Forecaster Forum: Employees make the difference at Oxford Aviation

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As I read The Forecaster article “Firm with eyes on Brunswick base thrives on public funds, political connections” about Oxford Aviation, I immediately thought of the employees in the hangar, diligently working on customers’ aircraft.

Our national reputation is, without doubt, the highest in the industry. I attribute that reputation to the men and women who work here, several of whom have been with us for 15 years. Each has been vital to our success as a company. While some facts in the article are correct (such as Oxford’s interest in expanding at Brunswick), somehow the “people factor” was lost and I’m compelled to clarify what we’ve accomplished over the years.

Two decades ago, Oxford Aviation was the 13th tenant at the Oxford County Airport, 12 having failed in the airport’s first 20 years. Despite these odds and a humble beginning – a single employee in a 3,000-square-foot facility – we have twice expanded and now employ over 50 craftsmen and women, all locally hired and trained, all receiving highly competitive wages and full benefits. Our economic impact in Maine has also grown substantially and is robust: our Maine workers pay Maine taxes and spend their paychecks locally. Whenever possible, we purchase materials and services from Maine vendors. As a long-time resident who raised my family here, I am committed to the state of Maine.

Our growth was in part possible through the success of our landlords, the county of Oxford, in obtaining state and federal grants to expand the facility owned by the residents of the county (not Oxford Aviation). All grant funds went into the construction funds, not one cent into Oxford Aviation’s account. Furthermore, Oxford Aviation paid all “local matches” – over $200,000 from our own funds to eliminate any taxpayer burden. 

Many federal and state grant programs are available to assist business growth and job creation. Oxford Aviation competes with other companies for those grants. We believe that in securing this funding and growing the company, we’ve not only created new jobs at Oxford, but the actual project construction has also produced jobs. Such grants are win-win for all concerned. Considering that many businesses, financial and educational institutions, airlines/airports and many other industries have sought similar grants to expand business, it’s important that grant money comes to Maine and benefits Maine people.

As I look ahead to opening our facility at Brunswick, what makes me most proud is that we’ll be creating a significant number of skilled, high-paying jobs in an area that has been heavily impacted by the base closure. From a one-person operation 20 years ago to over 50 employees now, which will likely exceed 200 at Brunswick, that’s remarkable growth – and good for Maine.

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m-forum_horowitz-092409.jpgJim Horowitz is president of Oxford Aviation.