FLYING AWAY — A plane is towed out to the tarmac at Premier Aviation at 394 Hangar Road. The company, which housed its only U.S. facility on Rome, announced Thursday it would be closing its doors in August, leaving 116 plane maintenance employees out of work. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)

Premier to ground Rome operations - over 100 workers to lose jobs in August

Published May 25, 2018 at 12:04pm

One-hundred sixteen aviation mechanics are slated to lose their jobs in August with the Canadian-based Premier Aviation at Griffiss International Airport filing a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act notice Thursday.

It was through the filing that county and city officials learned of the company’s closure of its Rome facility.

“It’s disheartening to hear that Premier Aviation is closing its Rome maintenance facility and that its employees will lose their jobs as a result,” said County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. in a statement. “Oneida County will do anything it can to help assist with this situation.”

Mayor Jacqueline M. Izzo echoed the sentiment of assisting laid-off employees in finding jobs. She said the “timing” of Premier’s announcement was a “surprise” to the city.

The city is “Surprised at the swiftness this happened yesterday afternoon, before any of us were notified,” the mayor said. “I realize” those losing their jobs “are mostly aircraft mechanics, but there’s a lot of advanced manufacturing jobs all over Rome. I know the county will reach out and try to help, and the city is here as well. We will do what we can to help them find employment. There are other opportunities available in the community.”

As for the facility’s closure, “We’re disappointed quite frankly because the company has made great strides. They seemed to have really turned a corner,” Izzo said. “They had a lot of international contracts, but sometimes these things don’t work out. It’s difficult in private business to have the management keep their focus on what needs to be done in order to execute the contracts.”

She said, “I don’t know the inter-workings of what may or may not have transpired — whether or not the company couldn’t hold up its deal with aircraft maintenance, and unfortunately they were not able to keep it together.”

Premier Aviation landed at Griffiss in 2010 when it took over the facilities occupied by the failed Empire Aero Center. Empire had notified the state that its Israel-based parent company was pursuing a buyer in order to avoid shuttering the center. 

Owned and operated by Ronnie DiBartolo, Premier has four facilities. Rome is the largest of the four and only U.S. location. The others are located in Windsor, Ontario; Quebec City, Quebec; and Trois-Rivieres, Quebec.

In January 2017, Premier and JetBlue announced the signing of a five-year Embraer 190 heavy maintenance and paint agreement.

Then in June of last year, about 50 contract workers were released at the aircraft maintenance facility because of a business slowdown. At the time, the company attributed the situation to summer being a time of year when airlines, especially passenger carriers, want to have as many planes as possible flying and as few as possible on the ground for anything beyond routine maintenance.

“EDGE is disappointed with Premier Aviation’s decision to close its Rome maintenance facility,” said EDGE President Steven DiMeo. “We have worked with Premier over the past seven years in its Rome operation. We will work with them on the transition and will coordinate with Oneida County and our workforce development partners on assistance to the employees impacted by this announcement and will work with Oneida County and Griffiss International Airport officials on the marketing of the hangar complex for aviation and UAS/UAV related opportunities.”

Premier did not return a call today.