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Our view: Putting on a happy face for Cirrus sale

For much of Duluth and the Northland, the initial reaction had to be relief -- quickly followed by skepticism and a sinking feeling of impending loss.

Cirrus Industries announced Monday it had been acquired by a Chinese aviation company. That was quickly followed by assurances from Cirrus CEO Brent Wouters that "we're going to preserve jobs here; we're going to grow jobs here.

"You have my word," he said in an interview with the News Tribune, offering that the sales agreement assured the retention of jobs in Duluth and in Grand Forks, N.D. "(The Chinese) don't want to disturb what we have."

That's great, but for how long? Lower labor costs have sent plenty of companies scrambling to China, a manufacturing hotbed. Will workers here be training their overseas replacements?

Wouters didn't say whether the agreement to retain Northland jobs was under a timeline.

But former U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, who helped bring Cirrus to Duluth in the 1990s, strongly suggested one. "For the next five to 10 years," he told the newspaper, "we will see a strong partnership by the Chinese in Duluth."

After that? Who knows? But then, the future is never clear. And with Cirrus and its good-paying jobs here now, the positive attitudes being adopted and the upbeat faces being put on by Oberstar, Duluth Mayor Don Ness and others probably suggest the smartest and most-productive-at-this-point response for all of us.

"This is an all-around strong, good development," Oberstar said.

"This merger will give Cirrus ... additional financial resources and stability to ensure their recovery and grow operations," Ness said in a statement. "We look forward to continuing the partnership with Cirrus not only to retain local operations but also to grow jobs and support the company's future success."

In other words, how can we in Duluth help? What can we do to assure the preservation of jobs and the health and strength of Cirrus, for the benefit of our entire region -- in the long term?

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