By Mary Grady, Contributing Editor
Citing a "deepening global recession," Piper Aircraft, based in Vero Beach, Fla., abruptly laid off another 300 workers on Tuesday. "People aren't buying planes," Piper spokesman Mark Miller said in a statement. "Similar to many other businesses, general aviation has been experiencing one of the worst downturns in its history, and sales of airplanes have sharply deteriorated over the past few months. These unforeseeable business circumstances are virtually unprecedented and have caused the company to take agonizing and painful actions." The workers were laid off effective immediately, and several of them spoke with local reporters as they left the plant. "I am still in shock," Robert Krauss, who worked for Piper for three years, told TCPalm. "I am worried about my house, my kids, my wife. ... I don't know what we're going to do." Miller said the company regrets the pain caused by the layoffs, and added that Piper will do all it can to rehire impacted employees when the economy improves. But meanwhile, the 650-plus workers who remain can expect a one-week furlough in April and another one in July, without pay, to prevent the buildup of unnecessary inventory. These shutdowns will affect everyone in the company, including management, Miller said. "If market conditions continue to deteriorate, it may be necessary for the company to take additional actions," he added. Piper will do "everything possible" to preserve its remaining jobs and ensure the company remains viable, Miller said.
In 2007, Piper received a total of $10.7 million as the first installment on $32 million in incentives from the state and county, meant to keep the planemaker in Vero Beach -- but continuing payments are based on the company maintaining minimum employment levels. On Dec. 24, the company said it would defer the next installment and CEO Jim Bass said it's unclear when that might change. "While we're not sure about how the economy will turn out, we may delay the second payment until the economy improves," Bass said last month.
Podcast interview with Mark Miller