Million dollar contracts could keep 400 jobs in Owego

By Matt Porter

January 24, 2014 Updated Jan 24, 2014 at 7:44 PM EDT

Owego, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Hundreds of Lockheed Martin employees cheered as Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) announced more than $400 million available in the new federal budget for the military manufacturer.

"I will be so proud and I think you will be so proud if the helicopter that flies our commander in chief for decades to come says 'made in New York,'" Schumer announced to an excited crowd.

The two contracts are for a fleet of combat rescue helicopters and presidential helicopters.

Lockheed Martin would work with Sikorsky to build the helicopters.

Schumer said the two contracts, if awarded, could create or keep up to 400 jobs at the company.

"All told this will mean up to 400 jobs here in the Southern Tier," Schumer said, "And as we know these are good paying jobs."

Most of the money, $333.5 million, will be awarded in the first contract for the 112 combat rescue helicopters.

Lockheed Martin Vice-President of Aviation Relations Dan Spoor said the new aircraft will replace an aging fleet over the next ten years.

He said technology has advanced since the last time the helicopters were built, and they often need to go into the most dangerous places for a rescue.

"Generally those are areas that are threatened areas," Spoor said. "So you need to have the latest technologies to protect the aircraft, protect the crews."

In a line that generated some of the loudest applause, Schumer said the workers in New York are the reason helicopters continue to be built in Owego.

"The number one reason we are able to win these contracts is you," Schumer said. "So give yourself a round of applause as one of the best workforces in America."

Neither contract is guaranteed to go to Lockheed Martin, the first contract for the rescue helicopters is expected to be awarded in the spring.

Jobs for the new contract could be created as early as June.