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AEROSPACE & DEFENSE
From Site Selection magazine, November 2023
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Starships & Troopers

AEROSPACE & DEFENSE
After recruiting 800 employees and creating 400 positions in 2022 in Mirabel, Quebec, Airbus planned to recruit another 800 across Canada this year. The company operates 10 Canadian sites employing 4,000 overall.
Mirabel employee photo courtesy of Airbus

by Adam Bruns
A

sector that generated $391 billion in value and accounted for 2.1 million employees in the U.S. alone in 2021 is a sector worth paying attention to. Add in the rest of the world (the industry saw revenues of $741 billion in 2022, says PwC) and you get a sense of how powerful aerospace & defense and the sector’s talent and engineering are to regional economies.

We ran the numbers on more than 350 aerospace projects qualified for the Conway Projects Database in the past 20 months to see which global territories and companies are on the runway to aerospace & defense success.

Leading investors by number of facility projects include The Boeing Co. (10 projects, including two in India); Airbus (8); Pratt & Whitney (6); Northrop Grumman (6); and Gulfstream, Blue Origin, Honeywell and Lockheed Martin with five projects apiece.

The top aerospace state by far is Texas, where we’ve tallied 38 corporate facility projects in the sector since January 2022. Only 20 projects behind is Florida, home to the Space Coast and to a longtime aerospace sector making craft that stay within the atmosphere. No. 3 is Colorado (15 projects), followed by Alabama (13) and then a tie for No. 5 among Kansas, North Carolina and Virginia with 10 projects apiece. Here are a few project highlights from these top states:

In June 2023, GKN Aerospace announced the commissioning of the world’s largest known laser-directed energy deposition additive manufacturing cell as part of its new Global Technology Center in Fort Worth, Texas, where the company has invested $20 million and aims to create 100 jobs. “This will accelerate the introduction of our technology into production while helping to support the U.S. supply chain and reducing reliance on foreign-sourced materials,” said GKN Aerospace President of Defence Shawn Black.

Selff-described “trusted disruptor” L3Harris Technologies recently completed its acquisition of Aerojet Rocketdyne. That company, which already employed 800 at its defense HQ in Huntsville, Alabama, began hiring in early 2023 for its third campus there, a 379,000-sq.-ft. site at Jetplex Industrial Park near Huntsville International Airport that is part of the company’s center of excellence for inert manufacturing (solid rocket motor components). 

In addition tonew facilities in Poland and Italy this year, L3Harris, based in Melbourne, Florida, has made three investments in Texas since early 2022: a facility investment in Plano; a 100-job investment in Richardson; and a $40 million, 150-job commitment to eight new maintenance and modification hangars in Waco, where the company anticipated growing employment to 1,300 people.

Canada Leads Industry Takeoff Queue

Around the globe, Canada, with 12 projects in Ontario and nine in Québec, leads the way with 24 projects in all. The United Kingdom, Mexico and India come next with 13 projects apiece, followed by Australia and France.

Aerospace employs 230,000 people across Canada. One of the country’s largest aerospace employers is Airbus, primarily at its A220 assembly site in Mirabel, Québec.

“After recruiting more than 800 new employees and creating more than 400 positions for the A220 in Mirabel in 2022, we are pleased to announce that we will hire more than 800 additional employees across the country in 2023 — including approximately 700 in Québec,” said Benoît Schultz, president and CEO of Airbus Canada, in February 2023. More than 4,000 people work at 10 Airbus or Airbus subsidiary sites in Québec, Ontario and Nova Scotia.

In July, Airbus inaugurated a new A320 Family final assembly line (FAL) in Toulouse, France. “We’re pleased to see this new facility join our worldwide network of final assembly sites,” “said Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury, “which will comprise four FALs in Hamburg, Germany; two in Toulouse, France; two in Mobile, [Alabama], United States; and two in Tianjin, China, all them capable of assembling the A321.”

Switzerland-based company H55, the technological spin-off of the Solar Impulse solar-powered aircraft that successfully flew around the world without fuel 10 years ago, in October announced that it will begin construction on a North American premises and Canadian headquarters at Saint-Hubert Airport in Longueuil, Québec, part of the Greater Montréal region. Initial battery pack production will commence in 2024. 

The project is supported by a C$10 million “repayable contribution” announced in March 2023 by Canada Economic Development (CED), which is providing the funds via the federal Aerospace Regional Recovery Initiative (ARRI). 

Two leading aerospace regions came together in September when Québec City-based aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) company Premier Aviation announced it would be breaking ground on a $32.5 million, 250-job facility at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (ECP) in Panama City, Florida. The company estimates it will hire 10 employees in 2024 at “Project Maple” and 80 in each subsequent year through 2026. A release from ECP and the Bay County Economic Development Alliance said Haney Technical College will facilitate tailored courses in aviation maintenance.

Half of the funds for the two-bay hangar will come through Triumph Gulf Coast, a nonprofit that oversees expenditure of economic damage funds from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, while the other half will come from Space Florida and Premier Aviation “through a conduit financing structure.” Space Florida will own the facility and long-term lease the facility to Premier Aviation. ECP looks to establish what it calls an Aviation Center of Excellence around its 3,000 developable acres and 10,000-ft. runway. 

Adam Bruns
Editor in Chief of Site Selection magazine

Adam Bruns

Adam Bruns is editor in chief and head of publications for Site Selection, and before that has served as managing editor beginning in February 2002. In the course of reporting hundreds of stories for Site Selection, Adam has visited companies and communities around the globe. A St. Louis native who grew up in the Kansas City suburbs, Adam is a 1986 alumnus of Knox College, and resided in Chicago; Midcoast Maine; Savannah, Georgia; and Lexington, Kentucky, before settling in the Greater Atlanta community of Peachtree Corners, where he lives with his wife and daughter.

     



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