Not So Happy Holidays

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Cessna Axes 1,500

With the economy's Scrooge and perhaps some help from the Grinch of terrorism, GA's Big Three (and their increasingly nervous workforces) are facing the blackest Christmas in years. And nobody in the business is expecting any gifts under the tree until, perhaps, the 2004 holiday season. "We thought it had bottomed out and was starting up," Cessna spokeswoman Marilyn Richwine told The Wichita Eagle. "It sort of plateaued." Richwine announced Thursday that 1,500 Cessna workers, most of them Citation division employees, would be laid off early in the New Year. That brings to 2,300 the number of jobs lost at GA's biggest employer, which has (had) 12,000 employees worldwide. Not going it alone, Cessna has the company of Raytheon, which will have laid off 2,200 by the end of the year and Bombardier, which will have chopped 924 jobs and furloughed 500 employees. Not to be left out, Raytheon is also moving its annual two-week shutdown to January from July. All of the companies expect the next year or two to bring difficult days, hoping the economy will improve as the world adjusts to post-9/11 realities. However, one of the aftermath issues worrying aerospace analyst Richard Aboulafia is the imposition of GA security measures that may restrict the freedom that is one of business aviation's big selling points. In any case, it takes six months or a year of prosperity and relative certainty before business starts ordering aircraft, said Aboulafia.

...Wichita Keeps Brave Face

As you can imagine, the loss of thousands of high-paying jobs is hard on a city's economy and Wichita's political and business leaders don't have much choice except to tell it like it is. "We've been telling people that Wichita has been hit as hard as any city in America," said Mayor Bob Knight, who spent last week at the annual National League of Cities meeting in Salt Lake City. Wichita saw the trouble coming and set up a community-based task force to try and cushion the blow as much as possible. Among the busier spots in town is the Laid-Off Workers Assistance Center created to help workers through lean times. But there are also always those who can find that single ray of sunshine in a blackened sky and Janet Harrah, director of Wichita State University's Center for Business Development and Economic Research, seems to have claimed that distinction. Harrah noted that while 10,000 layoffs have been announced "only" 6,600 "net job losses," those outside the normal retirements, quittings and firings, have occurred. The president of the local chamber of commerce, Tim Witsman, offered his insight. "I had national media people calling me and asking if people were jumping off buildings in Wichita," Witsman said. "Of course not. We're a manufacturing town. We don't respond that way. We've lived through this before."