Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. announced Monday it will close its military completions center in Big Flats, Chemung County, at year’s end—a loss of 570 jobs, the Elmira Star-Gazette.
The news comes after Census data last week showed that Chemung County had a 20 percent increase in income between 2008 and 2011—fueled by the natural gas drilling boom in nearby Pennsylvania.
The Connecticut-based company’s decision means the loss of 570 jobs at the five-year-old facility on Kahler Road, where workers would customize Black Hawk and Naval Hawk helicopters sold to foreign governments. The decision also brings to an end Sikorsky’s high-profile history in Chemung County, and county officials say it will be hard to replace the lost jobs.
“This is very bad news and we’ll have to get on this right away,” said Chemung County Executive Tom Santulli. “We reached out and worked very closely with Sikorsky to make them comfortable. We spent a ton of time working with them, and I never would have guessed the defense cuts would have this kind of impact on us.”
The decision to close the facility was relayed to employees Monday afternoon at a companywide meeting. It was also announced in an e-mail to this newspaper from company spokesman Paul Jackson.
“Due to declining defense budgets and the continuing economic weakness in many markets, Sikorsky today informed employees of its intent to close the Sikorsky Military Completions Center, as of Dec. 31, 2012,” the e-mail read.
“Faced with these difficult economic conditions, we must eliminate excess production capacity and increase operational efficiencies to remain competitive. We will work with the employees to provide as much transition support as we can during this difficult time.”