Aerospace company announces layoffs in Bellevue as aviation industry crumbles

An aerospace and defense company with a major presence in eastern Iowa disclosed plans to lay off 65 workers, including 36 at a plant in Bellevue.

Collins Aerospace notified state officials of the upcoming cuts in accordance with Iowa’s Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. The company listed a “layoff date” of Jan. 2, according to state documents.

In addition to the Bellevue layoffs, Collins Aerospace intends to cut 29 jobs at its Decorah facility.

Jessica Napoli, senior manager of external communications for Collins Aerospace, emailed a statement to the Telegraph Herald on behalf of the company.

“Collins Aerospace has made the difficult decision to lay off employees at its Bellevue and Decorah, Iowa operations,” the message read. “The unprecedented impact of COVID-19 has significantly reduced production volumes in commercial aviation and caused us to align our business operations with current demand.”

Given the massive drop in air travel, local economic development officials knew job cuts could be looming.

“It is one of the hardest-hit sectors, so it was not a surprise (to see layoffs),” said Nicolas Hockenberry, director of Jackson County Economic Alliance. “But it certainly isn’t welcome news.”

Hockenberry said Collins Aerospace employs roughly 200 people at its Bellevue facility, making it one of the largest employers in Jackson County.

Perhaps more importantly, the company is revered for the kinds of jobs it provides.

“They are one of the employers of choice,” said Hockenberry. “They offer higher-skilled work, higher starting wages and very good benefits packages. They’ve been an important part of the mix in our economy for quite some time.”

Workers at the Bellevue plant create circuit boards and avionics equipment used in a variety of airplane models, Hockenberry said.

He said the layoffs hit a wide variety of employees at the Bellevue plant, ranging from entry-level roles to some of the the highest-skilled positions. Hockenberry said he believes the current job market will give displaced workers a chance to land on their feet.

“I do believe there are opportunities here locally,” he said. “There are certainly businesses that are hiring right now.”

Carrie Weaver, executive director of the Bellevue Area Chamber of Commerce, said the layoffs could have “a huge impact” on the community, which already has been hit hard by declining tourism amid the pandemic.

Even so, she said she is hopeful the job cuts represent only a brief downturn in a difficult time.

“I am very optimistic about how things will bounce back once COVID is over,” she said. “Hopefully, they will rebound once people start traveling and flying again.”

Collins Aerospace also has facilities in Manchester, Coralville and Cedar Rapids. The company did not file a notification with the state indicating there would be layoffs at those facilities.