Tampa International Airport in Talks to Fill Hangar

Jul. 13--TAMPA -- Despite the objections of a competing firm, Tampa International Airport began negotiations Thursday with an airplane maintenance company that wants to move into the airport's huge, vacant US Airways hangar and bring hundreds of jobs to the area.

Pemco World Air Services, which maintains jets for carriers such as Southwest Airlines and Northwest Airlines at its Alabama headquarters, wants to expand its operations to Tampa.

"Airline mechanic jobs pay very well," said a pleased Louis Miller, executive director of TIA. "This will bring 400 quality jobs back into our community."

The cavernous hangar on the southeastern edge of the airport has stood empty for more than four years ever since US Airways abruptly closed it just before Thanksgiving 2002 and cut 300 jobs -- mechanics and other workers.

The Hillsborough County Aviation Authority on Thursday gave Miller two months to negotiate a lease with Pemco.

If negotiations go well, the company hopes to start working in the hangar by the end of this year or early next year, said Pemco chief executive Ronald Aramini. It could have 400 to 450 people working there by 2009, he said.

Pemco plans to perform heavy maintenance on planes, required inspections and replacement of parts of the air frame. The company has outgrown its quarters in Dothan, Ala.

A competing company, Astar Air Cargo Holdings, wanted to build a heavy maintenance operation in the hangar. Astar tried to get the airport to negotiate with it and Pemco at the same time.

But authority chairman Stephen Mitchell said Pemco's proposal was significantly better. For one thing, Pemco guaranteed the airport a minimum income of $25,000 a month, or $300,000 a year.

In other business Thursday, the Aviation Authority:

--Gave Miller, the airport's director, a 4 percent raise from his $237,612 salary after authority members gave his performance high ratings.

--Authorized the airport to use eminent domain to acquire three pieces of property owned by businesses in the Drew Park area. They're in the way of a road that TIA plans to build leading to a new air cargo complex.

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