The Armory For Democracy Goes Suburban
When you're looking for work, it helps to have friends. Metro Detroit is getting a big boost from Uncle Sam as defense sector companies come to Michigan and auto suppliers morph into defense manufacturers and suppliers.
The numbers are staggering. According to press releases from Senator Carl Levin's office, in fiscal 2010, the metro region will receive $5.7 billion from the National Defense Authorization Bill
for dozens of projects. That's up from $5.2 billion in the previous fiscal year. Levin chairs the Senate's Armed Services Committee.
In one of the smaller deals, the aerospace division of KUKA Systems North America
was awarded a $100 million-plus, four-year contract to build the F-35 fighter assembly line for Northrop Grumman Corp. early this month.
KUKA said in a press release that the contract is the largest ever received by its four-year-old Clinton Township division. It's also believed to be the first time a major aerospace manufacturer has contracted with a vendor to supply and install a complete assembly line, KUKA says. The entire F-35 project is valued at more than $40 billion.
Federal defense dollars mean jobs for metro Detroit
"The Army expects to grow jobs in this region from 6,500 to more than 9,800 by 2015 – an increase of 3300 new jobs. A whole batch of new jobs (at suppliers) will follow the army's growth. The more commitment the military makes, the larger its presence grows," says Ken Rogers, executive director of Automation Alley, the Troy-based technology business group.
and Lawrence Technological University
in Southfield are teaming up to prepare displaced automotive engineers for the defense job growth. Rogers says most of the new openings will go to civilians with advanced degrees.
In January, Lawrence Tech launches a 15-credit hour graduate certificate in manufacturing systems for the defense industry. Defense contractors General Dynamics, Raytheon, and the two local Army centers for R+D and procurement, TARDEC
, are also participating.
Stephen Schultz, vice president for advanced programs at General Dynamics Land Systems
, says his company has plenty of room in its hiring plans for engineers who attain the certificate.
"We expect our needs to persist forever and we will be hiring well-qualified people," he said in response to a question from Metromode
at the press conference announcing the new Lawrence Tech program in early November.
General Dynamics is building a new $8.2 million facility in Sterling Heights for testing military vehicles for the Army and Marine Corps. According to the Crain’s Detroit Business
list of largest U.S. divisions in Southeast Michigan, published in April, General Dynamics Land Systems had 2008 revenues of $4.6 billion, a nice uptick over 2007's $4 billion in revenues. The parent company had 2008 revenues of $26 billion.
Companies that come to Michigan like the low real estate prices, highly skilled workforce and technology focus
The vast heart of the local military-industrial complex beats in Warren. The U.S. Army TACOM Life Cycle Management Command is one of the Army's largest weapon systems research, development, and sustainment organizations. A procurement center, it administered around $25 billion in acquisition contracts last fiscal year. The funds went all over the country, not just to Michigan suppliers.
TACOM shares its Warren campus with the Tank-Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC), a military automotive lab. TARDEC's turf includes all manned and unmanned Department of Defense ground systems and combat support systems for today's troops and for the future. TARDEC was founded in 1946 as a military automotive lab. Today, around 1,200 associates are working with a budget of more than $600 million.
The two facilities are at the center of a network of more than 180 civilian R+D labs, including divisions of some of the largest defense contractors in the U.S. Others were created to conduct research for the auto industry. They're spread throughout the metro area from Sterling Heights and Warren to Orion Township and Ann Arbor.
"Other areas will grow as the industry grows its presence. There's a clear military presence here and a clear opportunity to grow it," Rogers says.
Besides General Dynamics Land Systems and Raytheon, the big players include BAE Systems
, newcomer Oshkosh in Warren, which won two big contracts recently, and AM General
in Livonia. Caterpillar and Navistar Defense LLC also have contracts.
Macomb County has made a big effort to recruit new defense companies and retool existing auto suppliers. Last September, armored vehicle maker BAE began construction for a new $58 million campus near TACOM. Eventually it will host more than 600 jobs.
received $348 million for 1,928 additional medium tactical vehicles (MTVs) from TACOM. Various models will be used for troop transport, petroleum, oil and lubricant (POL) trucks, wreckers, and water tankers for use in Afghanistan.
The company also received a four-year $78 million contract to provide engineering support for its Mine Resistant Ambush Protected
(MRAP) vehicles, Navistar announced in a Nov. 5 press release. It leases space in the Macomb-Oakland University SmartZone incubator
Southeast Michigan is the North American robotics manufacturing capital. The U.S. Marine Corps recently moved its robotics lab to TARDEC from Quantico, Va.
Much of the research has commercial as well as military potential, says John Bedz, a defense industry consultant with Automation Alley. Robotics, alternative energy, batteries, hybrid vehicles, and fuel efficiency are all research topics with dual applications.
Bedz administers a federal grant through TARDEC that funds research at small businesses – those with fewer than 500 employees – for the Department of Defense. Local work is usually vehicle-based, he says.
"TARDEC has a broad mission to support to make their vehicles safer, more effective more fuel efficient. (Research results) have commercial (vehicle) applications as well – that brings the cost down by selling a lot of them," Bedz adds.
Not everything that's happening is combat-ready in the usual sense. As Metromode
reported in August, Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Harrison Township is undergoing a $30 million refit to combat cross-border crime. Scheduled to open in May 2010, the Operational Integration Center will serve as a clearing house for intel for the busiest international crossings along the giant border with Canada. The center is a pilot for the Dept. of Homeland Security.
"I don't think anybody understands the military presence here in Southeast Michigan," says Rogers. "We have a great work force here. If you want something made in the United States, we can make it here. This region is no news to the military. Our opportunity now is just to grow it. We need to be sure we get a good share of what's happening in federal funding."