Matt Dykeman came to work at the US Airways hangar at Tampa International Airport a couple of days before Thanksgiving 2002 to find the doors locked and his job gone.
Some 300 employees scattered, finding other local work or leaving for mechanic jobs with US Airways in Charlotte, Pittsburgh or Philadelphia. Many, like Dykeman, never thought they'd never work on big jets in Tampa again.
On Friday, he celebrated the reopening of the cavernous hangar by his new employer, Pemco World Air Services, along with company executives, airport officials and local dignitaries.
Pemco, based in Dothan, Ala., will perform scheduled maintenance on jets for major airlines and cargo carriers in Tampa. Workers inspect and repair the airframe, mechanical and electronic systems in jets, much as an auto mechanic does the 30,000-mile check on your car.
Pemco has hired about 60 new employees in Tampa, with plans to expand to 400 within a year to 15 months, said chief executive Wake Smith. Promising an average salary of at least $41,516, the company is eligible for $1.23-million in state and local tax refunds under Florida's Qualified Target Industry program.
One of the big attractions of Tampa for Pemco, said Smith, is the large pool of skilled mechanics, many formerly with US Airways or Delta Air Lines, which closed a hangar at Tampa International in 2005 and eliminated 300 jobs.
Work on Pemco's first plane in Tampa, an MD-11 operated by Gemini Air Cargo, is under way. Southwest Airlines and Northwest Airlines are two of the company's biggest customers at its Dothan facility.
Pemco will pitch both carriers to contract for work in Tampa, where they could move jets quickly back into their route system, Smith said. Southwest already parks 14 jets each night at Tampa International for flights the next day.
Dykeman built homes and sold real estate after leaving US Airways with a bad taste in his mouth. Pemco doesn't have the same corporate mentality, said the 48-year-old avionic inspector. "It was a great surprise to have some stability, a future.''
Steve Huettel can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3384.