 500 were furloughed for three months as the production line was halted.
A year later, more than 300 workers were laid off as bombardier struggled with slow sales.
The recession hit the company hard in 2009, and Bombardier announced a total of 820 layoffs.
The last couple of years also have been tough with 800 workers getting laid off in 2014, and in 2015 Bombardier announced it was suspending its Lear 85 program and laid off 620 workers.
“We are working very closely with local, state, federal governments to make sure Learjet will be successful going forward,” continued Masluch.