It’s been only five weeks since Aviation Technical Services announced plans for a major aircraft maintenance operation in Kansas City, and the firm already has 600 applicants for the 540 jobs expected to be created over the next couple of years.
“We don’t hire by the tens, we hire by the hundreds,” said Matt Yerbic, president and chief executive officer of ATS. “These are real people doing real work for a fair wage for what they do.”
An event Thursday at Kansas City International Airport officially welcomed the company to town. Gov. Jay Nixon and Mayor Sly James reminded the audience that the operation is a continuation of Kansas City’s long aviation history going back to the 1920s.
“The aviation industry has been important to this city for decades, going back to (Charles) Lindbergh convincing TWA this would be a good place for their headquarters,” James said.
Nixon added, “Aerospace has always been a proud part of Missouri history, and it’s still critical to the future of our state.”
This is the first expansion outside Washington state for ATS, which is described as North America’s largest aviation maintenance and overhaul firm.
The company expects to hire 540 workers and employ 40 contract employees within five years at an average salary of $60,000. Up to 1,000 people eventually may be employed.
“This is an important move for ATS,” Yerbic said. “This is our first major foray away from our home state. We are ready to grow.”
ATS has signed a seven-year lease for 325,000 square feet at the Super Hangar at KCI valued at $7 million to the city, and expects to ultimately occupy 607,000 square feet. The company plans to invest $7 million in equipping the facility.
It primarily works on Boeing 737 and 757 airframe maintenance, and Southwest Airlines, which flies 737s, is one of its biggest customers. Southwest also provides the most service at KCI.
The new firm will share the 2 million square foot building with several other companies including Jet Midwest, an aircraft painting and maintenance firm that has grown from 17 to 200 employees since 2010. All told, about 400 people now work at the maintenance complex.
Mark VanLoh, director of the city’s Aviation Department, said his agency had strived to attract new business to the maintenance hangar originally built for TWA. When American Airlines bought TWA, there were 2,600 jobs there, but that number dwindled to 500 by the time American closed the facility in 2010.
Yerbic said five states competed to land the new ATS maintenance operation.
“This was a hard-fought battle,” he said. “You should be proud of your state and community.”
Over the next few weeks, ATS will be hauling three dozen semi-truck loads of equipment to the hangar. The first aircraft should be rolled in for maintenance this April. When fully operational, the new operation should be handling more than 150 aircraft annually.
Metropolitan Community College is working with ATS to recruit and train employees. Interested applicants can get information at aviationtech.mcckc.edu.
Nancy Russell, dean and executive director at the college, said more than 900 people have visited the website, and 600 completed the application process since it was posted Dec. 21.