At a time when Sikorsky employed 295 persons at Chase, adding additional work was constrained by available space, and the BDA was advised that by building the proposed warehouse they would create operational space for an additional 175 employees, thereby creating a facility which could house 470 high-end employees. Sikorsky may or may not have advised BDA that it would have work available to require 475 employees but, when asked, continually declined to guarantee in any manner the number of employees it would have in the future.
The BDA board, without regard for the flimsy nature of the proposal, applied (1) for a state grant of some $600,000 and (2) for a BEIC grant of $1.2 million for this project, advising both that the warehouse was predicted to produce 175 new jobs. The state grant was approved and, after protracted negotiations (some would say aggressive lobbying), the BEIC board considered and approved a draft agreement, subject to certain changes which were discussed in general terms but were not reduced to written changes to the draft agreement. And, though these changes purportedly were made in a manner consistent with the BEIC board’s instructions, the language of the last draft of the proposed contract was never approved by the BEIC board. Nevertheless, at whose urging I know not, the chairman of the BEIC board signed this last draft without, in my view, proper authority to do so.
By the time this matter was presented to City Council for its consideration, Sikorsky’s workforce at Chase had steadily declined by a third to about 200. Thus, at the time presented, Sikorsky’s Chase Field business would have to increase by about 50 percent before space constraints would inhibit additional growth. If the BDA board or personnel knew about this steady and substantial decline and failed to take it into account and formally advise the BEIC board, the lack of candor is deplorable. If they did not know about it, their lack of attention speaks volumes.
It is now reported that the BDA will ask the BEIC to sequester its funds so that, if things get better in the helicopter repair business (better be a whole lot better), it can build this clearly speculative warehouse. I think the deal should be recognized as dead.
There is more to this story, which awaits another day.
Editor’s note: The Bee-Picayune has covered this evolving story with accurate reporting of the facts, both for and against, as provided in open meetings of the BDA, BEIC and other boards. Unlike the letter writer, who issues the caveat this is his own understanding without a personal investigation, our news articles didn’t speculate, but reported what transpired in the public realm. We have covered BEIC board member Jessy Garza’s comments at all public meetings and published Mr. Healey’s letters critical of this newspaper, the BDA, BEIC and Sikorsky. If Mr. Healy has evidence of corruption in the deal, he should produce the facts. We’ve yet to see or hear that.