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Deal could save jobs at Empire Aero

ROME, N.Y. - A tentative agreement has been reached to keep Empire Aero Corporation (EAC) open and operating.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer said that Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), EAC’s parent company, has found a buyer for the Rome-based facility, and has today cleared one of the final hurdles. That hurdle was working out a deal with Mohawk Valley EDGE regarding required payments to end the lease agreement between Mohawk Valley EDGE and IAI. The prospective buyer has remained undisclosed due to a confidentiality agreement.

Schumer has been working for the past several months to save EAC. After learning that the facility was in danger of failing Schumer called the IAI urging them to do everything in their power to seek and buyer and keep the facility operating, rather than just folding up its tent and putting people out of work. Schumer also made the case for pursuing a viable buyer to Israeli Defense officials, asking them to do anything in their power to keep EAC open and operating - IAI is a large defense contractor. Following Schumer’s calls, IAI officials alerted Schumer that they had found a potential buyer, and that the remaining hurdle was working out a loan IAI still has to repay to Mohawk Valley EDGE.

Schumer pressed IAI to pay the money owed in full, and asked Mohawk Valley EDGE to negotiate with IAI in such a way to ensure that the taxpayers’ investment in the facility was fully protected, and that the EAC would remain open and operating, under a new owner. Today Schumer announced that a buyer has been found and the two sides had reached a tentative deal, and that all signs now point to EAC being taken over by a new owner that has committed to keeping the facility open.

“After months of hard work, we are on the doorstep of locking down a deal that keeps open this facility and, best of all, keeps workers on the job,” said Schumer. “It’s a deal that will preserve scores of jobs and an important industry in Oneida County, and will protect the taxpayer’s investment in this facility. I emphasized to company officials and anyone who would listen how important it was to preserve Empire Aero and jobs it created, and it looks like they listened to our pleas.”

Recently, Israel Aerospace Industries announced its plans to divest of its ownership of Empire Aero and to lay off its entire workforce within months. Empire Aero, a Rome New York company, is a subsidiary of IAI North America, which is based in Israel. Empire Aero began operations in Florida almost two decades ago and came to Oneida County in 2003 after a base closure in Florida left the company without land. At the time, federal, state and local governments worked tirelessly to create the conditions for the company to grow. After relocating, Aero became actively involved in the local community and even partnered with a local community college to train students to perform aircraft maintenance.

Empire Aero Center is one of countless businesses damaged by the recession, after years of booming business and a steady flow of contracts. Its aircraft maintenance operation, which services a range of commercial aircrafts at Griffiss International Airport in Rome, once had plans to expand its workforce to over 700, but the economic downturn threw those plans into serious question as the entire airline industry struggled. Israel Aerospace Industries divestiture announcement followed a series of layoffs and furloughs, and, if no buyer had been found, would have meant the loss of over 200 jobs and a harmful ripple effect for the rest of Oneida County and the region.

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