PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — In 2017, GKN Aerospace announced it was building a brand new facility in Bay County that would create 170 jobs.
So far, the company hired 60 people but on Tuesday, News 13 learned the national company was shutting down their operations in Panama City.
“We’ve been working for the last two years to get hiring and the facility up to speed,” said GKN Media and Communications Manager, Wesley Bates.
Bates says the reason for the closing was due to the company unable to sustain the Panama City office.
“Over the past few months, we’ve been in discussions to agree on the long term manufacturing location, a major work package in the U.S. Following these commercial discussions we have agreed that this work package will remain at its current GKN Aerospace facility, rather than moving to our Florida site as we had planned,” Bates said.
The next step is to clear out the facility but Bates says their main focus is their now-former employees.
“We’re working with our employees over the coming months to provide an assistance program along with contacting the state’s workforce development center and departments at career source Florida to help them in this transition and employees with applicable skills will have the opportunity to transfer to other GKN Aerospace sites if they choose.”
He says the wind-down process of the facility will wrap up by January.
News 13 spoke with local officials to see what they had to say about the sudden stop of work.
“It’s obviously not good news, we wish it wouldn’t have happened,” said Bay County Commission Chairman Philip ‘Griff’ Griffitts.
Bay Economic Development Alliance President Becca Hardin says her office had high hopes and expectations of the partnership.
“It’s disappointing, obviously. We had a great team working very hard with this company,” she said.
Thankfully though, the county did not lose any money.
“All of the incentives, state and local, were based on pay for performance and they had to meet certain job thresh holds numbers that they did not meet yet so no incentives have been paid out for this project,” Hardin said.
Griffitts says this loss is actually a bigger hit to the long term vision of the area.
“Obviously very important for job creation. These were high paying, good wages. We really try to attract those to Bay County and we’ll continue to do that,” he said.
Hardin agreed, adding that her office will continue to push to build a better Bay County.
“We’ll continue to move forward. I’m leaving this weekend to go and meet with companies in Europe. It’s something that every community experiences, it’s unfortunate but we have other projects that we’re working. We’ve had some recent announcements and we’re looking at it as we’re moving forward in a positive direction and we’ll continue to bring new people and companies to this community,” she said.
The county will actually be receiving a check from GKN. Griffitts says the company owes them $264,008.78 for impact fees. Impact fees include costs of water, sewer, and building permits.
County officials say GKN is willing to pay that debt without question.
Another plus for the county in this situation is the new facility being built has raised the property value of the land GKN’s building is on.
The value of the property is above $120,000 and the county will receive that each year in property taxes.
GKN officials also say they hope to host a job fair in the coming weeks for the ones who lost their jobs.