A Bangor city councilor wants to spend as much as $2 million in city funds to create a program to train airplane mechanics for a local company that overhauls private jets.
City Council Chairman Joe Baldacci proposed the idea at a city council workshop on Monday, saying that the city funds could entice a Maine college to start a program.
“I think we need to take an economic leadership because no one else is,” he said.
Several colleges, including Eastern Maine Community College, the University of Maine at Augusta’s Bangor campus, and the United Technologies Center have told Baldacci that that starting such a program would be too expensive, he said.
But there are many unanswered questions about his proposal, such as how many jobs it would create, where it would be located, how it would work, and how it would impact the local economy. And the city already spent $3 million a few years ago renovating hangars at Bangor International Airport, allowing the company, C&L Aviation Group to expand its operations. The company is paying the city back through a 17-year lease agreement with BIA, said the airport’s director Tony Caruso.
Baldacci came up with the idea after speaking with C&L’s CEO Chris Kilgour earlier this month and learning about the company’s need for new skilled employees, he said. The region has a number of available skilled jobs that pay well in a number of different areas but a lack of people with the proper training to fill them, he said.
“He has a need to employ more people but they have to be skilled mechanics and we don’t have a facility to provide that,” Baldacci said.
Kilgour did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday morning.
Baldacci wanted to bond the funds for starting the program, which could require a citywide vote.
Councilor Cary Weston also appeared to support the idea and spoke about the company’s immediate need for such training.
No one spoke against the idea at the workshop, but several city councilors said they first needed more information about the proposal, including the need for it and examples of similar training programs.
“Are we modeling this after any other mechanic school in the country? What does that usually entail?” City Councilor Gibran Graham said.
“Currently, are there other companies that are already in place in our region that could use those skilled laborers or are we really going to be putting a bunch of people out there and trying to attract people from the sky to come?”
Since relocating from Australia to Bangor in 2010, C&L has grown from 20 employees to more than 160 mechanics, painters, upholsterers and others who play a part in repairing or overhauling regional and corporate aircrafts.
Baldacci expects the program to train about 50 people per year and teach skills that could translate to other mechanic jobs in the market. Last year, Kilgour said he wanted to eventually add as many 200 or more employees.