Posted at: 10/03/2013 5:46 PM
Updated at: 10/03/2013 6:06 PM
By: Travis Dill
AAR created hundreds of jobs in Duluth and with dozens of open positions still open the company has turned to Lake Superior College to train future employees.
The old Northwest Airlines facility was vacant for years, but now employees of the aircraft maintenance company AAR are filling the hanger with activity.
Mayor Don Ness called the company an absolute success at a press conference on Thursday. Ness helped announce a partnership between AAR and Lake Superior College.
The college is awaiting state and federal approval for a 2-year mechanic training program, but the school's president Pat Johns said classes could start as soon as next fall.
“Hopefully the long term is we get local people that go through local education and training and then work for AAR and other aviation companies in this area,” Johns said.
Working so closely with Lake Superior College is a big benefit for AAR according to Maintenance Director Mark Ketterer.
“Typically when we go to an A&P school they turn out a generic mechanic, which is great for us because they've got the background, but what we want to do is tailor the curriculum to be more specific to what we do here at AAR,” Ketterer said.
The new training is needed because AAR has grown faster than expected. In less than a year the company exceeded a 3-year goal, and AAR now has 276 full-time workers punching the clock with 40 positions still open.
“To go from an empty hanger a year ago to where we are today is really a remarkable experience. A lot of people put in a lot of hours to make this happen, not just here at AAR, but in the City of Duluth as well,” Ketterer said.
He said skilled workers are needed, but the company had trouble finding workers for entry-level positions as well.
“I think it's because people didn't understand what we do here at AAR. We don't just fix airplanes. We need a lot of support people to help us,” Ketterer said.
He said people considering jobs at the company do have trouble finding affordable housing.
At Thursday's announcement Mayor Ness acknowledged a vacancy rate of less than 1 percent in the rental market, and he called for development by private investors to help the city maintain growth.