LIMESTONE, Maine — It was “great news on a Friday afternoon,” Tim Corbett, chief executive officer of Maine Military Authority, said, as word came that the Aroostook County company had secured work from the Army National Guard that will keep the current work force employed into the first quarter of fiscal year 2012.
Members of the state’s congressional delegation confirmed Friday that the National Guard Bureau is sending 50 5-ton trucks to MMA for immediate work. According to MMA, each vehicle represents 700 hours of work.
“We were very excited to get the news,” Corbett said Friday afternoon. “It came at a great time, because we were just about to have to tell 50 of our employees that they would be laid off this summer.”
Corbett said company officials and members of the state’s congressional delegation have been exploring different avenues to secure more work for the facility, which employs 200 people.
The Maine Military Authority refurbishes vehicles, mostly Humvees, for the Army National Guard, and thus far has refurbished more than 10,000 Humvees in its 400,000-square-foot industrial facility.
“We have been relentless, and it has paid off,” he said. “This is great news on a Friday afternoon.”
It has been a rough few years for the Limestone facility, as it has had to absorb massive federal budget cutbacks. There were 350 employees at MMA at the start of the year, but 150 were laid off on March 1 when work dried up.
MMA has received funding from the Department of Defense in the past, but as the United States has begun to draw down troops in Iraq, funding has begun to dry up.
Because of federal cuts and the downturn in the economy, MMA also has not secured as many National Guard contracts as in past years. Officials at MMA had been trying for several months to find other work to replace what has been lost from the Guard.
In 2009, the congressional delegation helped secure $20 million in a defense spending bill to sustain jobs at MMA.
U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Defense Appropriations Committee, repeatedly has urged the Army and National Guard to explore additional work opportunities for MMA as the need for Humvees has declined. She has brought several top Army procurement officials to visit the facility multiple times, most recently in April 2010.
“I am pleased that the Army and the National Guard Bureau have once again recognized the quality and craftsmanship of the workforce at MMA,” Collins said in a written statement released Friday afternoon. “This work will prevent the layoffs of fifty dedicated employees whose jobs were on the line.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud also was pleased to hear news of the additional work.
“This new work means the layoffs that were scheduled to take place in June will be avoided,” Michaud, who has been working with MMA and the rest of the delegation to secure more work for the Limestone facility, said in a written statement. “This is fantastic news for the dedicated and talented employees at the Maine Military Authority. It’s also great news for the region’s economy. I am confident that the work done on these trucks will further impress their customers and lead to more work.”
Corbett said he expects work to begin on the vehicles next month.