Posted at: 05/05/2014 3:31 PM
Updated at: 05/05/2014 6:13 PM
By: Travis Dill
Leaders at Cirrus Aircraft reacted on Monday to the death of former 8th District Representative Jim Oberstar. They said the aviation industry in the Twin Ports owes much success to his passion for transportation.
William King, Vice President of Business Administration at Cirrus Aircraft, said he was stunned to hear of Oberstar's death on Saturday. King said he lost more than a congressman and aviation supporter; he lost a friend.
“We'd give each other big bear hugs when we said hello instead of shaking hands, and the standing joke was, 'Have you hugged your congressman today?' And it was great fun,” King said.
He said Oberstar's personality and passion for aerospace helped convince Cirrus to move to Duluth over 20 years ago.
“We had actually flown out and sat down with him in his office in 1993 with, then mayor, Gary Doty and had a long conversation about where we were looking to locate our company. And his response was, 'Well, that's an easy decision. You can locate anywhere you want as long as it's Duluth,'” King said.
He said Oberstar also helped bring together the Northern Aero Alliance. The group of 35 aerospace companies bond together to sustain a strong local industry according to King.
“2,500 jobs isn't insignificant when you think about 2,500 jobs as 2,500 families that are enjoying a meaningful livelihood because of much of the work that Jim had his hand in,” King said.
He said Oberstar helped create at least 10,000 more jobs across the country by helping pass the General Aviation Revitalization Act in 1994. King said that reform reinvigorated the industry nationwide.
King said Oberstar has helped the aviation industry soar in the Northland, but said Oberstar would not be satisfied to glide on that success.
“He would look at that and he would tell you today, 'Don't stop now. This is just a really good start.' That's how he would define this discussion today,” King said.
He said the industry will feel Oberstar's absence, and they'll tip their wings in his memory.
For more coverage of Oberstar's accomplishments and reaction to his death click here.