By Peter Marcus, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Local airline mechanics are outraged, arguing that city and state officials didn’t do enough to save around 200 jobs, according to the union representing the workers.
Indianapolis-based Republic Airways Holdings, Inc. — owner of Denver-based Frontier Airlines — announced Tuesday that it will expand maintenance operations in Milwaukee, bringing with it around 200 Frontier Airlines mechanics’ jobs.
The heavy-maintenance facility will serve Frontier, Midwest and Republic planes.
Mayor John Hickenlooper’s office Tuesday said that it could not put together an incentive package attractive enough to keep the maintenance facility in Denver. The city lost a three-way bidding war between Indianapolis, Denver and Milwaukee.
At issue was “free hangar space,” according to the mayor’s office.
“We offered every incentive conceivable to Republic Airways, but we can’t pay their rent for them,” Hickenlooper said in a statement.
But Matthew Fazakas, president of Teamsters Local 961 — the union that represents local airline maintenance workers — said Hickenlooper and Gov. Bill Ritter didn’t do enough to save the jobs. He says they should have pushed airport officials to change their fiscal structure, including lowering certain taxes.
“It’s an embarrassment to the City of Denver and the State of Colorado that they would allow a home-grown business like this to move their jobs out of state,” he said.
By contract, the maintenance workers are entitled to a first shot at maintenance jobs in Milwaukee, according to Fazakas. He says many of them will take the opportunity given the relatively high-paying job and the lousy economy. The maintenance workers make about $28 an hour.
“They’re obviously disappointed,” Fazakas said of the maintenance workers. “They’re resigned to the theory, ‘It is what it is.’”
Over in Milwaukee, however, the mood was drastically different. City and state leaders praised Republic’s decision as one that will preserve more than 700 local jobs there and add up to 800 full-time positions.
The company is eligible to receive up to $27 million in tax credits through the end of 2010.
“Our expansion in Milwaukee sends an important message to our current and future frequent fliers and to the local and state communities about our dedication to remain Milwaukee’s hometown airline,” said Bryan Bedford, chairman, president and chief executive of Republic Airways.
Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle hailed the decision as being a huge benefit to his state.
“This is great news for Milwaukee and all of Wisconsin,” he said.
Ritter, however, expressed a very different tone.
“While we respect Republic’s business decision, it’s still disappointing,” he said. “But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that Frontier Airlines remains Colorado’s homegrown, low-fare airline and is helping to keep our economy strong.”
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters