VERO BEACH — Piper Aircraft will begin hiring the first wave of engineers as it proceeds with research to help build the next prototype of the PiperJet, due to reach the market as early as late 2011.The company Web site lists 17 different categories of engineers, ranging from Chief of Production to manufacturing engineers, and is seeking 50 in all to work on the new jet. The news comes at a time when the aircraft maker is struggling along with the rest of the industry to control production and labor costs in light of the economic downturn. Piper has been forced to layoff workers and institute furloughs as it seeks to match costs with orders for new planes in its existing line.
The hirings come as welcome news after the county and state invested millions in Piper to keep it in Indian River County to build the PiperJet. It also comes just after new owner Imprimis, a Brunei based investment company with ties to the government, took over and announced its intention to go forward with the jet.”It is full steam ahead,” said new Piper CEO Kevin Gould. “If you go on Piper.com and go to the jobs section, you’ll see postings for engineers. We are hiring for the jet program.”Gould replaced Jim Bass on June 26 to run the company, the largest private employer in Indian River County.In other Piper news, the executive suites are expected to be ready sometime in July. The suites represent the final stage of refurbrishment of the plant after the 2004 hurricanes and were the final project after a commitment made by senior management to employees. Much of the government money Piper received went toward the rebuilding the plant.