Northeast Times

Legislators tour local copter plant

  • Getting ready to fly: State legislators visit the AgustaWestland helicopter plant at the Northeast Airport. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTOS

  • This helicopter will become a ranger rescue copter in Maryland. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTOS

  • The representatives walk around the plant and look at various parts and assembly lines that will eventually yield a finished helicopter. MARIA POUCHNIKOVA / TIMES PHOTOS

That heli­copter fly­ing over­head might have been made right here in North­east Phil­adelphia on Red Li­on Road. North­east Air­port-based Agust­aWest­land’s 560 em­ploy­ees make more than 50 heli­copters a year, which are sold all over the world. The com­pany’s copters can even be spot­ted in the movies. One was in the latest James Bond film, Sky­fall.

Agust­aWest­land Phil­adelphia Corp. is a great ex­ample of a Pennsylvania man­u­fac­turer, said state Rep. Eli Evankovich, co- chair­man of the newly formed House Man­u­fac­tur­ing Caucus. And, said the West­ern Pennsylvania Re­pub­lic­an, the mem­bers of the 100-mem­ber-strong bi-par­tis­an caucus want to learn how to bring more man­u­fac­tur­ers to the com­mon­wealth.

Caucus mem­bers also want the com­pan­ies already here to thrive. To find out what those man­u­fac­tur­ers do, how they do it and what they need, caucus mem­bers have been tour­ing Pennsylvania com­pan­ies, and vis­ited Agusta on Aug. 8.

Loc­al le­gis­lat­ors Ed Neilson (D-169th dist.) and Mark Co­hen (D-202nd dist.) were among the law­makers who toured the com­pany with its CEO, Wil­li­am Hunt, a 1979 Arch­bish­op Ry­an grad.

“It is im­port­ant to learn about these man­u­fac­tur­ers, and what al­lows them to prosper here so we can cre­ate sim­il­ar con­di­tions all across the state,” Neilson said. 

“It is too easy to sit in Har­ris­burg and dis­cuss bills which af­fect these busi­nesses without really un­der­stand­ing that what we do af­fects the live­li­hoods of so many,” said caucus co-chair­man, Rep. John Gal­lo­way, a Lower Bucks County Demo­crat.

“First-hand know­ledge will al­low us to work as ad­voc­ates on be­half of the man­u­fac­tur­ing in­dustry and de­vel­op policy ini­ti­at­ives that im­prove the com­mon­wealth’s jobs cli­mate,” Evankovich said. 

“I be­lieve the tour serves many pur­poses,” Co­hen said in an Aug. 9 phone in­ter­view. “We are try­ing to gain in­form­a­tion on pub­lic-private part­ner­ships in cre­at­ing jobs.”

He said Agusta leases its space from the city-owned North­east Air­port.

“We are in­ter­ested in work­force de­vel­op­ment — edu­ca­tion and train­ing,” Co­hen ad­ded, and “We are in­ter­ested in ques­tions of tax­a­tion and tax ex­emp­tions.”

Evankovich said more than a half-mil­lion Pennsylvani­ans work in man­u­fac­tur­ing. “Its growth is crit­ic­al to our eco­nom­ic fu­ture,” he said.

Co­hen said Agusta has grown from 160 em­ploy­ees to 560. He said Hunt told the le­gis­lat­ors that he fills the ma­jor­ity of jobs by re­cruit­ment and then trains his new em­ploy­ees. 

Neilson said most of the com­pany’s em­ploy­ees are loc­al and more than half are vet­er­ans. Co­hen said the com­pany act­ively re­cruits vet­er­ans.

Oth­er le­gis­lat­ors who toured Agusta were Mont­gomery County Re­pub­lic­an Marcy Toep­el, Bucks Demo­crat Tina Dav­is and Mi­chael Schlossberg, a Le­high County Demo­crat. ••

Agust­aWest­land

Ad­dress: North­east Air­port, off Red Li­on Road

CEO: Wil­li­am Hunt, who also is co-chair of May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter’s Man­u­fac­tur­ing Task Force

Em­ploy­ees: More than 560

Makes: AW119Kx and AS­139 heli­copters on the as­sembly line of the 275,000-square-foot fa­cil­ity on 39 acres. Agust­aWest­land also serves a parts de­pot and a re­pair fa­cil­ity.

Years in Phil­adelphia: 33

2012 Rev­en­ue: $771 mil­lion

Pro­duc­tion: 52 heli­copters were as­sembled in 2012. Forty-five per­cent of the com­pany’s Phil­adelphia pro­duc­tion is ex­por­ted.

You can reach at jloftus@bsmphilly.com.

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