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CITY MAY BUY IDLE AIRCRAFT PLANT AIRPORTS DEPARTMENT CONSIDERING LARGE PALMDALE SITE.

Byline: Jim Skeen Staff Writer

PALMDALE - The city of Los Angeles' airports department is considering spending $3 million to purchase the defunct SR Technics America aircraft modification plant.

The Los Angeles World Airports board will vote today on the purchase of the 1 million-square-foot plant located at Avenue P and 30th Street East, which is being sold by the failed SR Technics America with the rest of the company's assets.

``I think it's a good move for the Antelope Valley and a good move for LAWA,'' said David Myers, president of the Greater Antelope Valley Economic Alliance. ``It allows them to market it without it getting tied up in the bankruptcy courts.''

Known as Site 9, the plant includes two massive hangars where B-1B bombers were built by Rockwell International during the 1980s as well as a 44,000-square-foot recreation center used last year by Antelope Valley College as a temporary Palmdale campus.

The land on which the plant sits is already owned by Los Angeles' airports department, which bought the property more than 20 years ago as part of its plans for a giant Palmdale airport.

The plant buildings were built by Rockwell, then were owned by Boeing and finally by SR Technics under a lease arrangement with the airport department.

How quickly LAWA can find a buyer or tenant for the site, particularly in light of the airline industry's post-9-11 woes and Iraqi war fears, remains to be seen.

``Right now, business investments across the country are on hold. That's particularly true in the airline industry,'' Myers said. ``Everybody is waiting to see what's going to happen. Once the aircraft industry stabilizes, you'll see someone look at buying that property.''

To help attract SR Technics America to Palmdale three years ago, LAWA invested more than $12.5 million in Site 9 through the construction of a firefighting deluge system in one of the hangars and in part of another hangar. LAWA is also seeking federal grants to finance a $3.9 million project to finish the fire deluge system in the second hangar.

``LAWA is going to protect its investment,'' Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford said of the purchase plan.

When SR Technics America began to struggle, Palmdale officials hoped that someone would come in and either invest in the company or buy the site and start a new aircraft modification or maintenance business. But no one stepped in, and SR Technics America put the plant up for sale and auctioned off its equipment.

That ended an operation that once employed close to 600 workers and was projected to eventually employ as many as 6,000 workers.

The decision to establish SR Technics America in Palmdale was announced by Gov. Gray Davis in December 1999 and was heralded as a great day for economic development in California.

The Palmdale work force grew steadily until a combination of financial woes of the company's investors in Europe and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, forced a series of cuts and ultimately failure.

SR Technics America's problems are tied to failed expansion plans of the Swiss corporation SAirGroup and the bankruptcy of its flagship company Swissair.

Those problems lead to SAirGroup selling off SR Technics in Switzerland, a sister company of SR Technics America. While the two companies were separate entities, the Palmdale company's business plan called for it to receive funding from its Swiss sister for four years.

CAPTION(S):

2 photos, map

Photo:

(1 -- color -- ran in AV edition only) SR Technics America may have a buyer for its aircraft modification plant: the Los Angeles airports department.

(2 -- ran in AV edition only) Technics America is selling not only the plant, but also the rest of the company's assets.

Gene Blevins/Staff Photographer

Map:

SR Technics site
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Feb 18, 2003
Words:628
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