Friday, January 26, 2018
OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma is getting its first original equipment aerospace manufacturing company.
Kratos Defense and Security Solutions Inc. is expanding its operations from San Diego, California, to Oklahoma City. Steve Fendley, president of the company’s Unmanned Systems Division, said proximity to Tinker Air Force Base, high quality of life, relatively low cost of living, the business-friendly environment and tax incentives helped attract the company. Tim Dickinson, senior business development manager for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, said it’s a big deal to get an advanced aircraft manufacturer in the state.
Kratos’ unmanned aerial systems division will begin in an 8,800-square-foot building near the base for its engineering and production planning phase. It will move into a 75,000-square-foot facility within six months for its manufacturing and production. Fendley said some workers found out about the expansion into Oklahoma and requested transfers. Though some will move from California, others will be hired locally, with up to 350 employees in the next few years.
Kratos has a $93 million contract to supply missile-capable drones to the Army and a $23 million drone contract awarded from an unnamed customer. The manufacturing work will include advanced parts manufacturing of composites materials.
The California production center was reaching capacity, producing slightly more than 100 drones annually. They needed to be able to expand and bring more contractors to build that out, Fendley said.
Dickinson said though Oklahoma has original equipment manufacturers in other industries, it doesn’t have any in the aerospace sector. It will house its engineering, design, manufacturing and final assembly in Oklahoma City.
That will increase the demand for new skills from the state’s workforce. It is a chance to build on the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics training future employees will need, he said. Dickinson, who previously managed support groups for the B-1 and B-52 bomber systems at Tinker, said the next generation of engineers have a new opportunity to develop composite materials.
“I’m excited about the kids doing things we weren’t able to do,” Dickinson said.