By Secretary Mike Preston, Arkansas Department of Commerce
When Lockheed Martin was looking for a site to produce its High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, it knew it had found the perfect spot in a rural area in south central Arkansas. Over the years, the company has continued to expand the facility with its most recent expansion announced in June at the Paris Air Show. Lockheed Martin will invest $142 million in the facility, creating 326 new jobs to produce the rocket system as well as perform final assembly for Integrated Air and Missile Defense and Precision Fire products for the United States and allied military services.
“Our facility in Camden is a highly efficient, high quality center of excellence that contributes components and performs final assembly for products that are important to the defense of the United States and a growing number of allied nations,” said Frank St. John, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control. “The facility has a long record of precision manufacturing and on-time deliveries, which is the reason we continue to invest in and expand our Camden Operations. This expansion will help ensure the availability, affordability and quality of systems we build for our customers around the world.”
The Aerospace and Defense industry is a major part of the Arkansas economy. The state’s workforce is strong, with multiple major companies operating here, including Lockheed Martin, Dassault Falcon, Raytheon Missile Systems, General Dynamics and others. Arkansas is also home to five military installations, including the Little Rock Air Force Base which employs more than 7,500 active-duty military and civilian members.
Aerojet Rocketdyne is another industry leader who found success in Arkansas. The company broke ground earlier this year on a 17,000-square-foot Engineering, Manufacturing and Development facility set to open in early 2020 to serve as the developmental gateway to future Aerojet Rocketdyne large solid rocket motor product opportunities, to include the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent program, hypersonics and missile defense targets.
“Once open for business, the Engineering, Manufacturing and Development facility will be the newest and most modern rocket development facility in the nation,” said Eileen Drake, Aerojet Rocketdyne’s CEO and president. “Our longstanding partnership with the great state of Arkansas continues to yield impressive results.”
Aerospace and defense is the state’s largest export, totaling $1.8 billion in 2018. Nearly 180 private aerospace and defense companies collectively employ about 10,000 Arkansans.
To support this workforce, Arkansas has become a leader in aerospace education, offering a wide variety of certification programs and degrees. Students can participate in career training programs focused on aerospace technology and manufacturing, become a professional pilot, obtain four-year degrees in aviation and engineering, and even earn their master’s degree or Ph.D. The state’s training programs are rapidly evolving to accommodate the challenges of today’s world, including cybersecurity.
In fact, Arkansas is quickly becoming a hub for cybersecurity education as the demand for cybersecurity roles grows, and two Arkansas universities recently received a combined total of $7 million in funding for cybersecurity research and training purposes.
The University of Arkansas at Fayetteville received a five-year, $4.63 million award from the National Science Foundation to address a national shortage of highly-skilled cybersecurity professionals by enabling researchers to recruit, educate, and train the next generation of cybersecurity professionals.
“The federal agencies that support these industries – all critical to our nation’s security and economic health – understand that new cybersecurity challenges are met with an increasingly insufficient security workforce,” said Jia Di, professor of computer science and computer engineering and principal investigator for the program.
University of Arkansas Little Rock’s Dr. Nitin Agarwal, director of the Collaboratorium for Social Behavioral Studies, has received a $2.4 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense. The funding will be used to develop ways to track emerging cyber-social threats and strengthen social cybersecurity research infrastructure.
“The aim of this project is to examine, evaluate, measure, and predict the threat level of the adversarial information campaigns,” Agarwal said.
All total, there are 32 institutes across the state offering aviation-related programs including a certificate of proficiency, technical certificate, advanced certificate, associate degree, baccalaureate degree, post-baccalaureate degree, master’s degree and doctorate degree.
These educational institutions have joined forces with public and private aerospace companies as well as government agencies to form a public-private collaboration dedicated to promoting the aerospace, aviation, and defense industry in Arkansas and training a qualified workforce. The Alliance creates business opportunities, inspires global competition, facilitates the development of key relationships, provides educational opportunities, and encourages public policies that benefit the industry in the state.
While the aerospace industry includes some of the world’s largest corporations, there are many, smaller businesses that support the large players with specialized products. Galley Support Innovations (GSI) is a thriving manufacturer and supplier of highly specialized locks, latches, door bolting systems, faucets, sinks, chairs, food storage compartments and many other components for clients that include Dassault Falcon, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Gulfstream.
GSI has grown from a husband-and-wife team to 42 employees producing just under $500 million in annual sales. This is the story of how they made that journey, and why growing their business in Arkansas has been one of their many great business decisions.
“The support from the state has been phenomenal over the past 14 years,” said Radke. “As you grow, it’s tough. But with the changing of tech funding for schools, Arkansas is moving forward. I believe the next five to 10 years will see a better environment that’s even more supportive for advanced manufacturing jobs.”
Another small but growing company, Mundo-Tech, recently announced it is doubling its physical presence at its Rogers, Arkansas, facility. The tube bending and fabrication supplier supplies numerous aerospace companies, Fortune 500, and space companies. The expansion is a direct result of the company’s need to meet demand from major aerospace and defense contractors.
One of the advantages of doing business in a small state is that smaller businesses have their chance to shine. Take Ozark Integrated Circuits Inc. The Fayetteville company is a fabless semiconductor company spun out of research through the University of Arkansas. Headquartered in the university’s home in Fayetteville, Ozark IC has received several grants through the NASA Phase 1 Small Business Innovation Research program to facilitate exploration of Venus as well as a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy for geothermal wells.
“We are a product of a research-and-development ecosystem in Arkansas, in the same lineage as Arkansas Power Electronics International, Wolfspeed and SurfTec,” said Ozark IC founder Matt Francis. “It all comes down to the University of Arkansas – the technologies and the people – that has made Northwest Arkansas a cluster for extreme environment engineering and research.”
With a central location and comprehensive intermodal transportation infrastructure, Arkansas is poised to continue to grow in the aviation and defense sector. To learn more about how Arkansas can help your business soar, visit the Arkansas Economic Development Commission’s website at www.ArkansasEDC.com.