December 18, 2013 in City

Spokane airport step closer to drawing maintenance facility

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Spokane County commissioners moved one step closer on Tuesday to drawing a jetliner maintenance company to Spokane International Airport.

The commissioners are poised to issue $19 million in tax-exempt bonds to finance a maintenance facility for Aviation Technical Services, which is based in Everett with operations in Moses Lake.

But before the bonds would be sold, the airport needs to obtain a lease with the company to use the facility.

On Tuesday, commissioners held a public hearing to take comment as required under federal tax rules for issuing lower-cost, tax-exempt bonds.

No one appeared at the hearing to offer comment. Bond attorney Roy Koegen explained that commissioners were only required to offer the opportunity to comment. A hearing notice identifies ATS as the potential lessee.

ATS is the largest company on the West Coast that specializes in maintenance of jetliners. It provides the service to numerous airlines and concentrates its work on Boeing 737 and 757 models.

Its new plant in Spokane would be located across the main runway from concourses A and B.

If the plant is built, officials said the company could bring as many as 400 to 500 jobs to the city within five years with salaries ranging from $45,000 to $52,000.

About 80 percent of the jobs would be mechanics.

The company is attracted to Spokane in part because the airport can easily handle jets arriving for maintenance, plus the city has a pool of trained workers, commissioners said last week.

The aerospace mechanical program at Spokane Community College offers certifications. In addition, Fairchild Air Force Base produces mechanics that may eventually move to civilian careers.

Local officials said landing ATS would open business opportunities for aviation suppliers, and also stimulate the broader economy.

In the past five years, the company has done maintenance on 350 aircraft annually with its current workforce of about 1,000 employees.


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