Icon (Close Menu)


Aerospace Industry Fights Recession Doldrums

3 min read

The aerospace industry seems to be on its way to recovery after many companies shrank throughout the Great Recession.

Robin Pelton, existing business resource sector manager for the Arkansas Aerospace Alliance, said the industry had all but bottomed out last year, but is beginning to climb back up the ladder.

"There are pockets of the aerospace segment that are doing really well, that are hiring and growing," she said. "Those are all very good signs."

(Click here for a PDF list of the state’s largest aerospace companies. A spreadsheet is also available.)

Pelton said the recovery is part of the economy’s overall rejuvenation, as well as some businesses branching out into new markets. Jevac Machine Inc. of Magnolia, for example, became a supplier for GE Aviation, a subsidiary of General Electric Co. of Fairfield, Conn.
Elsewhere, AAR Aircraft Services of Hot Springs has expanded and is looking to hire about 30 workers, Pelton said, which led to the town hosting an aerospace job fair last week.

"Are we back to where we want to be yet? No," she said. "But we’re definitely better than where we were in the last few years."

Another growing company is Lockheed Martin Missiles & Fire Control of Bethesda, Md. It has a 600-employee facility in Camden, where increased production has brought employment gains.

"The employment has been slowly creeping up for the past decade," said Craig Vanbebber, a spokesman for the company. "I would say there’s a growing and thriving employee population in Camden."

Vanbebber said the Camden site has increased by about 25 employees since last year.

"We’ve ramped up production on the Patriot Advanced Capability-3 missile that we produce in Camden," he said. A weapon called the Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System "is also produced there in Camden. That production has continued, so it’s just been a steady influx in business into that facility."

Moreover, a $79.4 million contract with the U.S. Department of Defense to upgrade the GMLRS has guaranteed steady employment for the plant’s 600 workers, Vanbebber said, and should mean growth in the future.

"We’re seeing a continued steady stream of orders on the PAC-3 and Guided MLRS," he said.

Not everyone has fared so well: Aviation Repair Technologies of Blytheville, which was the eighth biggest company last year, fell several slots after losing 100 employees – 50 percent of its work force.

Most of them were laid off, said Meghan Bearden, line maintenance manager for the company. Bearden said the company makes most of its money in heavy maintenance, and during the holiday season there are more planes in the air than on the ground, meaning the company always loses some of its contract workers.

This year was a bit different, though. The company had decided to hire almost entirely local workers instead of the usual out-of-town contractors.

"At the same time, one of our major customers, American Airlines, filed for bankruptcy," Bearden said.  "Most of the time, nobody really heard about us having layoffs."
The company’s typical contractors were temporary workers from out of town.

"They pack up and go, nonstop," she said. "But since it was all local people, it was a big ordeal this year."

Now, she said, the company is working to focus more on its support shop so it doesn’t have to rely so much on heavy maintenance.

Send this to a friend