Cirrus, Duluth mayor celebrate good news
May 16, 2012
Duluth News Tribune
With upbeat rock music beckoning, hundreds of Cirrus Aircraft workers left their work stations Tuesday afternoon to gather in the large hangar-like area of the Duluth plant.
But this month’s staff meeting was different.
Duluth Mayor Don Ness was there. The U.S. Air Force was there. And since the company got the nearly $100 million it needed to move its stalled personal jet program forward toward a 2015 production date and creating more than 100 jobs, the mood was more upbeat than a couple of months ago.
“The announcement about the jet really lifted a lot of spirits around here,” said Cory Kujawa, an inspection manager who’s been with Cirrus for 12 years.
Rounds of layoffs at Cirrus after the economy and general aviation industry nosedived in 2009 had been demoralizing for the staff, he said. But now spirits are lifted about the company’s direction.
Terry Hendrickson, an avionics technician, knows this first-hand. He was laid off from Cirrus three years ago but has been back on the job about seven months.
“It feels good to be back,” he said. “People are so nice here. It’s like one big team.”
As the economy improves, the feeling among the staff is that Cirrus will recover along with it, Hendrickson said.
“We are increasing our product line and everybody is optimistic,” he said.
CEO Dale Klapmeier kicked off the staff meeting by acknowledging the past few years have been very difficult for Cirrus. But getting the money from new owners China Aviation Industry General Aircraft Co. to accelerate Cirrus’ Vision SF-50 light jet program is a turning point, he said.
Klapmeier said the continued support of Ness, the city and community helped Cirrus through those lean years.
“He has ridden the wave of Cirrus,” he said of Ness. “The city stood by us. We would have not survived the last three years without the support of the city.”
Ness, in turn, called Cirrus the city’s “shining star.”
“The city of Duluth and the Twin Ports are proud of this company,” he said. “They’re proud of you as employees, and they’re proud of the plane.”
There’s a reason Cirrus has increased its market share, he said.
“It’s the quality of the product and your work,” he said. “And that translates into customer loyalty others out there don’t have. … Thanks for making us proud.”
The kudos continued.
The last four of a fleet of 25 Cirrus SR-20 planes, designated as T-53A military trainers, are now complete and soon on their way to Colorado Springs, Colo., for the U.S. Air Force Academy’s Powered Flight Program. And Col. Lloyd Blackman of Wright Paterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, was there for the occasion, noting Cirrus came in on cost and on schedule.
“Air Force is happy with the product, the attitude and the spirit I see here, people with noses to the grindstone,” he said.
Blackman said the airplane used in the program is important because it teaches new cadets the love of airmanship.
As for Cirrus, Klapmeier said, the company is thrilled to see the U.S. Air Force name on its planes.
Three-time Cirrus owner Patrick Bradley of Princeton, N.J., who does legal work for Cirrus, also thanked the employees for making good airplanes.
“I use every bit of the technology,” said Bradley, noting the safety of Cirrus’ whole-plane parachute system. And if he is ever in a dire situation, he said he won’t hesitate to use it. That sent a ripple of approval through the gathering of employees.
“You make a truly fine airplane that I look forward to using many years into the future,” he said.
# # #
© 2012 Forum Communications Co. - Access more business news from the Duluth News Tribune.