BRIDGEPORT — More than 240 full-time, well-paying jobs will be created here between now and springtime as part of Japan-based Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ plan to expand its presence and workforce at the North Central West Virginia Airport.
When the expansion is complete, the company will employ more than 750 workers at the complex. The company is currently looking to fill such positions as airplane mechanic apprentice, materials handler and avionics technician. The positions range in salary from $22,000 for materials handler to up to $73,000 a year for avionics technician.
In June, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries closed a $550 million deal to acquire Canada-based Bombardier and provide maintenance, support, refurbishment and marketing for regional aircraft. The deal included purchasing a 145,00-square-foot regional aircraft services facility at the Bridgeport airport complex.
At the time of the acquisition, the company employed more than 300 people at the airport, but that number quickly escalated to more than 500, its current figure. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries expects its expansion to be complete by March 2021.
Gov. Jim Justice traveled to Bridgeport this week to participate in the announcement.
“To me, as a business guy, adding hundreds and hundreds of great jobs for the hard-working West Virginians in this area is the most exciting thing in the world,” said Justice. “Really it’s great for all of West Virginia and I love it more than you’ll ever know.”
The North Central West Virginia Airport is also undergoing $70 million in renovations, including filling two adjacent valleys in order to expand its runway, the development of an aerotech park, and construction of a new $20 million terminal off state Route 279.
Those projects are slated to be complete in late 2023.
“The growth that we’re seeing here is unbelievable,” Justice said. “The opportunities for jobs and for a boost to the economy are off the charts.”
The aerospace industry in North Central West Virginia is estimated to provide more than $1 billion in economic impact annually.
“I am very excited about Mitsubishi being part of this community. I think the opportunities they will create and the potential for the amount of jobs they’ll bring to the area means a tremendous amount to us,” said Rick Rock, director of the North Central West Virginia airport. “The fact that there are more than 500 people there now and they’re going to hire another 240 people by March, it’s a great thing.”
Rock said the news is particularly welcome as the local economy continues to battle back from a coronavirus-induced recession.
“Considering the economic downturn based on COVID, the potential this announcement brings is really out of this world. Ten years from now, something like this could really create an economic boom the likes of which we’ve never seen in West Virginia,” Rock said. “We’re glad Mitsubishi is investing and expanding their footprint at our airport. We look forward to working with them for years to come.”
Tracy Miller, president of the Mid-Atlantic Aerospace Complex, promotes the airport as a means to attract industrial clients from around the globe. Miller credits regional organizations with working together to improve the airport’s facilities and help grow commerce within the complex.
“We have a team and an airport authority that’s been looking at the layout of our airport, which has the longest commercial runway in the state, as well as land we’ve already developed and land we’re now developing. It’s already helped us attract new industry,” she said.
Miller said plans have been made to ensure each business at the airport park has abundant space in which to work and grow.
“We’ve looked at all our existing industries here to make sure they each have a campus for them to work their magic now and into the future,” she said. “I think in a time where there’s so much unknown, the fact that we have diverse economic sectors in North Central West Virginia, including our aerospace industry and its $1.1 billion economic impact, is a comforting notion.”
Patsy Trecost, Harrison County Commissioner, welcomes Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ expansion to the region.
“It’s not just about Harrison County this type of announcement is changing North Central West Virginia. These are going to be permanent jobs here which will allow people to continue to move into the state and make this area their home,” he said.
Trecost said the types of jobs that accompany an expansion such at Mitsubishi’s could be a game-changer for a state that’s seen its share of industries decline.
“We want our children locally to have career options, of course, but we also want to be inviting for others to live and grow in the state. We’re the only state in the nation that’s losing population, but we can curb that by inviting people to move here by providing excellent job opportunities,” Trecost said.