The seemingly impending closing of a long-time Neosho institution would mark the end of an era — but could give way to the beginning of a new era.
Employment numbers have recently declined at the Premier Turbines plant, owned by Dallas Airmotive. Contacted in Dallas, Chris Pratt, director of communications, said that he is limited in what he can say now, as the company is currently in effects bargaining with United Auto Workers (UAW) leadership.
“The only thing that I can say publicly is that we’ve notified the union that our intent is to cease operations at the facility starting in Q1 [first quarter] of next year, and transferring those operations down into a new facility that’s being constructed in the D/FW [Dallas/Fort Worth] area,” he said.
Pratt said he is uncertain as to how many current Neosho employees could possibly transfer with the operations, as that is a part of the effects bargaining with the union.
“They’re talking to the union leadership now about offering positions down here, how many there are going to be – giving people the opportunity to transfer if they so wish – but I’d be getting ahead of the game to give any detail on that,” he said.
Once discussions are completed, he said the company will put out a public statement.
Pratt said employment numbers in Neosho have changed over the years to match the workflow into the facility.
“The reasoning you asked earlier about why the change and the transfer, and that’s because recently Dallas Airmotive has won some new authorizations in the helicopter field; and part of probably the major authorization in there was that we promised we would do the work in the D/FW area, so that caused the company to take a look at rationalizing, ‘Why would we do it in two different places?’ and thought since we were building a new facility it would make more sense and be more efficient to transfer everything into the Dallas area,” Pratt said.
Pratt said the company is not yet making a public statement regarding the 300,000 square feet facility on 300 acres.
“We haven’t made a decision on what that’s going to be but there won’t be any operations up there,” he said.
He said Dallas Airmotive acquired the assets of Premier Turbines in 2003.
Information from the book The First 50 Years in Spacetown USA published in 2006 states that groundbreaking for the 3551 Doniphan Dr. facility was held on April 21, 1956. Originally planned as a rocket engine plant to be built for the United States Air Force by the Aerojet-General Corporation at a cost of $9.5 million, it was announced on June 14, 1956, that the plant had been transferred from Aerojet-General to Rocketdyne, a division of North American Aviation. The cost figure was later revised to $13 million.
The factory opened in 1956 by the Rocketdyne division of Rockwell International, manufacturing liquid rocket engines for powering missiles. The Rocketdyne Neosho facility built and tested engines for the Redstone, Jupiter, Thor and Atlas missiles, served as the primary manufacturing installation for the Saturn H-1 engine, and produced components for the Saturn J-2 and F-1 engines that launched the Apollo spacecraft that eventually landed men on the moon.
Continental Aviation and Engineering acquired the site in the late 1960s and began the overhaul and repair of jet engines at the facility, later becoming Teledyne.
Sabreliner acquired the plant in 1992, adding several additional jet engines to the inventory that came into the facility for repair and overhaul. Additional service offerings began after Dallas Airmotive obtained the facility.
Mike Franks, economic development director, Neosho Area Business and Industrial, Inc., said the closing of Premier Turbines would be “good and bad.”
“Obviously we hate to lose the 80-plus jobs at Premier Turbines, a company that’s been a long-time resident of this area,” he said. "But on the other hand, the one good part of it is that 80 percent of the new industry opportunities that we receive right now need a building, and that building will be highly marketable at this point. Premier Turbines has agreed to work with us on a marketing plan for it; and as a result I believe it will bring opportunity to Neosho.”
Franks said the Missouri Partnership that provides the new industry prospects just released a report that stated that 80 percent of new industry applications are to locate in existing buildings.
“The Premier Turbines building is a particularly advantageous facility because of the ceiling height and because of its location in the industrial park as well,” Franks said. “I perceive that it actually will provide some opportunity for Neosho.”