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Aircraft company lays off unknown number of workers in Superior

Danielle Kaeding

Wisconsin Public Radio

An aircraft company that planned to build a plane manufacturing facility in northern Wisconsin has laid off an unknown number of workers in Superior.

Kestrel Aircraft Company, which merged with Eclipse Aerospace in 2015 to form One Aviation, received $4 million in state loans five years ago with the hopes of creating 600 jobs in Superior. The jobs didn't materialize, and the company defaulted on its loans.

A spokeswoman for One Aviation said Friday the company has "had a reduction in workforce." But, no further details were immediately available from One Aviation.

Jim Caesar, executive director with the Development Association in Superior, said he spoke to One Aviation CEO Alan Klapmeier recently about upcoming layoffs.

"I knew of some layoffs in Albuquerque that they were talking about. He wasn’t specific, but he did not mention anything about here in Superior," Caesar said.

The company laid off workers earlier this year at its New Mexico aircraft factory, according to the Albuquerque Journal.

Caesar said One Aviation is working on refinancing the company’s debt.

"Certainly, it’s a disappointment, but I’m still hopeful that they’re able to find financing. I know they continue to work on it and that they’re able to gear back up," he said. "Hopefully, we will still have Kestrel and at least some of the jobs that were supposed to come along with the project."

To his knowledge, Caesar said the board of directors for the Douglas County Revolving Loan Fund has not called a meeting yet about Kestrel’s default on a roughly $500,000 loan.

"We’re all kind of waiting to see what transpires with the state before we move forward," he said.

Douglas County Board Chairman Mark Liebaert said he hasn’t heard anything about the company’s layoffs in Superior.

"Actually, I’m surprised that anyone’s still working to tell you the truth with what’s happening at the state level," he said.

Liebaert said the county hasn’t had much contact with the company for months.

"I’m very disappointed that they haven’t been more upfront with us about what the problems are," he said.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation said they were pursuing legal action against the company earlier this month for defaulting on state loans. The city of Superior awarded Kestrel a $2.6 million loan, which the company has also failed to repay. Superior Mayor Jim Paine said the city council will take up the loan in closed session at its Tuesday, Nov. 7 meeting.

Wisconsin Public Radio, © Copyright 2017, Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System and Wisconsin Educational Communications Board. Find more WPR news on KUWS-FM 91.3 or wpr.org.

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