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Diamond May Lose Key Workers

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Diamond Aircraft says other companies are snapping up engineers and other workers laid off three weeks ago when the London, Ontario, Canada planemaker suspended its D-Jet program. The company has run out of money to continue the development of the D-Jet and is waiting for a decision on a $35 million loan from the Canadian government. A total of 213 people were laid off and within a week, Piper held a job fair looking for engineers for its aggressive Altaire jet program. Piper spokeswoman Jackie Carlon told the London Free Press that as many as 25 engineers may be making the move from London to Vero Beach. Meanwhile, the Free Press is also reporting that Bombardier is rumored to have made offers to 85 workers for jobs on its Lear 85 development program in Wichita. Diamond CEO Peter Maurer said the brain drain will delay the D-Jet and add costs. "It is dire. We would lose employees. It is a difficult situation for everyone," he said.

Maurer's comments come a week after a war of words erupted between Diamond owner Christian Dries and the local member of Parliament over the fate of the loan and its potential impact on Diamond. MP Ed Holder said Dries threatened to close the London plant if the loan wasn't approved and make the announcement just before a May 2 federal election. Dries says Holder took his comments out of context and has denied threatening to close the plant. Holder has since reiterated his assessment of the discussion with Dries and he's sounding less enthusiastic about Diamond's request. Diamond has since asked the government for $8 million over the next four months as an interim measure, something the company believes could be handled by the bureaucracy rather than in the politically charged atmosphere of the election campaign. Holder has rejected that notion, however, saying the revised request must go through the same "due diligence" and suggesting the company look to the government of Ontario or the city of London for the $8 million. "Those might be avenues (to take)," Holder told the Free Press.

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