There wasn’t a moment to spare: War raged in Europe, and the attack on Pearl Harbor was only months away when Henderson, Nevada formed as a township to build and operate the Basic Magnesium plant. Known as the “miracle metal,” magnesium was vital to strengthening the aluminum used in aircraft construction and shell casings, among other military needs. Proximity to Hoover Dam and Lake Mead for power and water made Henderson the ideal location for the plant, which immediately became the nation’s leading supplier of magnesium for the U.S. war effort and a key cog in the massive industrial mobilization of World War II.
Magnesium helped win the war, and the city born for industry showed its own mettle producing more than 166 million pounds of refined magnesium, and then persevering after the war when demand for magnesium plummeted, forcing the plant to close.
“The township came close to being sold off as war surplus,” notes Derek Armstrong, Henderson’s Director of Economic Development and Tourism. “But this is a community with the will to work and the desire to flourish.”
Henderson kept striving, and eventually new businesses began finding their way to this sun-filled city in the mountains of Southern Nevada, just 12 miles from Las Vegas. Today, innovators thrive here, companies like K-12 Energy, designer and manufacturer of cutting-edge Lithium ion energy storage, and VadaTech, maker of embedded computer solutions. Leading corporations like Levi Strauss and Ocean Spray appreciate the openness and eager attitude of Henderson’s large workforce, continually on the grow in the nation’s second fastest growing county.
Mark Rauenzahn, Director of Beverage Manufacturing at the Henderson Ocean Spray conversion facility, points out that “people come here with the willingness to start a new life, start a new career. And that lends itself to opportunity.”
A New Mobilization.
Henderson’s newest industrial arrivals include a 600,000 square-foot Amazon fulfillment center and a $600 million Google data center spread across 54 acres. The Las Vegas Raiders’ new headquarters and healthcare performance center also just opened.
But the real game changer for Henderson’s advanced manufacturing arrived with Haas Automation, which helped spur a new mobilization, this time to produce a state-of-the-art, precision-tooled advanced manufacturing workforce.
A $2 Million Rapid Response Program.
A global leader in the production of machine tools with $1.2 billion in annual sales, Haas sought an expansion location with proximity to the company’s California headquarters and with ample land for what will be a 4.3 million square-foot complex of commercial space, to include a 2.3 million square-foot manufacturing facility. Additional land for future supplier operations was also needed. Henderson filled the bill with ideal proximity to California (California ports can be reached in a one-day turnaround), abundant low-cost land, reduced regulations—and, in the city that revved up to help win a war, an ability to make good things happen fast, including workforce development for a manufacturing operation ready to hire as many as 1,400 over the next 5 years.
“Workforce was the last piece of the puzzle,” notes Armstrong. “Fortunately, we have the size with a population of 2 million within a 50-minute radius, and now we have the right training resources with the $2 million advanced manufacturing rapid response program through College of Southern Nevada and WINN.”
While College of Southern Nevada has been a long-time leader in Nevada’s industrial workforce training, WINN (Workforce Innovations for the New Nevada) was set up more recently by the state to facilitate workforce development that can power economic development. With $1 million earmarked for equipment and infrastructure, the rapid response program will enable the development of middle skills training for Production Technician and Machine Operator, while also allowing students to obtain critical certifications from the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council (MSSC) and the National Institute for Metalworking Skills (NIMS) for Production Technician, Logistics Technician, and CNC Machining Operator, which provides a pathway to mechatronics and robotics degrees.
For Gene Haas, founder and CEO of Haas Automation, the new program is “proof that Haas Automation made the right decision to invest in Southern Nevada.” And with the program ready to support the Haas plant opening by 2023, it will soon be a major asset answering a range of industry needs.
It’s a big step forward, but not a surprising one, according to Armstrong. “We’re the city that produced the metal that helped win a world war. Creating workers with the right mettle for global manufacturing is just a continuation of that founding drive for excellence.”
For more information about Henderson Economic Development, visit Hendersonnow.com.