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AAR closure impacts Northland aviation industry, LSC

Emily Ness
Updated: May 21, 2020 10:40 PM

AAR has employed hundreds of people in the Northland since 2012 and planned to keep growing over the next 20 years, but sadly, the pressures of the pandemic changed those plans. On Thursday, AAR made the difficult decision to permanently close their Duluth maintenance facility. The impact of this closure will be felt by employees, students and the aviation industry as a whole.

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"Aviation was hit especially hard as we hear from a lot of our industry partners,” Daniel Fanning, Vice President of Institutional Advancement and External Relations at Lake Superior College said. "It’s definitely a devastating blow for our community and for our school and for our students.”

One of the things AAR was known for was their partnership with Lake Superior College. Through this partnership, they trained students for careers in the aircraft industry. Additionally, they sponsored events and provided scholarship opportunities.

"Our biggest programs are healthcare, aviation, manufacturing and of course transfers of liberal arts students who would take their generals, so of course a lot of industries we are working with are industries that are being hit really hard with COVID-19, so we anticipate there’s going to be a slow down in hiring, possibly even enrollment at least in the short term, but we’re already seeing some of those numbers come back up” Fanning said.

Currently, Lake Superior College has 75 to 100 students in their Aviation Maintenance program. Fanning said the college will work to help seniors graduate on time despite the loss of their partnership with AAR. Additionally, Fanning said the college will collaborate with other industry partners like Cirrus and Delta to keep the program going into the future.

"Duluth has been a thriving aviation hub and I’m confident that it will be again. Clearly, we’re struggling right now a little bit with the COVID-19. Some industries are being hit harder than others—aviation obviously is as well, but when we return back to some normalcy, I’m confident that these jobs will come back in aviation, in healthcare,” Fanning said.

Mayor Emily Larson also weighed in on AAR’s closure—saying—new financial realities are forcing everyone to make incredibly difficult decisions.

"I know that AAR understands the impact of this decision. That it impacts workers, families, students, the aviation sector and our community. I thank them for being an exceptional employer and I am very hopeful Duluth continues to be of interest as they strategize their re-emergence from here,” Larson said.

And, Tom Werner, Executive Director of the Duluth International Airport said the loss of AAR will have a big impact on the aviation sector and this region as a whole.

“Our thoughts and support go out to the leadership and employees at AAR during this time,” Werner said.

As a whole, roughly 275 people lost their job as a result of AAR’s closure. The company said it is offering severance and healthcare continuation to all employees.

Layoffs are expected to go into effect in two months.

Credits

Emily Ness

Copyright 2020 WDIO-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved

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