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Cessna tries to rise above recession

By Tom Foreman, CNN
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Cessna rises above recession
  • Cessna Aircraft Company lost 6,000 jobs in Wichita, Kansas, a few years ago
  • Managers revamped the aircraft production line and improved customer service
  • "Innovate or die," said company CEO Jack Pelton

Wichita, Kansas (CNN) -- A few years ago, Cessna, one of the most renowned names in aviation, was selling hundreds of multimillion-dollar airplanes annually. Then the recession hit.

The company lost half of its orders and half of its jobs -- 6,000 jobs in Wichita alone.

"I think now every day we wake up, we feel we have to go out and earn our right to be that number-one manufacturer in general aviation," said Cessna CEO Jack Pelton.

As a result, Cessna has re-examined its manufacturing methods on the aircraft production line. They've stepped up customer service and they say they're looking for new ideas, new savings and new efficiencies.

Take a tour through Cessna's production line Video

The company cleared out an entire part of a production building, Pelton said, so managers could reconsider "how we build airplanes and how we can become better at it."

Full coverage: Building Up America

"Innovate or die," Pelton said. "You can't just hunker down and hide during this period of time. You have to continue doing your best."