Maine's Supply Chain and Workforce Help Aerospace Industry Succeed

Aerospace companies flourish in Maine thanks to the state's efforts to leverage a skilled workforce and a well-developed supply chain.

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Some have famous names – Pratt & Whitney and Lufthansa, for example – and others have a lower profile in their industry, but all of the companies that make up Maine’s diverse and growing aerospace cluster share something in common.

All have discovered that being located in Maine is one of the keys to their success, thanks to a well-developed supply chain and a highly skilled workforce that leverages expertise from the state’s legacy industries, including shipbuilding. The state offers a number of training programs designed to supply workers with the industry-specific skills they need.

In addition, Maine offers a number of facilities ideally suited for the aerospace and aviation industry, some of them converted from military use. The former Brunswick Naval Air Station, for example, includes twin 8,000-foot runways and 500,000 square feet of hangar space.

Maine’s commitment to the aerospace industry's success encourages companies like C&L Aviation Group in Bangor to expand in the state. The company is a global aviation services and aftermarket-support provider that offers a number of services, including interior refurbishment of aircraft, structural modifications, components repair and avionics modifications. The company has a new $5 million headquarters and is also opening a 17,000-square-foot painting hangar.

“When I opened the office in Maine, I did not intend to make it C&L's headquarters. I was so impressed with the community, however, and the support I received from the local and state government, I ended up moving my family here from Australia, too,” says C&L CEO Chris Kilgour.

“There were many factors influencing my decision: the pro-business attitude, the work ethic of the people, the untapped skills of a generation of aviation technicians, and the support of the Bangor International Airport,” he says.

Powering America’s Newest Fighter

Pratt & Whitney, one of the world’s best-known aerospace companies, is expanding its North Berwick plant as part of the company’s investment in its global manufacturing network as it prepares for an unprecedented production increase for its jet engines.

The company won a $1 billion contract to supply jet engines for the U.S. armed force’s newest combat aircraft, the F-35 fighter.

The company operates a 1 million-square-foot facility in North Berwick that makes precision-machined parts for commercial and military jets. The facility, which has about 1,300 workers, is also responsible for aftermarket overhaul and repair on some commercial and military engine parts.

“This new space is required at North Berwick as Pratt & Whitney enters a significant period of growth with the continued success of its next-generation commercial engine family,” says Ray Hernandez, spokesman for United Technologies, the parent company of Pratt & Whitney.

Lufthansa Technik has operations at the Lewiston-Auburn Municipal Airport in Auburn where it is restoring a piece of aviation history. A foundation operated by Lufthansa, the German air carrier, selected the company to refurbish a Lockheed Super Constellation, a type of airliner that flew with Lufthansa from 1958 to 1966.

With more than 30 production facilities and more than 25,000 employees, the Lufthansa Technik Group is one of the leading providers of aircraft-related technical services in the world.

In Auburn, Lufthansa created a number of high-skilled jobs for the project. A special hangar was built and leased to Lufthansa. It is expected to serve as an important business recruitment tool for the airport.

Maine continues to attract new aerospace companies. Tempus Jet Centers, for example, relocated its aircraft repair station and VIP interior completions business from Virginia to a 166,000-square-foot facility at the Brunswick Executive Airport, where it was able to expand its business to include large commercial aircraft from Boeing and Airbus.

State and Local Programs

The state supports the aerospace industry with programs such as the Maine Advanced Technology & Engineering Center (MATEC), located on the Southern Maine Community College (SMCC) Midcoast Campus in Brunswick. It is home to SMCC’s Composite Science and Manufacturing program, while also housing SMCC’s pre-engineering program and the University of Maine’s Brunswick engineering program.

MATEC is also the home to the Composites Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL), which operates as a partnership between SMCC and the Maine Composites Alliance.

CERL is equipped with cutting-edge precision analytical instruments that analyze the performance properties and behaviors of polymer-based materials and composites.

Program Chairman Andy Schoenber says SMCC’s composites program provides education and real-world experience while preparing students to enter advanced manufacturing industries in jobs such as quality control technicians, engineering technicians, and shift supervisors.

“We provide students with theoretical knowledge and the practical skills that are essential in today’s composite manufacturing industries," he says. "Our graduates can use their skills in a range of industries, whether it be microelectronics, industrial manufacturing, construction, boat-building or aerospace.”

Read more about the business climate in Maine.

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Fri, 10/27/2017 - 19:55