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Moran introduces cost-sharing bill said to save aerospace jobs

Wichita Business Journal | Daniel McCoy 

Sen. Jerry Moran has helped introduce legislation that he says could help save aerospace jobs in Wichita.

Moran, R-Kan., and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., co-chairs of the Senate Aerospace Caucus, introduced on Wednesday a bill that would establish a public-private partnership that would temporarily help subsidize at-risk employee groups in an aviation industry reeling from the impact of Covid-19.

“The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in a drastic decline in air travel, and as a result, aviation manufacturing has experienced significant financial losses resulting in widespread layoffs,” Moran said in a press release. “Both in Wichita — the Air Capital of the World — and around the country, our aviation manufacturing plays a critical role in commercial aviation and in our defense community. This legislation would create a program to temporarily support aviation manufacturing in order to prevent more layoffs and allow the industry to make a faster recovery once this crisis has passed.”

Through the temporary program, the government would provide up to 50% of total compensation for targeted employees, provided their aerospace employers commit to continued employment for those workers.

That’s an issue pressing on local companies of all sizes, as they wrestle with managing near-term costs associated with the rapid decline in demand while still needing to preserve a hard-won and skilled workforce for when demand — albeit far lower than previously expected — does begin to return.

That’s been especially true in commercial aerospace, as primary industry drivers like the Boeing Co. and Airbus have slashed output expectations and projected a recovery process that will be measured in years.

That’s been most acutely seen in the 1,450 local layoffs at Spirit AeroSystems Inc. (NYSE: SPR), a major supplier to each.

After 2,800 cuts in Wichita earlier this year due to the production halt of Boeing’s (NYSE: BA) 737 MAX, the company’s labor force has declined more than 30% since January because of the 1-2 punch of the MAX and the pandemic.

“We appreciate Sen. Moran’s leadership to bring forward this plan to support aerospace jobs and the U.S. industrial base,” said Spirit CEO Tom Gentile. “This common-sense, targeted proposal to assist the aerospace and defense industry will help ensure the U.S. retains enough of the skilled workforce necessary to compete globally and support national security needs.”