- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 31, 2006

PHOENIX (AP)- Phoenix has more than doubled its offer for a US Airways flight operations center, promising incentives and tax breaks that could save the company as much as $36 million over 25 years.

The bulk of the additional incentives comes in the form of a low-interest loan that is estimated to save the airline more than $22 million, according to documents released by the city.

The deal also includes cash savings in the form of property-tax waivers and low-cost land leases.

“I think Phoenix has put together a very strong, competitive assistance package,” said Bruce MacTurk, the city’s development program manager.

The airline will not be able to take advantage of the savings unless it builds the center in Phoenix and brings jobs to the area. US Airways was based in Arlington, Va.

US Airways Group Inc. has two operations centers, in Phoenix and Pittsburgh, after last year’s merger of America West and the old US Airways. There are 150 workers at the Phoenix center and about 450 in Pittsburgh.

Together, those employees manage the carrier’s 950 daily flights, schedule and support flight crews, help coordinate passenger rebooking after flight cancellations and delays, and handle aircraft changes when maintenance issues arise.

But the Tempe, Ariz., airline now wants to consolidate those two centers into one.

Phoenix, Pittsburgh and Charlotte, N.C., are vying for the new center.

City officials said US Airways could make a decision at its Jan. 26 board of directors meeting and announce its choice Feb. 1.

The airline would not comment on the selection process or any of the packages. It would confirm only that a January meeting is scheduled and a decision will be announced in February.

“We’ll tell everyone at the same time,” spokesman Morgan Durrant said.

Proposals from all three cities were due in mid-October.

The airline met with economic-development officials in all three states the subsequent week, Mr. MacTurk said.

Phoenix does not plan to give the airline cash upfront or take money from the city’s general fund, which is used to pay for basic services, including police and firefighting equipment.

In October, Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell announced the details of Pittsburgh’s initial offer, which was said to contain $16.25 million in grants, tax credits and loans.

Mr. Rendell’s office did not return a call last week seeking comment on whether that package has been revised. Charlotte officials have not released details of their offer.

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