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Boeing's Helena Workers Get Two-Decade Job Security

Mon, 02/28/2011 - 3:41am

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Workers at a plant in Helena recently acquired by Boeing will likely have steady work for another two decades following the Air Force's decision to award a $35 billion defense contract to the company, a Boeing spokesman said.

The Helena facility makes the main landing gear beams for 767 widebody jetliners, which the Air Force intends to use for its new fleet of aerial refueling tankers.

"That program, due to orders, was coming to an end," Boeing spokesman Don Schmidt told the Independent Record. "This contract really extends it out for another 20 years."

Boeing acquired the plant in Helena in November from Summit Aeronatics Group. About 135 workers are employed at the facility.

The defense contract was announced Thursday by the Air Force. The new jets will replace the Air Force's aging fleet of KC-135 tankers — another Boeing plane — many of which date to the Eisenhower era.

"This news means jobs for Boeing-Helena and Montanans for years to come," said U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., in a statement. "We're working hard at every level to boost manufacturing in Montana and this brings us another step toward good-paying jobs to lead the economy forward. I'm pleased to see an American company win the contract but even more thrilled that this will result in real jobs for Montana workers."

He said 13 years ago Boeing shut the Summit Aeronatics Group out of its list of suppliers, but changed its mind after Baucus invited the company to the state to meet with Summit.

The Boeing staff was so impressed, Baucus said, it added Summit to its list of suppliers.

Baucus said that Boeing told him the company now has 30 suppliers and vendors in the Montana and spends more than $7.5 million annually in the state.

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