Wichita-based Hawker Beechcraft Corp. is planning to hire 1,100 employees next year, a company executive told county officials Wednesday.
Jackie Berger, vice president for communications and public affairs at the company, announced job numbers at a meeting of the Sedgwick County Commission, just before commissioners unanimously voted to grant a company request for about $ 55 million in industrial revenue bond financing for expansion and retooling.
Berger said Hawker Beechcraft has hired 1,258 employees this year and has openings for 300 more. The company plans to fill the existing openings -- plus an additional 800 -- in 2008.
How many of those jobs will be new to the company and how many will replace retired or departed workers was not immediately available.
But Berger said attrition has been very low and most of the hirings are for new positions.
The company is expanding production while also taking over administrative functions that used to be performed by Raytheon Co., Berger said. Hawker Beechcraft separated from Raytheon and became an independent private company in March.
The company now employs 6,935 people, she said.
About 65 percent of the new jobs will be in engineering, supply-chain functions and other professional positions requiring a college education, she said. About 35 percent of the new jobs will be manufacturing jobs requiring technical training, Berger said.
Hawker Beechcraft has invested $ 160 million in plant expansion and research and development, she said.
Possibly the most encouraging news is that the company has a $ 5.2 billion backlog of orders for planes -- the largest in its 75-year history.
"What that means is that our industry is strong," Berger said, adding that it´s expected to remain strong through at least 2009.
Also encouraging for Hawker Beechcraft is that 50 percent of its orders for new planes are coming from overseas, Berger said.
That will help when the notoriously cyclical aircraft industry takes its next dip, she said.
"With the sales internationally, that will make it less severe," because the company won´t be dependent on the health of the U.S. economy alone, she said.
The industrial revenue bond issuance approved Tuesday is the latest installment in an overall $ 1.4 billion bond financing plan the county originally approved in 1990 and 1998.
The county does not bear any responsibility for paying back the bonds, but the bonds carry sales and property tax breaks for Hawker Beechcraft.
The bond package approved Wednesday will abate about $ 4.3 million in sales taxes and $ 1.5 million a year in property taxes for Hawker Beechcraft, according to a county report.
Considering the jobs, commerce and tax base the company contributes to the area, it´s a small price to pay, commissioners said.
"These numbers are just incredibly good," said Commissioner Tom Winters.
Commission Chairman Dave Unruh said he´s pleased to see the company restoring the Beechcraft name to the prominence it enjoyed in aviation before Raytheon bought the Wichita-founded company and put its own name on it.
"I think most of us here are pleased to see the Beechcraft name is back on that factory," he said. "It´s very easy to be supportive of this."
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