COLUMBIA, MS (WDAM) - Over the past few months Pioneer Aerospace in Columbia has fielded rumors of lay-offs and possible even closure. However, Operations Manager Chris Powell says the company is strong and despite cutting its workforce, believes the decline has leveled off and is beginning to increase.
Pioneer Aerospace, a subsidiary of Zodiac Aerospace is a mainstay of the Columbia economy, and with the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down has seen a reduction in military contracts.
Operations Manager Chris Powell said Thursday, "It goes through a cycle where your troops are coming back in. They're not using the shots from being overseas."
With a lack in military procurement and a decline in federal defense spending… pioneer has had to cut its workforce. Powell said, "Over the last year we've reduced. We're seeing a reduction of about 50 percent."
Over the last 5 years the company has surged in employment, but the reduction is part of a cycle similar to the end of Desert Storm. But despite the lay-offs, Pioneer is strong and won't be closing its door anytime soon.
Powell said, "We're a strong presence all over the world. Not just in parachutes or the defense area, but also in the aerospace and airline industry. Especially in our engineering area where we do design work. We've had a very good upturn in business and mostly in the space area."
With many private entrepreneurs beginning a new space race the opportunities for contracts are wide open, and the U.S. military continues to keep Pioneer busy. "A lot of retrofits for the air force and navy planes, and that's a lot of work for us right now doing some emergency systems and ejection systems," Powell said.
It is typical as the troops return home for an emphasis on training to resume, which means there will be a demand for parachutes. Powell said, "Kind of level now, but we feel like as the normal cycles goes things will pick up."