PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Earlier this week, U.S. Airways CEO Doug Parker said it was likely the airline will move its flight operations center to Dallas in the next couple years.
Six-hundred local jobs are at stake.
But the local center was built with state tax dollars, and officials say staying here was part of the deal.
It wasn’t long ago that ground-breaking signaled construction of U.S. Airways new flight operations center in Moon Township.
At the time, Sept. 20, 2007, airline president Doug Kirby said Pittsburgh was home for years to come.
“We will be moving all of those employees, combining into a single center, moving that here to Pittsburgh for a total of 600 employees initially,” noted Kirby back then.
“And we’ve built the facility for room to grow as U.S. Airways expands over the coming years,” he added.
That turns out to be untrue, as U.S. Airways, now merging with American Airlines, seems poised to move the operations center to Dallas.
“We are very concerned about it,” Allegheny County executive Rich Fitzgerald told KDKA money editor Jon Delano.
Fitzgerald says government officials are trying to keep the center here.
“We have a lot of partners working on this. That’s not to say we have good news yet,” he added.
What irritates many is the facility was built with the help of a $3.25 million grant of state tax dollars.
“We’re hopeful that U.S. Air will honor their commitment to the taxpayers of Pennsylvania and keep that facility open,” said Steven Kratz of the Pa. Department of Community & Economic Development, the agency that provided the grants.
But the legal commitment to stay, negotiated by prior administrations, appears to be for only three years, now expired.
“Those jobs need to stay here for many years. Three years is not enough, quite frankly,” noted Fitzgerald.
Allegheny County owns this property, although U.S. Airways has a 20-year lease with an option to renew for another 20 years. But if the airline closes this facility and wants to get out of this lease, the property could be used for something else.
“If they’re not going to use it, it’s a great facility,” noted Fitzgerald. “We will certainly be looking at exploring other opportunities.”
But nobody can guarantee the U.S. Airways jobs can be kept in Pittsburgh.