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Fri, Jun 12, 2009

Battle Creek Battle Over Aviation Jobs

Duncan Aviation May Get Legislative Assistance

A Michigan State Legislature finance committee voted Wednesday in favor of a bill designed to attract aircraft customization work to Battle Creek. That legislation would eliminate a tax that new airplane owners have to pay on the entire value of the aircraft, even though the sale happened somewhere else.

The move could help save as many as 100 jobs at Duncan Aviation's Battle Creek facility, and potentially steer a million man-hours of work to the company over the next 7 years. Duncan is based in Lincoln, Nebraska, but employs 580 people at it Michigan operation.

Duncan Aviation admits that they don't have many nearby competitors, but when potential customers look at the amount of tax they'll pay if they bring planes into Battle Creek for customization, even distant competitors might as well be right next door. "It's easier for them to steer left a little and land in Nebraska or New York," said Bill Prochaszka Exec. VP of Duncan Aviation.

Representative Kate Segal of Battle Creek agreed. "This misapplied tax literally makes business fly away from Michigan at Mach speed," she said.

According to a report on WWMT-TV, it wasn't until early this year that Duncan, which has been very successful in Battle Creek, had to lay off 122 employees ... the first layoffs ever for the facility.

Business aviation got an undeserved black eye when a few corporate executives flew to Washington, DC in private jets to ask for government bailouts. Prochaszka says part of the current downturn is driven by rhetoric out of Washington. But the company says that after weathering those turbulent times at the beginning of the year, it's starting to see a shift in attitudes toward corporate aircraft. Still, Prochaszka says this legislation is critical. "We have between 50 and 100 jobs working key contracts that would be at risk long term if this doesn't get passed," he said.



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