Officials at the Minnesota Department of Finance today announced a deal with Northwest Airlines that could let taxpayers off the hook for the cost of building a Duluth maintenance facility that has been sitting idle since the airline's union mechanics went on strike a year and a half ago. The terms of the deal are wonky, but basically the state would get a chunk of the booty Northwest will spread around as it exits bankruptcy proceedings. Enough to repay the $36 million in bonds still outstanding, anyhow.
Students of local history will recall that the Duluth facility was built in 1995 to service the airline's Airbuses. The rationale for taxpayer financing for the construction was that the maintenance base would create lots of good jobs in an economically depressed part of the state. Northwest, which has outsourced much of its maintenace in recent years, shut the base down in August 2005 when its mechanics went on strike.