Sikorsky staying for a while

Stratford was pretty close to losing Sikorsky Aircraft, according to Gov. Dannel Malloy.

“On June 2, this [Sikorsky] was going to another state,” Malloy said Wednesday. But “we turned it around and we won.”

Perhaps Wednesday will be considered an early victory lap.

Malloy joined executives from Sikorsky’s parent company Lockheed Martin and state and Stratford representatives Wednesday to celebrate a nearly finalized pact between the state and Lockheed that will keep the famed helicopter manufacturer in town through at least 2032.

Under the proposed plan, Sikorsky’s Main Street headquarters would be used to produce nearly 200 CH-53K King Stallion heavy lift helicopters through at least June 2032. As part of the plan, Sikorsky would have the chance to earn up to $220 million over the 16-year seal if it meets targets for employment, increased in-state supply chain spending and capital expenditures. The company would have to retain and grow a full-time employment base to more than 8,000 and nearly double its spending with suppliers throughout the state.

The agreement can be extended beyond June 2032 should the underlying federal contract be lengthened, state officials said.

Sikorsky President Dan Schultz said the proposed agreement is good for all parties as it will allow a technologically advanced lift helicopter to be built in state.

“This proposal is good. It’s good for Connecticut, it’s good for the Connecticut economy, it’s good for Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin. It’s also good for our supply chain and all the people that support the [CH-53K],” he said. “But it’s also good for our customer, the United States Marine Corps.”  

Mayor John Harkins said Sikorsky remains important to Stratford and he’s excited for the company’s future in town.

Harkins also made note of naysayers who feared the town’s largest employer might leave.

“For all those folks that keep saying that Sikorsky is going to leave, guess what? They’re not,” Harkins said. “The commitment today speaks volumes.”

While Malloy and Lockheed officials are happy, more work remains to be done. The deal must be approved by the General Assembly and the Teamsters Local 1150, which represents Sikorsky employees.

Malloy expects the deal will be approved, noting that the consequences of not having Sikorsky in Connecticut are “rather dire.” Schultz said that Lockheed had explored its options on new locations since last November.

“The agreement that we’ve reached with Sikorsky assumes that the agreement we’ve reached with Sikorsky will be approved. I’ll leave it at that,” Malloy said.

State lawmakers have to agree to the deal by Oct. 7.

General Assembly leaders appeared to be in support of the deal. House Speaker Brendan Sharkey noted that people  take pride in Sikorsky and that it spoke volumes that Lockheed decided that Sikorsky should remain here. Sharkey, a Democrat from Hamden, said he expects “a positive response” from the Legislature.

“I think everyone here in the state of Connecticut understands that Sikorsky is a Connecticut company. We take great pride in the history of Sikorsky in our state,” Sharkey said.

Stratford’s state representatives also looked favorably on the deal

“I’m very excited and I’m encouraged,” Laura Hoydick, R-120, praising state leaders for getting into the conversation to keep Sikorsky around and Lockheed officials for trusting local skilled labor to do the work..

“It’s the growth of jobs, it’s the growth of the economy, it’s the growth of the supply chain which is so critically important to Stratford and all our small manufacturers,” Hoydick said.  

Sen. Kevin Kelly, R-21, said the proposed deal is “an investment in the future.”

“Investing and putting this money into Sikorsky is what’s needed in order to keep Sikorsky here and competitive as well as keeping the jobs,” he said. “These are good middle class jobs.”

Stay with The Stratford Star and the HAN Network for more coverage of this story.