Tulsa, Oklahoma response to AA cuts: Disappointment but not surprise
BY KYLE ARNOLD World Staff Writer
Thursday, February 02, 2012
2/02/12 at 8:21 AM
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American Airlines plans to cut 2,100 jobs in Tulsa
Government and business officials said they are disappointed Tulsa will lose jobs but are relieved American Airlines will keep its Tulsa maintenance base.
AMR Corp., American's parent company, said Wednesday afternoon that the 6,800-employee Tulsa maintenance base will stay open but will lose nearly a third of its employees as the company reorganizes after filing for bankruptcy in November.
The loss of 2,100 jobs would have about a $300 million total annual impact on Tulsa's economy, according to Bob Ball, economic research manager for the Tulsa Metro Chamber.
Ball estimated the American Airlines staff reduction would lead to the loss of 1,449 additional jobs throughout the area.
Broken down further, the city would lose about $236.1 million in income and $5 million in city and county sales tax revenue.
Chamber officials said the figures were subject to change, depending on how American's proposal is altered as it goes forward and on the ability of local civic officials to find other aviation work for the laid-off employees.
Chamber president Mike Neal said efforts already are under way to recruit a private aircraft maintenance company to Tulsa as a means of replacing the jobs lost by the American restructuring.
"American has indicated it is going to start outsourcing a portion of its maintenance operations," said Neal. "We're going to very aggressively pursue any third-party maintenance and repair companies and make them aware of the available facilities we have here in Tulsa."
American Airlines spokesman Tim Smith said the company does plan to outsource some maintenance work as part of the proposal.
Neal said the chamber is also working with other aerospace companies in the area to find jobs for laid-off American workers. He said new or expanding aerospace companies could be moved into the city-owned facilities alongside the smaller American operation.
"All along we hoped it wouldn't come to this, but since the November bankruptcy filing and American Airline's financial situation became known, it was obvious that such a large restructuring would be difficult on the workforce," said U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., who had been informed that Tulsa would lose 2,850 jobs.
But an American Airlines official said the job loss would be 2,100.
"It is very disappointing, but looking at the numbers, we know that for American Airlines to remain competitive with the rest of the industry it is going to have to make some painful choices. Making American profitable again is a critical step in that process."
One American Airlines employee, who was working Wednesday evening but didn't wish to reveal his name, said he and colleagues were shocked by the announcement but not entirely surprised by the severity of the cuts.
He said it would take days before employees would be able to process the announcement and evaluate their futures. American hasn't revealed details of its process for proposed reductions in Tulsa.
Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett and other area civic leaders said the news was somewhat encouraging.
"We are hearing some very disappointing news, but at least there is some news that American Airlines is going to remain a significant presence and employer in an around the city of Tulsa and northeast Oklahoma," Bartlett said during a news conference at the Tulsa Metro Chamber of Commerce.
"As this bankruptcy plays out," Bartlett said, "we are going to hear a lot of rumors and a lot of innuendo. I suggest that we all step back and take a breath, because ... what we're talking about is our fellow northeastern Oklahomans, and how it affects their jobs, how it affects their families and how it affects their communities."
Joe McGill of the Transport Workers Union said the Tulsa base has some advantages in equipment and personnel.
"One of the advantages we have is the composite center," McGill said, referring to a part of the Tulsa operation that repairs wings and fuselages. "All the new aircraft are going to be heavy into composites.
"We have some of the most skilled labor out there," McGill continued. "We can prototype things. We can engineer things. We have the people to do what's necessary."
Republican Rep. John Sullivan expressed disappointment even while conceding Wednesday's announcement was not unexpected.
"As I have said before, bankruptcy proceedings are never easy," Sullivan said, "but our community will get through this and come out stronger than before."
World staff writer Randy Krehbiel, World Washington Bureau reporter Jim Myers and World Business Editor John Stancavage contributed to this story.
Original Print Headline: Area officials relieved base will stay
Kyle Arnold 918-581-8380