Posted: Oct 6, 2010 8:20 PM by Alison Haynes
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas officials hoped Wednesday to thwart
new attempts to lure aviation jobs away from Wichita by withholding
details of an agreement between the state and manufacturer Hawker
Gov. Mark Parkinson hints that the deal might involve helping
the company provide additional training for workers or authorizing
bonds backed by tax revenues.
Parkinson promises the agreement will keep "a vast majority"
of the company's 6,000 workers in Wichita from leaving. It's not
clear what that means for Louisiana, which reportedly has tried to
take at least some jobs.
Parkinson, his staff and Department of Commerce officials won't
discuss the details. They're also stressing that any deal requires
Hawker Beechcraft to reach a long-term contract with the
International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
Talks between the company and union on a new contract began in
August. They were suspended as of Saturday - a week before an
expected vote on a new contract. The union reported then that the
company was considering a proposal to move operations to Baton
Parkinson met for more than two hours Tuesday with Bill
Boisture, the company's chief executive officer, and Rich
Michalski, the union's general vice president. Afterward, Parkinson
announced the Hawker Beechcraft agreement.
Parkinson spokeswoman Amy Jordan Wooden said the governor
worries that if he makes the agreement's terms public before
contract negotiations finish, Louisiana or another state could make
a new offer and stall the talks again. The union said talks would
resume Friday, and a contract ratification vote is set for Oct. 16.
"Once the talks broke off this weekend, then, that's a
problem," Jordan Wooden said. "We're not going to get to the
finish line if that's the status."
The Associated Press asked the Department of Commerce for the
details of the agreement. But the department declined, citing a
provision in the Kansas Open Records Act that allows government
agencies to close internal documents about proposals in
"There are a lot of details to be finalized," Jordan Wooden
After Tuesday's meeting, Parkinson described the agreement with
Hawker Beechcraft as similar to one this summer between the state
and Bombardier Aerospace. He also said the Hawker Beechcraft
agreement could include training monies.
In the Bombardier deal, the state authorized $27 million in
bonds for a company expansion. The bonds are to be paid off over
seven years, with income taxes withheld from the paychecks of new
and existing workers that normally would flow to the state.
The Bombardier agreement falls under a state law encouraging
aviation companies to expand.
Asked how the Hawker Beechcraft agreement compares to the
Bombardier deal, Jordan Wooden said, "There really is no answer I
could give you, other than it's similar."
The state also has incentives, including tax breaks, for
encouraging companies to retrain workers.
A Hawker Beechcraft spokeswoman did not return telephone
messages left on her office and cell phones.
"This is so big," said machinists union spokesman Bob Wood.
"If nothing came out of the government, there is nothing we could
have done. There is no contract we could have come up with that
would have kept the work here."
A union flier over the weekend said Hawker Beechcraft had
informed the union of an offer from Louisiana. Under the offer, the
flier said, Hawker Beechcraft "would no longer exist in Kansas."
Both regional and state economic development officials in
Louisiana declined to discuss their state's efforts.
"For competitive reasons and to protect confidential company
information, we can't comment on current or potential prospects,"
said Stephen Moret, Louisiana's economic development secretary.
In July, Boisture said Hawker Beechcraft also was considering
moving work to Mississippi. But a spokesman for Gov. Haley Barbour
said he didn't know of any such discussions.