DULUTH, MN -- Aviation company AAR is shutting down its Duluth facility.
Company officials confirmed Wednesday they will not be reopening, and have laid off 260 employees.
It wasn't immediately clear what prompted the shutdown. The aviation industry is facing tough times with less people flying during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The move came as a shock to everyone involved in Duluth’s aviation sector, including Nancy Noor with the Duluth Economic Development Authority.
“This isn’t the news any of us wanted to hear, especially for employees. I’m sure it’s been a difficult day,” said Noor.
Noor added that DEDA recently gave AAR three month's free rent, recognizing the challenges they were facing.
She also said each job in the aviation sector creates another in the region.
It could cause a ripple effect.
“So for every job we lose here with AAR we may be able to extrapolate that to suggest there may be another job lost,” Noor added.
Noor wasn’t the only one who commented on AAR’s closure Wednesday.
Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN 8th District), a member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Aviation Subcomitte weighed in.
In a statement late Wednesday, he said he was deeply saddened to learn that AAR is shutting down its Duluth facility.
"I know that aviation is a key pillar of our local economy and I am committed to doing everything I can to help preserve this critical industry during this economic crisis," Stauber said. "My heart is with everyone who lost their job today, and my office stands ready to help in whatever way we can.”
AAR's Duluth facility provides maintenance to airframes of airlines like Air Canada and United Airlines.
Tom Werner, the Executive Director of the Duluth Airport Authority, said Wednesday the loss will have a "big impact on the aviation sector and the region as a whole."
"The DAA will continue to work hard to support our existing aviation partners and air service. We have a strong aviation sector and new infrastructure that will put us in a good position for when new opportunities arise," Werner said.
AAR's closure also impacts an educational partnership with Lake Superior College which was started to attract homegrown talent to the aviation industry.
"Because we partner with other aviation partners including Delta and even Cirrus, our program is probably going to be OK", Fannning said. "It is just a matter of how do we make adjustments and how long it will take to get back to a sense of normalcy."
Fanning said AAR's closure will impact between 50 and 75 mechanical aviation students.
Neither AAR or Duluth leaders would comment on the closure Wednesday.
AAR has similar maintenance facilities in Illinois, Florida and Arizona.
2012: AAR first opened its doors in, taking over the former Northwest Airlines maintenance base which sat empty for several years.
2015: AAR announced a partnership with Lake Superior College in an effort to attract homegrown talent to the aviation industry
2017: AAR announced it landed United Airlines as a new customer. That same year it also announced a new contract with its original customer, Air Canada.
2019: AAR company signed a 20 year lease renewal with the Duluth Economic Development Authority.
2020: The Duluth Economic Development Authority waived three months of rent for AAR totaling $110,000.