Air park adds jobs as Amazon-related layoffs hit

Amazon will start collecting sales tax Monday.

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Amazon will start collecting sales tax Monday.

The fallout of Amazon’s decision to build a hub at a Northern Kentucky airport is hitting hard at Wilmington Air Park in Clinton County as a company makes plans to lay off more than 300 employees.

Three subsidiary companies of Air Transport Services Group will lay off 335 employee in cargo handling and flight planning jobs, according to a notice to the state.

The move was expected, said Daniel Evers, executive director of the Clinton County Port Authority, which owns the air park, a former Air Force base.

Those jobs can be replaced “over time,” Evers said.

One opportunity was seized recently. Evers said the air park last week announced a new tenant. The Columbus-based law offices of Robert A. Schuerger Co. leased 4,400 square feet of office space at the park. The business will operate a legal office and a call center there, with 50 new jobs expected.

The new office “diversifies our employment base,” Evers said. The company is new to Wilmington and Clinton County and is a new kind of operation for the air park, he said.

The lease term is about five years, with a five-year renewal option, the park said.

“We continue to pursue aviation and air park-related opportunities, as well as more broadly manufacturing and distribution opportunities,” Evers said.

“We’re obviously going to redouble those efforts,” he added.

A month ago, Joe Hete, president and chief executive of Air Transport Services Group, which is based at the Wilmington facility, told this news outlet that about 300 people would likely lose their jobs at air park as a result of Amazon's decision at the time to build a global cargo hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

On Tuesday, Hete said a recent job fair was held at the air park to assist those who are subject to layoffs. Also, a severance-retention program is being offered to keep those workers employed until the end of the April, when the Amazon operation is scheduled to be shut down.

A spokesman for Amazon, Jim Billimoria, said in an email that Amazon plans to offer job opportunities at any Amazon site across the U.S. to those involved in the package sorting operation that happens today in Wilmington.

At one time, Amazon’s relationship with the local air park held great promise.

In early 2016, ATSG announced that online giant Amazon was positioned to become not only the company’s most important customer but a part-owner of the company.

Amazon was leasing six ATSG Boeing 767s to assist in the burgeoning delivery side of its business. Hete said last month that the leasing arrangement remains in force.

At the time of Amazon’s decision, Gov. John Kasich said Amazon picked Northern Kentucky over Wilmington in large part because the airport in Covington has plenty of capacity and the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky metro area has the workforce.

“They were very worried about the workforce,” Kasich said at at the time.

He noted that his administration was heavily involved in wooing Amazon but in the end the state can’t dictate where a company locates.

“They’re still going to be here in our region,” Kasich said.

The air park and Wilmington have weathered far worse storms. When air cargo carrier DHL shut down its hub at Wilmington in 2008, an estimated 8,000 area jobs were lost.

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