Hawker Beechcraft to close Salina plant; timeline not determined

Hawker Beechcraft will close its Salina plant and move the work, the company told employees and the Machinists union today.

“We were informed today that the decision has been made to close the Salina facility,” Machinists union District 70 president Steve Rooney said this morning. “The union will be in discussions with the company to see if there’s things we can do to help save and preserve jobs in Kansas.”

A timeline has not been established for the closure.

The union wants to meet with the company to determine the possibility of moving a significant number of the jobs to Wichita, Rooney said.

The company issued a statement saying that formal conversations with the Machinists will continue. It has asked the union to “actively partner in making a viable business case and exploring opportunities for relocating jobs to Wichita,” the statement said.  The union’s leadership has committed to responding in the next few  weeks.

Hawker Beechcraft employs about 240 people in Salina, down from about 500 a year ago. The plant builds wings, spar assemblies and other subassemblies.

Hawker Beechcraft CEO Bill Boisture said in an interview last month that the company likely would close the plant and move the work to Wichita.

The move is a blow to the Salina community, where Hawker Beechcraft is one of the city’s largest employers. It’s had operations in Salina since 1966.

“It’s a very significant loss to the community — the jobs and the payroll,” said Salina Airport Authority executive director Tim Rogers in a news conference in Salina this afternoon.

Hawker Beechcraft leases 490,000 square feet of space in 13 buildings and pays $424,200 a year in rent. Its lease expires Feb. 28, 2012.

Local officials say they will work hard to market the buildings to bring in other tenants and jobs to the community.