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Defense firm Air USA remains committed to moving to ABQ

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Quincy, Ill.-based Air USA, a defense contractor that provides tactical air services, is still developing plans to move to Albuquerque while adapting to challenges in federal contracting due to sequestration.

“It takes a while,” said Ben Breslin, an East Mountain resident and the company’s director of operations. “We’re doing pretty good still but the growth has been slower than expected. I do see high potential.”

Air USA’s plan to make New Mexico its new home was announced with some fanfare by Gov. Susana Martinez at a news conference in September. The potential was not just for the company to relocate its headquarters, which Breslin said would be a small administrative move, but to open an operations center.

With roots going back to 1994, Air USA has a fleet of about 60 foreign-made jet fighters, including four Soviet MiG 29 fighters, and the ex-military personnel to provide combat simulations to the U.S. military, other government contractors and NATO allies like Canada.

Sequestration, which is the term for the federal budget cuts gradually being rolled out, is not necessarily bad news for Air USA, Breslin said. It could lead to more government outsourcing of functions or services, he said.

A company facility at Kirtland Air Force Base “would require a large need for our services on an ongoing basis. We have flown from Kirtland and have provided services there but not to the extent to warrant a presence,” Breslin said.

Such a facility, which could optimistically create as many as 140 jobs, could be justified by work not just at Kirtland but at Cannon Air Force Base outside Clovis and Holloman Air Force Base outside Alamogordo as well, he said.

Air USA does have a satellite office in Albuquerque. Twenty or more of company’s 50 employees are New Mexico residents, primarily mechanics and weapons loaders, Breslin said. Most of the employees are part-time, working as needed to deliver on contracts.

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