Chance at 350 jobs flies by
Louisville, Ky., prevails in competition for startup airline.
By Todd Grady
(August 5, 2003) — Some 350 high-paying jobs flew right by Rochester, landing instead in Louisville, Ky.
According to local executives involved in the negotiations, startup Republic Airlines was looking last winter for a place to locate its corporate headquarters and a maintenance facility.
The airline looked hard at Rochester but opted instead for Louisville after the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority made an enticing offer.
“The (local) economic development package that was put forth was competitive,” said Warren Wilkinson, vice president of government affairs and corporate communications for Republic Airways Holdings. “In the end, Louisville was just a more attractive package.”
Landing Republic would have given a significant boost to the region, which has seen major employers such as Eastman Kodak Co. and Xerox Corp. lay off thousands of workers.
“When a lot of large corporations in Rochester are downsizing and laying off people this would have been an excellent opportunity to give a shot in the arm to this area,” said Anthony Costello, chairman and chief executive of USAirports, who was involved in negotiations last winter to bring Republic here.
In a deal initiated last November, state and local officials offered Republic about $5 million in incentives over 10 years, said Rocco DiGiovanni, executive director of the County of Monroe Industrial Development Agency.
The deal also included the state’s full range of Empire Zone tax-saving benefits and an undisclosed capital grant, said Jack Kinnicutt, regional director of Empire State Development Corp.
The grant was the largest offered to a company in this region since at least November 2001, according to the state.
But in the end, it fell short.
In a deal announced in February, Kentucky approved up to $7.8 million in tax incentives over 10 years under its Kentucky Jobs Development Act.
The airline plans to start flying for US Airways Express in November.
Wilkinson called Louisville’s package “more compelling” but also said that the Rochester area’s winter weather also played a factor in the decision. The airline would have to pay increased costs for maintaining aircraft during the winter months, he said.
Republic agreed to locate its headquarters and a maintenance/parking facility for up to 20 regional jets at the Louisville International Airport.
Republic also promised to fill the jobs with pilots, flight attendants, aircraft maintenance workers and administrative workers.
The inability to attract Republic here was especially heartbreaking for economic officials challenged to bring new companies to an area starved for growth.
“Anything like that is disappointing,” DiGiovanni said. “Jobs are important. We need them and we want them.”
Republic had indicated to officials here that they might add more than 200 additional jobs within three years.
The effect on local air travel was less certain.
“In discussions we had with Republic they never committed to a level of service because they don’t control that,” said Terry Slaybaugh, director of the Rochester airport. “They don’t control that. It’s controlled by US Airways.”
However, it would be cost-effective to fly a plane from Rochester with passengers rather than flying it with just the local crew, Slaybaugh added.
Local officials also said they were sorry to lose a deal with a company that was so committed to expansion when so many others are in a wait-and-see mode.
“There’s somewhere between a half dozen and a dozen of these (proposals) that are out there, but the companies are not making a commitment because they’re waiting to see how the economy does,” said Tom Battley, Monroe County’s economic development manager.
(c) rochester democrat and chronicle 2003.
*what airline is this? I don't think that I have heard about this in the past....