Hawker Beechcraft and Machinists union officials will meet with Gov. Mark Parkinson in Topeka today in response to Louisiana's offer to move the entire company to Baton Rouge, union officials said.
Sources have said that Louisiana has raised its offer from $100 million for production of one of Hawker Beechcraft's product lines to $400 million for the company's entire operation.
The company employs 7,000 people, including 6,000 in Wichita.
Parkinson's office would not confirm today's meeting, but said he will hold a news conference or put out a statement late today about Hawker.
Machinists international president Tom Buffenbarger said the meeting offers "an opportunity to make a pitch to the governor jointly — the company and the union — for assistance from the state of Kansas to help solidify a big chunk of those jobs (for Kansas)."
Parkinson is working to find resources for the company, said Buffenbarger, who added Kansas is being raided by other states.
"The state of Kansas needs a strategy and it needs to find the resources to help ... the companies that have been so important to Kansas," he said.
The Machinists union will send Rich Michalski, international general vice president, to the meeting; Hawker Beechcraft CEO Bill Boisture also will attend, Buffenbarger said.
Spokeswomen for Hawker Beechcraft and for the governor's office declined to confirm the meeting.
"We don't comment on anything that's not on the governor's public calendar," said Parkinson's spokeswoman, Amy Jordan Wooden. "That includes meetings with individuals or groups.''
Still, Wooden said, "we are going to do everything we can to keep the majority of the jobs."
The possibility of the company relocating outside of Kansas is of critical importance to Wichita and the state, she said.
"The Department of Commerce and the Governor remain actively engaged in trying to preserve as many jobs as possible at Hawker Beechcraft in Wichita," Wooden said in a statement.
"We need to look to see if there are incentives that make sense for the state.''
Louisiana economic development officials did not return calls for comment.
Louisiana Economic Development Secretary Stephen Moret told the Baton Rouge Advocate that he couldn't confirm or deny that the state has made an offer to Hawker Beechcraft.
"We really can't comment on prospects," Moret told the Advocate.
In the meantime, the Machinists union has postponed negotiations with the company on a new contract and the vote on the offer scheduled for Saturday.
"Further negotiations will be contingent upon what Gov. Parkinson can do," the union said.
The union had opened contract talks a year early with the company.
"If Kansas were able to make an offer to HBC that could save some Wichita jobs, the membership ratifying a renegotiated contract would be a key part of the final deal to keep those jobs in Wichita," the union said in a flier to members on Saturday.
Hawker Beechcraft, faced with a down aviation industry, high debt and global competition, is cutting costs.
"The market hasn't come back to the degree that everybody had hoped... at this point in time," said U.S. Sen. Sam Brownback, the Republican candidate for governor.
Kansas is in a fight for aviation jobs because they are high-skill, high-wage jobs, he said.
"The state needs to match fire with fire, and I think we will," he said. In addition, "we're going to have to be competitive on labor productivity."
Brownback said that Boisture has indicated in conversations with him that he wants to keep Hawker Beechcraft in Wichita —"if they can get their prices competitive here."
"... They are doing everything they can to get costs down.''
The company was founded as Beech Aircraft in Wichita in 1932 by Walter and Olive Ann Beech. In 2006, Onex Corp. and GS Capital Partners bought the company, then named Raytheon Aircraft, and renamed it Hawker Beechcraft. It is now owned by Onex and Goldman Sachs.
In July, Boisture told The Eagle that the company had narrowed the places it was looking to put work outside of Wichita to Louisiana and Mississippi.
Boisture said a series of decisions would be made, including decisions on the company's footprint in Wichita, within the next few months.
Parkinson told The Eagle in July that the state would do everything it could to keep jobs in Wichita, even if it takes calling a special session of the Legislature.