Airplane Maintenance and Repair Facility Project Moves Forward

By: Marissa Sherer, Shannon Smith, Mike Garrigan
By: Marissa Sherer, Shannon Smith, Mike Garrigan
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ROCKFORD (WIFR) – Rockford airport approved a lease agreement with a global company to build a state-of-the-art jet repair center at the Chicago Rockford International Airport.

The move comes just days after the airport, state, city, and county leaders announced the deal which has been in the works for over two and a half years with AAR. The Chicago suburban company is agreeing to build a new hangar at the airport that will be open 24/7.

The 200,000 square-foot building will be built in the mid-field area. It will service wide-body aircraft. Over the next five years, about 500 jobs are expected to open up. The project will cost about $40 million. Rockford was selected due to its central location, cost effectiveness, and its reputation as an aerospace hub.

“This is about creating jobs, creating opportunities, and creating a world-class MRO facility right here in Rockford, Illinois. I'd be very disappointed if we don't succeed. Everything I've done, I know how to win and we know how to win as an organization and we intend on winning here in Rockford,” said CEO David Storch.

Construction is scheduled to begin within the next year on the new facility. It’s expected to open in Spring 2016.

The AAR CEO says the hundreds of jobs today is just a starting point. 500 jobs will be flying into Rockford in the next two years, thanks to the new AAR Maintenance Facility at the Chicago-Rockford International Airport. Many of the positions will be airplane mechanics with a possible starting salary of $50,000.

“Getting people excited about what they want to do and to reward them fairly for the work that they do, so I want the best people, who are going to put out the best product, and I’ll pay them the best wage.”

The 200,000 square foot building will be on land south of the airport terminal, just a little bigger than a Walmart Supercenter. The facility is for aircraft repairs and maintenance. AAR CEO David Storch says this is just the beginning.

“It would be disappointing if at the end of the day we only end up with 500 jobs, so to make for a very viable MRO we need somewhere in the vicinity of 1,000 mechanics.”

There has been lots of excitement today. Storch says Rockford wasn’t always high on their list of places to expand, but through the process, he really saw how Rockford has skilled workers when it comes to the aerospace industry.

AAR has already built up a national and global presence. It’s based in Wooddale, Illinois, just a half-hour west of Chicago. AAR has six other maintenance locations all over the United State. It employs altogether about 6,000 people in 17 countries. AAR’s CEO says Illinois’ economic incentives played a large role in choosing Rockford for its newest center.

“We’ve lost the luxury of being risk-averse. We have to sept out there and there’s no better way to smartly do that than to partner with good, private companies that are successful and I think that’s where we’re doing her now.”

AAR supports military and commercial contracts through aviation services and other technology products.

ROCKFORD (WIFR) – The AAR repair facility is doing more for our economy than just creating 500 jobs. That, along with a new Aviation Center that Rock Valley College is building could help put an end to the so called "brain drain."

Craig Borchers was planning on leaving the Stateline after graduating from Rock Valley College's Aviation Maintenance Technology Program, that was, until today.

"To stay where you're planted, to find a good job, I think it could be the next large industrial revolution for the area," Borchers said.

That's the hope, that students from RVC will stay in the Rockford area and continue working at facilities like the one AAR is building. To encourage that thought process RVC is building a new 40,000 square foot aviation center right next to where the new maintenance facility will be. Students will also have more programs to choose from so they have the best skill set to get a job after graduation.

"For a student to have a clear path, and even if they don't stay in the area they have a chance to be incorporated into a large company and get that experience," Borchers said.

These two building projects also mean more immediate jobs. For construction workers -- about 600 of them.

"This is fantastic news for the electrical workers and building trades and really for the whole community because it has a positive ripple effect,” IBEW Representative Charlie Laskonis, said.

For some the project means a chance to come back to their hometown.

“It's a big shot in the arm. It puts people back to work who weren't working. We also have members in other places, other states that will come back home and work,” Laskonis said.

For students like Borchers these opportunities are just the start of a long, successful career.

In it's current aviation campus RVC can only accommodate about 50 students. The new facility will hold about 150.

Another construction update, we’re told the southern tip of the north south runway is expected to be repaved earlier than expected, by the end of this year. About $16 million has been invested over the last few years to re-do the runways at the Rockford Airport.

To recap, State and area leaders are about to finalize a deal with AAR to build a jet repair center at Rockford’s airport. The $40 million project will be open 24 hours a day to work on wide-body jets. The facility is expected to open by spring of 2016 and over the next five years, about 500 jobs will open up not counting construction.


ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- It looks like the Rockford region will be taking another big leap in the air travel industry.

The Rockford Airport is building a 200,000 sq. ft. hangar with AAR, a large plane maintenance company. It's expected to bring 500 jobs to the area. The hangar will be located in the mid-field area of the airport and is slated to open in Spring 2016. The project will cost about $40 million. Rockford was selected due to its central location, cost effectiveness, and its reputation as an aerospace hub.

AAR is the largest operator of maintenance and repair sites in the country. The airport, city of Rockford, and Winnebago County will fund some of the project. State and federal funds will cover the rest. We will have more on this story tonight on 23 News.

For the full release from RFD, please click on the related document.


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