GRAND PRAIRIE (CBSDFW.COM) - Business leaders, workers and lawmakers are fighting to save some 100 Grand Prairie jobs that may fall victim to Pentagon budget cuts. American Eurcopter's U.S. headquarters is located at the Grand Prairie Airport.
Grand Prairie Mayor Ron Jenson said plans to reduce Lakota helicopter orders could affect future civilian orders for the aircraft. "We need the production to stay up a couple more years," he said. "American Eurocopter does have some offshore and some international people who want to buy it, but if you shut the program down [then] the cost escalates and they may not be able to get those."
Originally American Eurcopter had plans to build 31 Lakotas for the military in the next year. Budget cuts reduced that number to 10 over the next year and none the year after.
On Friday the company held a rally in an effort to reverse Defense Department budget cuts. "We are not asking money just for the sake of asking money and only protecting jobs here," said company president Marc Paganini. "We are asking the budget to be reinstated because we believe the solution we are giving to the U.S. Army is the right one."
Democratic Congressman Marc Veasey attended the rally and told the crown, "I go to Washington, D.C. as a North Texas congressman and that means putting local jobs first."
Republican Congressman Joe Barton was also on hand to show his support for Lakota helicopter production. "The good news for this rally is it is not an either/or situation," he said. "We can balance the federal budget and we can build Lakota helicopters and we can build Lakota helicopters [sic] just as many as we're supposed to."
The U.S. Army and National Guard use the Lakota helicopter, which is built in Mississippi. The Grand Prairie location provides support and training for the chopper.
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