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State funding helps local businesses expand

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Lisa Dunlap Photo Pete Charnisky, left, president of Red Mountain Arsenal, stands near company equipment with two employees in August 2019.

Two Roswell-based businesses and a third with a hangar at the Roswell Air Center have received state money to help their businesses expand.

General Airframe Support Inc., Red Mountain Arsenal LLC, and Moriarty-based Sceye Inc. were awarded more than $526,000 from the state Job Training Incentive Program in May.

The funds can pay 50% to 75% of the wages for new hires trained for their positions or for “step-up” training to enable current employees to take on supervisory or managerial roles.

“We’ve been very active with these businesses and the EDD (New Mexico Economic Development Department) to get this funding for job training,” said Michael Espiritu, president of the Roswell-Chaves County Economic Development Corp. He testifies at state meetings on behalf of local companies seeking the funding.

He said that he considers the program, funded each year by the New Mexico Legislature, to be one of the best in the nation to help employers afford to train new employees or retrain existing ones, whether at the job site or in conjunction with formal educational programs. He added that employers are not obligated to fill all positions funded, should business needs change. Funding actually made available to employers is reduced from the awarded amount if positions are not created.

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Between Red Mountain and General Airframe, also known as GenAir, Roswell could see as many as 24 new jobs.

GenAir built a new facility at the Roswell Air Center in 2017 and relocated its main office here from Arizona. It now has 24 employees.

Its president, Isaac Sheets, said that during the coming months, it plans to expand and complete the hangar it began building two years ago. When completed in about four months, it will allow the company to begin servicing 737s and Airbus A-320s, as well as other airplanes.

Up until now, GenAir has focused mainly on reclamation — taking parts off aircraft and then distributing the parts to companies or individuals that repair or service aircraft.

Sheets said he now plans for his company to receive its Federal Aviation Administration Part 145 certification to do airplane repair and maintenance as well.

He said that a large part of the growth is expected to come from the hundreds of airplanes now parked at the Roswell airfield, as they have been grounded due to the pandemic. He expects that 50% will need to be serviced so that they can be returned to flight or sold, while the other half likely will be “parted out.”

That’s why he has received $209,666 to hire up to 10 mechanics and six chief inspectors during 2020 or 2021. The average wage is expected to be $20.88.

“We definitely see a big opportunity with expanding,” he said. “And, even with 16 employees, that may be on the low side.”

Red Mountain Arsenal makes ammunition for firearms and is planning to hire up to eight new machine operators at an average wage of $19.50 an hour, said its president, Pete Charnisky.

The total amount of funding awarded Red Mountain was $106,082.

“I have an immediate need for two positions,” he said. “After that, we have a customer who is expecting us to do loading within 60 to 90 days. As soon as we have the contract on that, we will start to fill out to the full eight positions.”

Charnisky said business has been growing steadily since Red Mountain opened its doors in January 2018, with an increase seen in recent months during the pandemic. He attributes that to increased training activities as well as increased first-time gun buyers.

The company makes specialty ammunition, as well as ammunition for the commercial market. In addition to supplying agencies of U.S. and foreign governments, it supplies law enforcement, including the Chaves County Sheriff’s Office.

Charnisky said ideal employees have some sort of mechanical expertise.

“We will train everybody,” he said. “We don’t expect anybody walking in the doors to know exactly how to operate the machines and how to perform all the inspections that we need to do.”

Both Charnisky and Sheets said they appreciate the state funding in helping their businesses and the community.

Sceye Inc. is a venture that includes the global corporation Vestergaard, based in Switzerland. It uses material science to invent products such as water-filtrating straws and dispensers and anti-malaria nets to improve health and well-being.

Sceye is developing stratospheric airships that can carry telecommunications devices, sensors, radar equipment and video and digital cameras. Companies could use the airships for a variety of humanitarian purposes, including providing communication in remote areas or monitoring environmental or wildlife changes.

Sceye rents a hangar and office at the Roswell Air Center, but it also has a facility at the airfield in Moriarty, a facility once used by Google and then Titan Aerospace. Its recent funding award from the state will be used for its Moriarty operations, according to an EDD spokesperson.

A company representative could not be reached for comment, but documents provided to the state indicate that the company has flown six missions of a solar-powered airship and that it is now expecting to enter the customer demonstration phase. Its largest client is a telecommunications company.

With 16 current employees, the company has received $210,873. The state money will help pay for training of seven regular employees at an average wage of $36.13 an hour and one intern at $17.80 an hour.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.