I've moved my family three times in the past 20 years.
Every time we did, we swore we'd never do it again. I guess the need or the advantages outweighed the painful memories of trying to, as my dad would say, cram 10 pounds of happy memories into a 5 pound sack. We've been in this place for five years now, and I still shudder a little every time I see a Mayflower truck drive down our street. I really hate moving.
But why is moving so painful an experience? First, it's expensive, and the more stuff you have the more expensive it is to move it. Not to mention the drama. Let's say you have month to pack up and move. It will take you a month and three days to get ready. If you have a year, it will take you a year and three days. It's some little understood law of physics. You don't have to understand it, just accept it.
So when Hawker Beechcraft was making noises about moving to Baton Rouge over the past many months, my first thought was, "Ha, they can't afford to move." Not for all the millions of dollars of neatly packaged dollar bills in Louisiana could they afford to pack up all of their machinery in all of their plants peopled by thousands of workers and load them into those little U-Haul trailers--that's a metaphor--and drive them three states away to Louisiana. Not to mention the hassle. Our televisions and easy chairs were relatively compact. Some of their knickknacks weigh 70 tons.
So why would they even consider moving? They didn't.
They didn't have to. What they really wanted, after all, was to get some help from the state and to get some help from the union.
They discovered that in this case, threatening to move was cheaper and a lot less of a hassle.
It worked out perfectly for Hawker Beechcraft, which just got a great retention package from the state, the city and the county that came to around $40 million over the next four years. Which is probably about double what it would have cost the company to move, not counting the incentives that they were looking at from Baton Rouge and the state of Louisiana.
The strategy had included a negotiated contract concession from the machinist's union, but that part of the plan fell through when union members in a close vote decided to call Hawker Beechcraft's bluff and vote down the contract. So labor costs will be higher than if the company had gone to Louisiana and gone with a non-union shop.
And it gets to keep its current workforce, which counts for a lot, and to keep producing airplanes the way it knows how to do so well.
The politicians who were involved in this multi-million dollar retention plan are quick to say it's not a bailout, and it isn't. It is a jobs package, though. Every job the politicians saved by getting Hawker Beechcraft to stay in town translates into mutiple votes, a fact that's not lost on anyone. Another fact that shouldn't be lose on any one is that for every job this move keeps in Kansas, it also saves several more, for those folks working in supply chain businesses and in service sector jobs that owe their existence to Hawker Beechcraft's good-paying manufacturing jobs.
So it's good news all around for those at Hawker Beechcraft, and for the rest of us, too.
They don't have to rent those moving vans, and we all get to keep an icon of American aircraft manufacturing where it really seems to belong, right there in the heart of the country in good old Wichita, Kansas.