Those High-Flying Cessna Dreams | The Source Weekly - Bend

Those High-Flying Cessna Dreams

Bend was flying high on dreams of becoming a hub of the aviation industry in December 2007. Textron Inc. - parent company of Cessna Aircraft

Bend was flying high on dreams of becoming a hub of the aviation industry in December 2007. Textron Inc. - parent company of Cessna Aircraft Co. - had just bought Columbia Aircraft's plant here for $26 million, promising to keep hundreds of good-paying jobs in town.

By late 2008, though, the flight plan had been drastically altered. Hammered by the nationwide recession - and by populist outrage over executives flying around the country on corporate jets paid for with taxpayers' bailout money - Cessna was having trouble selling the half-million-dollar-and-up planes it manufactured in Bend.

The first "temporary" layoff notices went out in December 2008. As 2009 got underway, more followed. And then, on April 29, Cessna announced it was closing its Bend plant for good and the last 200 employees still working there would lose their jobs.

The shutdown appeared to catch Bend officials by surprise, but it shouldn't have. The national economy had been circling the drain since the end of 2007. It was obvious that austere times lay ahead, and in austere times luxury purchases (such as $500,000 private jets) get cut first. And if Cessna was going to close any plants, it also was obvious that it most likely wouldn't be those in its home state of Kansas.

But nobody was reading the signals - or if they were, they were blithely ignoring them. In late 2008, after the national recession already had been underway for a year, the Bend City Council voted to spend $1.5 million on airport improvements, based on rose-tinted visions that Cessna would expand and other aviation-related businesses would follow it here.

And in the spring of that year the city, responding to predictions by Cessna executives of "huge growth numbers in 2010," voted to pay for the airport tower that Cessna said it needed. (Fortunately that spending was blocked by the Deschutes County Commission.)

As it turns out, Cessna probably would have pulled out of Bend eventually, recession or no recession. A Cessna spokesman told a Bulletin reporter after the plant closure announcement that it was "always the plan" to move the Bend manufacturing operations to a factory in Mexico. In fact, the shift already was under way.

It sounds like an all-too-familiar story: Fast-talking city slicker seduces innocent country girl with his fancy suit, big-city charm and vows of eternal love and happiness, knocks her up and goes back to his wife and kids.

So we've got a couple of BOOTs to pass out here. The first one goes to Cessna for stringing the poor Bend hayseeds along. For shame, guys, for shame.

But in the memorable words of our former president, George W. Bush: "Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice ... uh, uh, can't get fooled again." Is Bend sadder but wiser now? Has the Cessna experience taught it not to fall for the next fast-talking city slicker who breezes into town?

We're not at all confident that it has. But in the hope of driving the lesson home, we're delivering THE BOOT.