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Laid off workers pack up at Empire Aero

By By GARY LIBERATORE

ROME, N.Y. (WKTV) - Just four days after learning there would be new owners coming in to take over Empire Aero in Rome, workers say they have been let go.

So far, we do not have anything confirmed with Empire Aero company officials themselves, but a phone call tip to the NEWSChannel 2 newsroom that said employees were being laid off Monday morning and were moving out of the facility appeared to be correct.

Employees were scene on the grounds of Empire Aero Monday morning packing up their tool boxes and leaving, just 15 minutes after that phone call. Several workers were still packing up their vehicles with their belongings, including large tool boxes and equipment.

The company performs maintenance on aircraft, including commercial aircraft.

Some of the workers who said they were let go talked to us briefly, only to tell us they were instructed by the company not to talk to the media.

They did add though, that they believe about 100 of the company's 200 workers were let go this morning.

U.S. Senator Charles Schumer has been working to keep the company from leaving the area, and four days ago, on Friday, Senator Schumer announced the parent company of Empire Aero, Israel Aerospace Industries had come to an agreement to sell Empire Aero to an unnamed company.

When we contacted Schumer's office for comment this morning, NEWSChannel 2 was told this was the first they had heard of it, but that the Senator would issue a statement once they do get all of the details.

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente said he has worked hard to make sure Empire Aero stays in the area, even going to Washington to lobby for federal contracts to keep Central New Yorkers, like those at Empire Aero, employed. Picente hopes the company remains open.

"They just picked up that new contract a couple of weeks ago, which while it doesn't lead to a massive number of employees to be retained, it still requires them to have a presence there," Picente said. "That makes it more enticing for someone else to buy them and to succeed."

Picente said these layoffs were planned three months ago, when the company filed a WARN notice with the state. A company must file that notice if it plans to close or layoff more than 40 people.

"They had notified us of a WARN notice that would come in May," Picente said. "Unless things turned around drastically, that employees would be let go and we would see some layoffs.

Picente still hopes the company, or the new company that comes in, will hire people back and actually grow in the future.

"Different companies go through different scopes of struggles," Picente said. "I mentioned previously that Orion Bus had to go through a variety of configurations and ownerships before they maintained themselves as the strong company that they are today. This happens at times with emerging businesses, so we'll wait and see."

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