Northrop Grumman Opening New Center of Excellence
High-tech aviation took a jump in the right direction with the May 2014 announcement that Northrop Grumman would bring its Manned Aircraft Design Center of Excellence to Melbourne. With this news comes a huge community benefit, adding about 1,000 high-paying professional jobs.
After months of speculation, it was announced that the project, initially dubbed “Project Magellan,” would be located in Brevard, bringing to the forefront a growing positive wave of industrial recruitment running counter to the layoffs related to the loss of the Space Shuttle program.
The 220,000-sq.ft. center, to be located near existing Northrop Grumman facilities at Melbourne International Airport, is one of five centers of excellence nationwide in support of Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems sector’s manned aircraft, unmanned systems and electronic attack businesses. The Melbourne center’s capabilities will include: system design, development, and integration, test and evaluation and life-cycle logistics support. The Manned Aircraft Design Center of Excellence will include aircraft design work currently being performed at the company’s Bethpage, N.Y., facility.
According to a company overview of the project, the added jobs will include “Every skill…every level: Engineer, Program Management, Business Management, Supply, Logistics, Manufacturing, Quality and more.” Northrop Grumman also announced that it is putting its Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence in St. Augustine, this is in addition to the company’s Apopka operation which employs more than 450 workers in Central Florida. “Northrop Grumman remains committed to the state of Florida, as we continue to grow our operations here,” said company spokeswoman Jacqueline Farrell.
Governor Rick Scott added at the time of the announcement: “We are excited that Northrop Grumman has decided to expand here in Florida. This is a huge win. These victories will attract more and more businesses to the Sunshine State. We must continue to grow our opportunity economy so that companies like Northrop Grumman can continue to create jobs for Florida families.”
“The project was made possible through strong partnerships at the state and local levels,” Scott said. “Partners that helped make the project a success include Enterprise Florida, Brevard County, City of Melbourne, Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, Florida Power & Light, Space Florida, CareerSource Florida, Florida Department of Transportation and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
“As part of the project, CareerSource Florida has offered Northrop Grumman performance-based partial reimbursement grants for employee training through the Quick Response Training (QRT) program. QRT grants are structured to be flexible and responsive to the training needs of new or expanding businesses,” Scott said.
“We’re extremely appreciative of the support we’ve received from the state of Florida and the local community in our continuing effort to drive our affordability and competitive position,” said Tom Vice, Northrop Grumman corporate vice president and president, aerospace systems. “This expansion further cements our strong partnership with Florida, and will greatly benefit our employees, customers and shareholders.”
“For the residents of the Space Coast seeking high-paying employment in technical fields, the move represents the next in a series of successes – and sets the tone for the future economy of Brevard County – in the increasingly competitive world of industrial recruiting,” said Lynda Weatherman, president and CEO, Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast.
“This is yet another example of success in our push to expand 21st century aviation operations on the Space Coast.”
According to the EDC’s Business Attraction and Expansion Highlights 2012-2014, Northrop Grumman “plans to invest approximately $500 million in capital investments at the Melbourne Airport. With up to 1,800 jobs anticipated by the completion of the second phase, this will lead to a direct total net new wage impact of $180 million, $22 indirectly and $38 million induced for a total impact of more than $241 million.”
Building A New Sector
While the legacy of highly-skilled workers in the area was an important aspect in the recruitment, and it helped to already have Northrop Grumman operations here, it was not a forgone conclusion that the company would make the move, Weatherman said. “Brevard County has about 100 percent more manufacturing than Florida has on average, and we have a generation of trained manufacturing employees already working in a technical environment. These attributes strengthened our business case.”
Another recent notable recruitment success involving the Melbourne International Airport involves Embraer Executive Jets opening an assembly plant and related facilities for its twin-engine Legacy 500 and its Legacy 450 executive jets. The new project is expected to create 600 jobs and add 250,000-sq.ft. to Embraer’s operations on the Space Coast. Also at the airport are plans for Embraer’s Engineering and Technology Center, expected to employ 200 engineers once fully staffed, according to the EDC highlights.
The subsequent news of the Northrop Grumman Manned Aircraft Design Center of Excellence being located in Melbourne has also helped counteract the negativity of the retirement of the Space Shuttle program and replaced it with a new emphasis on the area being perfect to supply and attract skilled workers for other types of technical aviation-related manufacturing, Weatherman said.
“Northrop Grumman’s selection of Brevard for this program is proof that there can be communities where there are economic miracles. A project like this…you can imagine how highly sought after it would be across the nation. With the company having 30 sites in 30 different states, not for one minute did we assume, because they have a history and a legacy here, they would be here,” she said.
The economic impact of the new facility should be noticeable out in the community, both during construction and after completion, expected to take two years, she said.
“The sheer amount of anticipated jobs involved in this project means people will be going out to dinner, buying cars, homes, furniture, traveling and more. With the immediate economic impact of the construction alone, you’ll see it the next six months as well as a change in the unemployment rate based on that alone,’’ she said.