New Piper Adds To Staff

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As layoffs continue at some aircraft manufacturers, New Piper has actually added about 100 employees since being purchased by American Capital Strategies about six months ago. The company now employs about 820 people, about half its full-production complement of 1,600. Spokesman Mark Miller told TCPalm.com that a resumption of engine deliveries from Lycoming (previously affected by a crankshaft debacle) was a major factor in the hiring trend. Production was halted on several Piper models last year when Lycoming recalled 540-series engines to replace their crankshafts. But, as with many other manufacturers, it was a federal tax provision that powered Piper's recovery and the company is going to extraordinary lengths to help ensure it is extended. Miller said Piper CEO Chuck Suma is writing every member of Congress urging an extension of the bonus depreciation provision past its scheduled expiration date at the end of 2004. The provision, cited by most manufacturers for an increase in sales in the past year, allows companies to depreciate capital purchases, like airplanes, at a much higher rate than usual in the first year. The tax break amounts to a substantial price discount for many buyers. Allowing the program to expire "will hurt the momentum we've built up," said Miller. "This is a very fragile recovery. We need to see a very solid economic rebound before we can rebound solidly ourselves."