US Airways has confirmed that Pittsburgh will be the site of a new $25 million, 60,000-square-foot flight operations center employing 600 people.
Pittsburgh beat out Phoenix and Charlotte, N.C., for the facility, which will act as the nerve center for the Tempe, Ariz.-based airline, scheduling and communicating with 1,400 mainline flights on a daily basis.
The deal means 150 new jobs for the Pittsburgh area. The other 450 positions will come from an existing operations center in Findlay.
US Airways employs about 2,700 people in the Pittsburgh area -- down by about 10,000 since the terrorist attacks of 9/11, an event that crippled the airline industry. Pittsburgh suffered more than any other city in the aftermath, stripped of its hub status and losing almost 400 daily flights. US Airways is still the largest carrier serving Pittsburgh International, but it offers only 149 daily flights -- compared to the 542 daily flights prior to 9/11.
"We gave careful consideration to proposals from Phoenix, Charlotte and Pittsburgh," said US Airways President Scott Kirby, who was to formally announce the decision at a 1:30 p.m. press conference at the Pittsburgh International Airport. "All three cities gave compelling reasons to consider those proposals. However, we chose Pittsburgh for a variety of reasons, including the impact of relocating experienced employees from the Pittsburgh area and the amount of value created for US Airways in the Pittsburgh proposal."
He added: "The decision to expand our existing operation at Pittsburgh is the best operational and financial choice for our people and our airline."
US Airways intends to break ground on the building later this year. It selected a 10-acre site near the airport, located off Ewing Road on property owned by Allegheny County. The center will be ready in 2008, but the first full day of operation will not be until early 2009. US Airways has agreed to a 20-year lease with two, 10-year options.
US Airways currently has two operations centers, one in a Findlay office park employing 450 and another in Phoenix employing 150. After the old US Airways merged with America West Airlines in 2005, the new management announced its intention to consolidate its separate centers at one location that would house the airline's flight dispatch, maintenance operations control, crew scheduling, system customer service and operations engineering groups, along with some administrative support. The 150 employees in Phoenix will have the option of moving to Pittsburgh once the consolidation is complete.
The decision is a major victory for Allegheny County Airport Authority Executive Director Kent George, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato and Gov. Ed Rendell, all of whom were involved in landing the project. The state and the county put together a $16.25 million incentive package, compared to $36 million offered by Phoenix. The package includes $3 million in state and county grants, $12.5 million in loans and $750,000 in state tax credits tied to the number of jobs created by the project.
The Pittsburgh-area group refused to ante up its offer in response to Phoenix's higher bid, according to Mr. Onorato.
More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.