AIRCRAFT MAKER TO BOOST GF ROLE
COMPANY SEEKS EQUIPMENT UPGRADE AND NEW WORKERS FOR LOCAL PLANT
Tu-Uyen Tran, Herald Staff Writer
Grand Forks Herald
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Cirrus Design’s Grand Forks plant is already playing a big role in the company, but plans are afoot to make that role even bigger.
The aircraft maker wants to concentrate on assembly work at its Duluth home base, and channel all fabrication to Grand Forks.
To that end, Cirrus is hiring more workers and seeking to upgrade its Industrial Park facility, owned by the city.
Top on Cirrus’ wish list is a more robust ventilation system that would keep summer and spring humidity at bay. Moisture can weaken the composite materials that go into Cirrus’ planes.
A bigger parking lot is also in the works, allowing Cirrus to hire even more workers and bring relief to those who must now park on the lawn and side streets.
Physically, the Grand Forks plant fills all the company’s needs, said Bill King, vice president of Cirrus Design, but climate control is barely adequate. This is no fault of the city, he said, but the fault of Cirrus doing more at the plant than was intended.
The company’s planes are made mostly of lightweight, high-strength composite materials formed from fiberglass and resins. Moisture causes weakness in the materials because it interferes with the bonding process, according to Grand Forks plant manager John Hitchcock.
This August’s mugginess forced Cirrus to rent portable air conditioning units but they were borderline effective, he said.
Currently, the plant here makes only the fuselage, some internal parts and the tail unit. The company wants it to make the wings and floors, too, requiring more workers.
That process has begun. In the past two months, Cirrus’ Grand Forks work force has grown by some 14 percent to 145, about the same employment level seen before February’s companywide layoffs. The number of workers is expected to reach nearly 170 by the time the plant upgrade is done.
Hitchcock said he continues to hire new workers and has raised wages to make the jobs more attractive.
Talks about the ventilation system are at the earliest stages, according to interim urban development director Terry Hanson. Cirrus’ engineers and consultants have not decided what sort of system is needed. As landlord, the city would pay for it and pass the cost on to the company.
The parking lot expansion is further along with bids expected to come in within a few weeks, Hanson said. Once completed, he said, the lot’s current 80-stall capacity would expand to 130.
Hitchcock said he’d like to see both projects done by spring because humidity can rise as early as late-March when snow begins melting.
Tu-Uyen Tran reports on business. Contact him at 780-1248, (800) 477-6572, ext. 248, or email@example.com.