West Virginia officials wary of Bombardier trade dispute

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. (AP) — State officials are expressing hope that a trade dispute over Canadian aircraft won’t affect hundreds of people working at the company’s service center in West Virginia.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that about 400 people work at Bombardier’s commercial aircraft service center in Bridgeport. The facility at North Central West Virginia Airport in October picked up 89 jobs from Bombardier’s shuttered maintained operations in Georgia.
But the company is locked in a trade dispute with Chicago-based Boeing, which argues that the price of C Series passenger jets that Bombardier charged to Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines was artificially low. The U.S. Commerce Department sided with Boeing and has proposed stiff duties on Bombardier jets.
“They’ve been a big part of our success and employ a lot of people,” airport director Rick Rock said of Bombardier. “So as far as our airport and the state of West Virginia is concerned, we really appreciate having them here.”
Rock said heavy tariffs would affect aircraft sales and hurt operations at the service center.
“Obviously, if the aircraft they’re selling isn’t marketable because of those tariffs, then there’s certainly going to be a diminished need for repairing aircraft here,” he said.
West Virginia’s congressional delegation has also taken notice. Rep. David McKinley and Sens. Joe Manchin and Shelley Moore Capito have written a letter urging the federal government to be aware of “the potential for unintended economic consequences presented by this case.”
“We support enforcement of U.S. trade laws to counteract unfair or unlawful activities by foreign interests, but ask that you consider closely the merits of this case along with the broader impacts on U.S. jobs and economic benefits in our communities,” the letter says.
Gov. Jim Justice has voiced similar concerns in his own letter, saying Bombardier’s West Virginia Air Center “anchors an aerospace cluster in North-Central West Virginia, and is a major factor in the region’s economic growth and vitality.”
Bombardier in October announced the sale of the C Series business to European aerospace giant Airbus, which makes planes in Mobile, Alabama. As part of the deal, the C Series headquarters would remain in the Montreal area but a second assembly line for the 100- to 150-seat plane will be set up at Airbus’ facility in Alabama, to circumvent import duties to the United States.
Boeing has called it a questionable deal by two government-subsidized competitors.
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Information from: The Charleston Gazette-Mail, http://wvgazettemail.com.