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Keeping division in Everett was best for ATS, company officials say

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By Michelle Dunlop
Herald Writer
Published: Tuesday, February 14, 2012, 12:01 a.m.
EVERETT -- When Aviation Technical Services agreed to lease one of its hangars at Paine Field to the Boeing Co., the company could have moved the components portion of the business almost anywhere.
But that's not what the aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul company did.
"We decided there was not much of a choice," said Matt Yerbic, ATS president. "We knew we had to keep it here in Everett," because of the talent pool and the proximity of customers and other suppliers.
Yerbic spoke Feb. 9 at the ATS Components division's new location, just off Airport Road and a couple of miles from the company's main overhaul buildings at the south end of the airport. ATS moved components work late last year into the newly renovated 70,000-square foot facility at 2600 W. Casino Road in Everett. The company and local government and industry leaders gathered to mark ATS' decision to remain in the area.
ATS employs more than 1,000 people here, with most of those workers at the company's main campus at Paine Field, where ATS regularly maintains and repairs aircraft -- mostly Boeing jets -- for airline customers. In 2010, ATS let Boeing take over one of its hangars, which the jet maker is using to rework dozens of 787s. Boeing has to make changes to already-built Dreamliners to bring them up to delivery standard.
Last year, ATS put up a building at Paine Field to help offset the loss of the hangar. It shed about 100 positions as the company's footprint shrunk. But Yerbic noted that the 100 positions lost allowed Boeing to add about 4,000 workers at ATS's former hangar.
"We have a little less capacity than we used to," Yerbic said.
But he hopes to double employment in a few years at the new components site celebrated Feb. 9, where 100 people restore pieces of Boeing jets -- doors, wing edges and rudders -- to flyable condition. About 25 percent of the material worked on by ATS's components division goes back into airplanes that are being overhauled by the company at Paine Field, Yerbic said. The rest are used as spares for airlines like Southwest, Delta and Alaska.
It's a different segment of the aerospace business that John Monroe, who consults for Economic Alliance Snohomish County, would like to see grow. Monroe noted that ATS adds diversity to the aerospace industry in the county because it provides maintenance on Boeing jets for the life of the aircraft.
"Those are service demands (and jobs) that will never disappear," said Monroe, a retired Boeing executive.
ATS has a reputation in the industry for "getting it done," said Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson. The city is doing its part to retain and attract businesses like ATS, he said.
The same is true for Snohomish County, said County Executive Aaron Reardon.
"In a competitive economy, there's nowhere more competitive than Snohomish County," he said.
Part of staying competitive means having enough skilled workers for not only ATS but also Boeing, which tends to rob suppliers of more-skilled workers during an up cycle in the commercial jet market. Yerbic said ATS is looking for about 70 workers in Everett.
"Many of the people in this (components' facility) have been part of the aerospace ecosystem in the Puget Sound region for decades," he said.
Michelle Dunlop: 425-339-3454 or mdunlop@heraldnet.com.

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