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Davis and Weber counties represent the heart of Utah’s aerospace industry. Discuss the impact of Hill Air Force Base.
MCCALL: Regarding Hill Air Force Base—every year, it seems we’re either doing great or there’s doom and gloom with the BRAC on the horizon. This year has been very interesting, especially the last six months. As you know, defense budgets are shrinking, and we are not exempt from defense budgets shrinking. There has been an attempt within the Air Force to reorganize, to save dollars wherever they can and in particular with Air Force material command, which is what I call the mother ship of Hill Air Force Base. They’re the command that we report to.
We’ve been working through this, and I mean this very literally, night and day, day in and day out with the governor, with our delegation. Early in December when the plan was finally on the table it reported a loss of a couple hundred jobs. But if you read between the lines and if you really knew what the effects of the reorganization were and meant, we could have lost tens of thousands of jobs. That would be the end of Falcon Hill and all the contractors who support Hill Air Force Base.
I have to give great credit to the Utah Defense Alliance, to our governor, to the delegation, particularly Senator Hatch and Congressman Bishop because they have been tenacious. We didn’t win on every front. There will be job losses to Hill, but certainly not what we thought months ago.
RICHINS: Numerous people at this table have been involved in the Utah Defense Alliance, which is really a nonprofit, a group of people in northern Utah who are very, very concerned and interested in keeping Hill right where it is, which just exactly straddles Davis and Weber. We’re going to be looking to the legislature for some funding for the Utah Defense Alliance to ensure that we’re able to keep those missions involved.
I’m also involved with Falcon Hill, which is a three-way partnership between the state of Utah, Sunset Ridge Development and the Air Force. Our project is over 500 acres. It goes from the Clearfield gate clear to the Roy gate in a strip of ground right through there. Now, there are certain things that will be preserved—the old historic area will be preserved. It will grow; it’s a long-term project. It’s a 50-year lease that the Air Force has given the Sunset Ridge Development Partners to develop the Falcon Hill aerospace department.
Discuss the area’s growing composites industry and how it fits into the future of aerospace.
SHUMATE: You’ve probably read quite a bit about the commercial business [ATK has] picked up with customers such as Airbus, General Electric, Rolls-Royce. Really that’s a leveraging of the composite technology that ATK and formerly Hercules developed for a number of years that served the defense industry—we also have a very strong presence on the new Air Force fighter aircraft, the F-35. So the momentum we carry through from 2011 into ‘12 is very strong.
As a result of these contracts, we’ve expanded our facility, more than doubling its space with a new facility up in Clearfield adding 600,000 square feet and about 120 jobs in the last year, and we project a couple more hundred over the next two or three years, ultimately probably taking about 800 people. That’s just from those particular contracts. We would certainly expect that we’re not going to stop there. We’re going to continue to expand.
Let’s talk about education. How do we make that connection between education, a well-trained and ready workforce, and the needs of industry?
BOUWHUIS: Education is countercyclical to the economy. In the last three years our institution has grown 57 percent. It’s been phenomenal to see the growth, which is good for almost everyone around this table that hires people.
In the area of manufacturing, this last six months has been phenomenal. Just about every welder that wants to go to work can go to work. Machining is going strong. It’s just been unbelievable to see what’s happening in machining. It’s back to almost the 2005/2006 level in terms of diesel technology, industrial maintenance, composites, all those programs that have to do with manufacturing. The students are being drawn out as quickly as we can train them.
The whole composites industry was pioneered in the state of Utah. We received a $2.1 million grant and started programs at Weber State lab. University of Utah brings all their engineers in for composites training at our facility. We set up a program at Morgan High, Salt Lake Community College and DATC with this grant. So we’re leading the group.