Back from the brink

Sle­mon Park aero­space com­pany nar­rowly avoided clos­ing this month

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - THE PROVINCE -

The Testori Amer­i­cas plant in Sle­mon Park nearly joined its sis­ter com­pany, Wiebel Aero­space, in obliv­ion at the end of 2015.

Gen­eral man­ager Karl Yeom said he was given in­struc­tions by the par­ent com­pany, TMC Avion of Cal­i­for­nia, in De­cem­ber to lay off the re­main­ing staff, in­clud­ing him­self, and moth­ball the plant by the end of Jan­uary. That clo­sure was only staved off by a last­minute con­tract from Bom­bardier, which Yeom hopes has bought the com­pany about an­other year of op­er­a­tion.

“So it’s chal­leng­ing, but if we can find some more work, we can sur­vive,” he said.

When Bom­bardier learned of the planned clo­sure it called a meet­ing with Yeom and the lead­er­ship at TMC Avion. The Mon­tréal-based aero­space gi­ant had been Testori’s largest cus­tomer, and its rep­re­sen­ta­tives wanted to know how to keep Testori open in an at­tempt to save the time and ef­fort the com­pa­nies had in­vested in each other.

“We’ve worked for Bom­bardier for al­most 20 years,” said Yeom.

Bom­bardier com­mit­ted an or­der of $200,000 worth of parts, with a com­mit­ment of more work if that first or­der is suc­cess­ful.

Testori Amer­i­cas in P.E.I. man­u­fac­tures rail car in­te­rior com­po­nents and has op­er­ated in the Sum­mer­side area since the late 1990s.

Un­til about five years ago it em­ployed 150 peo­ple. Only 15 re­main, with three more be­ing laid off in the next cou­ple of weeks.

Those left be­hind only work four days a week.

Testori’s sis­ter com­pany, Weibel Aero­space, closed its Green­wood Drive fa­cil­ity in Sum­mer­side in Novem­ber, and it is cur­rently for sale.

Both com­pa­nies were pur­chased by TMC Avion in 2011, soon af­ter Testori and Weibel be­came mired in law­suits and coun­ter­suits.

The com­pa­nies owed tax­pay­ers about $12.1 mil­lion at that point, but the pro­vin­cial govern­ment sold that debt to a com­pany called P.E.I. West­side Fund­ing for $5 mil­lion in 2013.

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