PANAMA CITY — GKN Aerospace has hired 40 people to work at its new manufacturing facility at the airport and is actively recruiting and training more new employees, officials said Monday at a press conference.
Also, the plant’s new general manager Preston Mathis was introduced at the conference held at the Advanced Manufacturing Facility at Gulf Coast State Community College, which GKN has partnered with to help train employees.
“I’m so proud to be with GKN Aerospace right now. There are so many wonderful things that are happening,” Mathis said. “And coming to Bay County with the business partnerships that I’ve already experienced here has just been phenomenal.”
The building at Venture Crossings is completed and equipment is being moved into the facility. By next year, officials say they will hire 172 people and be producing aircraft component parts. To receive incentive funds, the company will be required to create at least 170 new full-time equivalent jobs at an annual wage of $63,156 by the end of 2020.
The company is not naming its clients but is giving preference in hiring to people who already have security clearance through the military. The jobs are expected to pay an average wage of $62,000 a year.
“GKN has committed to hire 172 people,” said Becca Hardin, president of the Bay Economic Development Alliance, which recruited the business. “They’ve invested $55 million in the facility and equipment at Venture Crossings at our airport. We’re looking forward to them doing great things.”
Kim Bodine, executive director for CareerSource Gulf Coast, said there has been much interest in the new jobs, with more than 900 people since last August applying for them on the CareerSource page that taking applications, www.careersourcegc.com/gkn.
“This has been a very exciting and rewarding project for us to work on,” she said. “For Bay County, we’ve never landed a company of this magnitude with operations in 30 countries and employees across the globe, so it’s been a real opportunity for us.”
Bodine said CareerSource has held two job fairs to recruit workers for the new plant.
“We’ve had 252 people meet the minimum requirements, and the requirements are really impressive for working with GKN,” she said.
Bodine said that GKN is looking for people with manufacturing experience, not necessarily in aviation. She said employees of locally based companies like Berg or the WestRock paper mill might have the necessary skills, as would students graduating from Haney Technical Center’s airframe and power plant program.
“They need two years of manufacturing-assembly experience, or a two-year degree in an industrial or manufacturing field, and then there is ‘a ready to work’ assessment test that we administer,” Bodine said.
The people who get through the initial screening go on to take a 40-hour pre-manufacturing class at Gulf Coast State College and then could be invited to interview, Bodine said.
At least 80 percent of the people who are hired will have secret level security clearance, which is why the company is interested in retired military personnel who already have this clearance, Bodine said.
Bodine said the vast majority of the assembly and bonding technicians that are being hired are from the local workforce, but some people who live out of town have been recruited to fill engineering positions.
In addition to the 40 people who have been hired and another 35 to 40 employees who work in assembly and bonding positions will be hired by the end of the year, Bodine said.
“There are a multitude of engineering positions (that are open) - stress engineers, quality engineers, design engineers, system engineers, lots of engineering positions,” she said. “Also there are some finance positions open.”