Copter pact won, Lockheed woos Sikorsky workers

Md. company holds job fair near rival's headquarters

February 24, 2005|By John M. Moran | John M. Moran,THE HARTFORD COURANT

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. aren't shy about recruiting each other's employees when there are vacancies to fill.

But that contest has taken on a new edge after the Marine One presidential helicopter competition, in which a team led by Bethesda, Md.-based Lockheed Martin bested Stratford, Conn.-based Sikorsky last month.

Yesterday, Lockheed sponsored a job fair at a Holiday Inn a few miles from Sikorsky's headquarters. Lockheed is hiring engineers and other specialists at its Owego, N.Y., plant, where it will build the US101 helicopter that is to become the new Marine One.

About 250 people attended the job fair, arriving in ones and twos throughout the day to seek positions in such fields as software engineering, security, electrical engineering, contracts and finance, and aeronautical engineering.

Some, such as 37-year-old Keith Prioleau, a self-employed information security specialist, said they welcomed the chance to apply for a job, even if getting it meant moving four hours away to Owego, about 15 miles west of Binghamton.

"They seem pretty interested," Prioleau said. "The position that they're looking to fill is the perfect match to what I do. It most definitely seems like a good opportunity."

Others, including engineers at Sikorsky, said they weren't necessarily looking to switch employers but wanted to test the market for their services.

A Sikorsky electrical engineer who asked not to be identified said the loss of the Marine One contract was "a blow to everybody" at the company. "But we still have a lot of work. We still make great products."

Asked whether he would listen if a lucrative job were offered, he said, "You'd be a fool not to."

Other applicants, such as Olga Olin of Norwalk, Conn., an unemployed information technology specialist and a recent graduate of the Rochester Institute of Technology, saw the Lockheed job fair as a chance to land a position with a large national corporation. "Jobs are very tight," she said.

At the entrance to the Holiday Inn ballroom where the job fair was held, a TV monitor played a videotape highlighting Binghamton-area attractions. Nearby was a large, poster-size photograph of the Lockheed team's US101 helicopter in flight above the White House.

Greg Caires, a spokesman for the US101 program, said Lockheed has held a dozen similar job fairs in the past four months in such places as California, Texas and Florida. He said Sikorsky held one like it last summer in Owego.

"You go where the talent is," Caires said. "We don't intend to raid anybody. We simply want to see if people want to come to work for Lockheed Martin."

Lockheed's job fair in Bridgeport, Conn., was scheduled last fall. Attendance was much lower than at the Owego job fair held soon after the results of the Marine One competition were announced. That fair drew 2,500 people, some from Connecticut and New Jersey.

Sikorsky spokesman Ed Steadham said he was aware of Lockheed's job fair, calling it "no surprise that other companies recognize that Sikorsky Aircraft has the best employees in the industry."

"Sikorsky is a growing company, with contracts and orders across its entire product and service lines," Steadham said.

"We're working aggressively to expand our business and increase opportunities for current employees, while at the same time recruiting new employees to work here in Connecticut and at company facilities elsewhere."

The Hartford Courant is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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