BDA Executive Director Joe B. Montez said Thursday evening that he had been informed by Deborah Zampano, the director of maintenance, repair and overhaul for Sikorsky’s offices in Connecticut, that the company will be gone from Chase Field by Dec. 31.
Montez has said before that reductions in defense contracts had slowed the operation in recent years.
Montez reported that combined Sikorsky and Kay and Associates had 305 employees a year ago but the number has dropped to about 60.
“The personnel have all been notified,” Montez said.
BDA Board President Laura Fischer said she and Montez met with Zampano Thursday and she told them that the company did not have any contracts. She said there was only one helicopter in the shop at the time and that the company had no choice but to close the operation.
Montez said he would have a report later on the financial impact the company has had on the local economy since it first located here in 2006. Sikorsky has the option for two more three-month extensions on its contract at Chase.
“My heart goes out to the employees,” Fischer said. “Sikorsky is leaving and we’re working on filling that space.”
BDA board members have approved many improvements to the facilities since Sikorsky first moved its operation to Chase Field. Two of the large hangars the Navy left at Chase Field have been completely refurbished and equipped with state-of-the-art fire suppression systems and other renovations.
Over the years, the BDA has built large warehouse and shop facilities between Hangars 24 and 25. The BDA also has had a large aircraft paint booth built within the fenced off portion of the former naval air station.
Fischer said that in addition to the slowdown in contracts for Sikorsky, the possibility of “sequestration” at the end of the year stands to bring about significant cutbacks in military spending.
Sequestration is expected to result in tens of thousands of military personnel actually being laid off in the months ahead. That also is expected to affect thousands of employees working for defense contractors.
“It’s just sad for our country to know that our government doesn’t support our national defense and helicopters,” Fischer said.
Paul Jackson of Sikorsky’s parent company, United Technologies Corporation, said Thursday that the amount of work is declining for Sikorsky and that there was not enough activity to sustain the operation here.
UTC is a large aerospace company, Jackson said, and its investment in Texas will remain significant.
“We have about 3,500 people employed in Texas,” Jackson said. “Sikorsky alone has 940 employees.”
He said only 13 Sikorsky employees were left at Chase.
That includes 55 facilities in the state and contracts with about 4,000 suppliers. In all, UTC invests about $670 million in Texas every year.
“Texas is an important state for us,” Jackson added. However, when asked if he expects UTC or Sikorsky to have any future at Chase Field, Jackson’s response was to the point. “I don’t see that happening,” he said.
Since 2007, economies all over the world have been suppressed, Jackson said. Unless something happens in the next few months to change that, he does not expect the situation to improve.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.