LOWNDES COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI) — Lowndes County economic development leaders have gone into full combat mode to try to save dozens of jobs at American Eurocopter.
Company officials say the Pentagon plans to stop buying Eurocopter’s Lakota light utility helicopter next year as part of deep cuts in defense spending. The helicopters are made at the company’s Lowndes County plant where 320 people are employed.
Eurcopter has delivered more than 260 of the choppers since winning an Army contract in 2006 and is scheduled to start delivering 34 more this fall. Now the Pentagon only plans to buy 10 in 2014 and then end purchases.
The Army originally planned to buy 347 of the helicopters to replace 40-year-old light helicopters used for everything from search and rescue missions and border patrol to VIP escorts.
U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker has criticized the decision and is working with local and state officials to lobby the Pentagon, which is considering buying more Black Hawk helicopters which Wicker says are twice as expensive to operate.
Ending the Lakota program would mean job losses in Lowndes County unless alternative customers and other projects are found and threatens Eurocopter’s hopes of winning the contract for an armed version of the Lakota.