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Guest Commentary by Josh Mann, SCV Economic Development Corp.
| Tuesday, Sep 6, 2011

Lacking both a commercial airport and a military base, the Santa Clarita Valley may seem an unlikely place to find cutting-edge aerospace and defense firms. Yet, amid the unassuming business parks and industrial centers, a growing cluster of companies are turning out some of the nation’s most advanced technology and hardware.

From tier one parts and control systems makers to suppliers of communications systems and aircraft interiors, Santa Clarita Valley’s aerospace and defense industry has an amazing level of depth and diversity.

Local firms have played vital roles in the success of nearly every major civilian and military aircraft program of the past 40 years, including the Space Shuttle, Boeing 747, Airbus A380 and Lockheed Martin’s F-35.

 

Aerospace Epicenter

Part of the Santa Clarita Valley’s appeal with industry firms can be attributed to California’s continued dominance in the aerospace industry. Despite the winding down of the space shuttle program and scaled back military programs, California space enterprise still supported over $93 billion in economic activity and accounted for 450,000 jobs in 2009 according to management consultancy, A.T. Kearney.

The nation’s major aerospace and defense contractors: Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, The Boeing Company, General Dynamics and Raytheon each have research, testing and assembly operations in the state. In addition, California has been the center of activity for the emerging private space industry with major player like SpaceX, Virgin Galactic and XCOR Aerospace.

Santa Clarita Valley’s location is ideal for supporting the needs of the “California Innovation Corridor,” as it was dubbed by a U.S. Department of Labor-funded study, which stretches from San Francisco to San Diego. The corridor encompasses nearly all of the state’s aerospace assets and employment base.

On a regional level, the Santa Clarita Valley has been an attractive destination for expanding southern California firms. The area’s industrial sites, existing professional workforce, training support and business incentive programs have worked to retain and grow companies like Aerospace Dynamics International (ADI), ITT Aerospace Controls, Woodward HRT and Curtiss-Wright Controls.

 

Recent Industry Activity

Back in February of this year, The Boeing Co.’s win of the $35 billion contract to build refueling tankers for the United States Air Force was announced. This translates into about 4,500 jobs for California, including additional work for Lamsco West Inc., and ITT Aerospace Controls. Both Santa Clarita Valley firms will be manufacturing parts for the 179 NewGen tankers to be designed and assembled by Boeing.

More recently, the partnership of two local firms, Vivace-Spacetron, unveiled their international spacecraft transporter, Cygnus Vertical Container. Completed in just eight months for NASA contractor, Orbital Sciences, the transporter will be used to ferry supplies to the International Space Station starting next year.

Wesco Aircraft Holdings Inc., a provider of inventory management services and distributor of parts to government and military contractors, recently held its initial public offering. The effort, which raised about $315 million for investors, served to highlight the firm’s continued growth and success. The Santa Clarita Valley company had a 10 percent share of the $6.5 billion global market for hardware, bearings, electronic components and machined parts in 2010.

 

Ready to Take Flight

The SCVEDC recently completed a Target Industry Analysis. The study, which was conducted by a leading, independent site selection consulting group, found the aerospace and defense industry to be among the strongest candidates for future growth in the Santa Clarita Valley.

This was based on several factors, including:

* The region is primed to develop new commercial and industrial space for expanding firms

* College of the Canyons continues to roll out new industry offerings through the Employee Training Institute (ETI) and Center for Applied Competitive Technologies (CACT)

* Santa Clarita Valley is ideally located for both domestic and international market access

* Strong political and community interaction through the Santa Clarita Valley Aerospace Defense Coalition and others, supporting future industry growth opportunities

Based on this report, the SCVEDC is actively working to support the needs of existing companies as well as looking to attract new industry activity to the area. Much like the products they help build, we want the sky to be the limit for aerospace and defense in the Santa Clarita Valley.

 

Josh Mann is the manager of business retention and marketing for the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp.

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