A Canada-based company will take over an airplane maintenance facility at Middle Georgia Regional Airport, and Atlantic Southeast Airlines is pulling out to consolidate some of its own operations.
The deal, put together with help from local development officials, will save most of the jobs at the facility.
Bombardier Inc., based in Montreal, will be subleasing the facility from Atlantic Southeast Airlines and subcontracting ASA’s maintenance work, said Pat Topping, senior vice president of the Macon Economic Development Commission. ASA had been working with Bombardier since July, Topping said.
“Bombardier has been looking for a maintenance operation in the Southeast,” Topping said. “Since ASA flies the Bombardier planes, that’s why this facility came up. They also looked at other facilities.”
Bombardier will be leasing two hangars that have a total of about 80,000 square feet and an 8,000-square-foot training center.
About a month ago, Bombardier and ASA entered into “serious negotiations” to subcontract the maintenance work to Bombardier, he said. In order to do that, ASA would sublease the hangar to them, but the lease requires that any sublease must have Macon City Council approval.
The council gave that approval Tuesday evening in a special called meeting. The city will contribute about $32,000 a year over the next five years to reduce rent payments on the lease, giving Bombardier one of several incentives to maintain the facility. Macon Mayor Robert Reichert asked the council to support the deal and was enthusiastic with his thanks after it passed unanimously.
The most important part of the transaction is that jobs will be saved, Topping said.
“We hope it could lead to an increase in jobs but right now we’re just trying to save the jobs out there, and there are about 120 jobs,” Topping said. “Bombardier, as part of the agreement, is going to retain that work force. ... These are good jobs and we need to keep them.”
While Bombardier — a $20 billion a year company — is well known for making Learjets, it will not be making jets here, Topping said. Bombardier makes the Canadian Regional Jets that ASA flies, and it will be doing the maintenance work on those planes.
ASA company spokeswoman Kate Modolo said the agreement evolved through the airline's relationship with the Canadian company.
"ASA has a strong longstanding partnership with Bombardier and we're pleased that it chose our Macon facility to expand its operations while providing jobs for Macon people," Modolo said.
At one time, ASA was the only commercial airline flying out of the Middle Georgia Regional Airport after Delta Airlines pulled out in the mid-1980s.
In 2002, when ASA built the training center next to its maintenance facility, the company had about 250 employees in Macon. In 2005, Delta Airlines sold ASA to SkyWest Airlines Inc. and it became a subsidiary of that company. Two years later, ASA announced it would end passenger service here but retain the maintenance operations. Georgia Skies replaced ASA as the midstate’s primary passenger carrier. Also in 2007, ASA transferred about 60 administrative jobs from Macon to its Atlanta headquarters.
Bombardier manufactures a number of transportation systems including commercial aircraft, business jets and rail transportation equipment, systems and services, according to its Web site. The company employs about 66,900 employees worldwide in its aerospace and rail divisions.
Information from The Telegraph’s archives was included in this report.
To contact writer Linda S. Morris, call 744-4223. To contact writer Travis Fain, call 744-4213.