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All Systems Go – Why Northrop Grumman Chose Florida Again (and Again)

July 20th, 1969. The Hatch Opens and the World Changes. Neil Armstrong Leaves an Impression in the Lunar Dust and on Generations of Americans.

Northrop Grumman Takes Its Next Giant Leap in Florida

It was an indelible mark on the history of human achievement, made possible in part by the company we now know as Northrop Grumman. Responsible for designing, building and testing the Lunar Module, it was the groundbreaking Apollo program that first brought the Grumman Corporation to Florida’s shores. Half a century and several mergers and acquisitions later, Northrop Grumman is still here. The race to put a man on the moon may be over, but Northrop Grumman’s commitment to pushing the boundaries of aviation, aerospace and defense technology certainly isn’t. And once again, Florida plays an indispensable role, providing the necessary resources for this pioneering company to take its next giant leap.

THE EAGLE HAS LANDED – AND STAYED

State-of-the-art aircraft and unmanned systems are the lunar modules of today. Recently, Northrop Grumman has expanded its Aerospace Systems sector— and its Florida presence—with the decision to build two of five nationally-designated Centers of Excellence within the state. Another look reaffirmed what Northrop Grumman had discovered decades earlier: Florida offered a unique blend of industry-specific talent and infrastructure, underscored by a business climate celebrating innovation and growth. The global defense giant’s tried-and-true

history of regional success solidified its choice. “We have a 50-plus-year relationship with Florida’s Space Coast going back to the days of our nation’s race to put the first man on the moon,” said Rick Matthews, Vice President of Florida Operations and Site Manager for the company’s Melbourne campus. “We knew this was a great place to attract and retain talent.”

Florida Governor Rick Scott speaks at the dedication of Northrop Grumman’s Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence in St. Augustine, Florida.

Florida Governor Rick Scott speaks at the dedication of Northrop Grumman’s Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence in St. Augustine, Florida.

GATHERING WORKFORCE INTELLIGENCE

Together, St. Augustine’s Aircraft Integration Center and Melbourne’s Manned Aircraft Design Center will require nearly 1,500 high-skilled workers to fill positions during the initial phases of each project alone. It’s a daunting sum, but one that Florida’s aviation and aerospace workforce can easily manage. And as one of the top-five recipients of Department of Defense contracts in the country, Florida’s defense workforce is equally as strong, boasting large numbers of former NASA personnel within its 200,000-member base. Ultimately, Florida’s highly skilled and diverse workforce was a key reason why Northrop Grumman selected Florida for its most recent project.

Additionally, Florida’s emphasis on STEM and efforts to bridge the gap between academia and industry in its public education system have allowed Northrop Grumman to take a proactive role in workforce creation. “The focus on high tech is evident,” said Matthews. “We work with academia, state government and industry to predict and align training and education organizations with future workforce needs.” As a result, Northrop Grumman has formed strategic partnerships with leading post-secondary institutions like Florida Institute of Technology and Embry-Riddle, the top aviation and aerospace university in the world, ensuring the company will continue to benefit from Florida’s top-tier workforce for years to come.

We knew this was a great place to attract and retain talent.

Rick Matthews
Vice President of Operations, Melbourne Site Manager, Sector Lead Executive – Florida Operations, Northrop Grumman

OPTING FOR INDUSTRIAL STRENGTH

Given the state’s impressive talent pool in aviation and aerospace as well as defense and homeland security, it’s no surprise these two industries shine as some of Florida’s areas of excellence. With more than 2,000 aviation and aerospace companies and an impressive 17,900 defense and homeland security businesses calling Florida home, Northrop Grumman occupies an enviable position at the vital nexus of two dovetailing mega-industries. The primary advantage? A robust pipeline of targeted resources cultivated to enhance affordability, efficiency and innovation. Most importantly, these resources are already in place and have been refined over time. For example, nearly every major aerospace and defense contractor in the country and abroad has significant operations in Florida. For any relative newcomer, the advantages are clear: established supply chains, critical pieces of infrastructure and existing workforce talent. Northrop Grumman also benefits from Florida’s other niche industry advantages, such as sales and use tax exemptions on manufacturing equipment and aircraft components. As Northrop Grumman’s success demonstrates, Florida’s reputation as a top state for both space and defense systems manufacturing and aviation/ aerospace manufacturing is well-earned.

Statewide, Florida features 19 commercial airports, two spaceports and launch and landing facilities to support a diverse range of aerospace activities, from research to service.

Statewide, Florida features 19 commercial airports, two spaceports and launch and landing facilities to support a diverse range of aerospace activities, from research to service.

BUILDING A LAUNCH PAD FOR GLOBAL OPERATIONS

As far as industry hot spots go, the mercury might be at its highest in Florida. Melbourne International Airport’s Business and Industrial Park is the site of the Manned Aircraft Design Center as well as its long- awaited $500 million “Project Magellan” expansion. There, fellow industry leaders Embraer, Rockwell Collins and Harris Corp. join Northrop Grumman in benefitting from the unbeatable connectivity that has become emblematic of Florida’s multimodal infrastructure. With immediate airport access, inclusion in one of the country’s largest Foreign Trade Zone networks, close proximity to Port Canaveral, Kennedy Space Center and direct connection to primary highway and rail networks, the world—through any accessible point, atmosphere included— is at Northrop Grumman’s fingertips. Statewide, Florida features 19 airports, two spaceports and launch and landing facilities to support a diverse range of aerospace activities, from research to service. For any company with a global vision, Florida’s geographic position as an international gateway supported by an outstanding infrastructure is a fierce combination that remains unmatched.

DEFENDING YOUR BUSINESS FREEDOM

Finally, it’s Florida’s dedication to maintaining a cost competitive business environment that allows Northrop Grumman to truly soar. “Expanding at the Melbourne and St. Augustine locations is part of our overarching strategy to better align our capabilities to continue to solve our nation’s toughest global security problems … and do it affordably,” said Matthews. In addition to lowered costs, Northrop Grumman also benefits from a pro-business tax structure that includes a low 5.5 percent corporate tax rate and no personal income tax. Land and labor are also significantly more affordable in Florida, and a streamlined regulatory environment gives businesses of any size the breathing room necessary for unencumbered growth. Solidifying its standing as one of the best states in the nation to do business, Florida’s business climate is critical to meeting Northrop Grumman’s goal to “bring the right people and resources together to increase the effectiveness and affordability of the solutions we provide our customers,” Matthews reported.

Northrop Grumman’s Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence in St. Augustine, Florida. 

Northrop Grumman’s Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence in St. Augustine, Florida.

SHARPENING YOUR TACTICAL KNOWLEDGE

As Northrop Grumman’s success story reveals, Florida excels at not only attracting businesses but retaining them for years to come. The company’s continued investment in the state is a testament to Florida’s competitiveness and supportive business climate. Once again, Florida has proven itself to be a resource powerhouse capable of helping businesses in any industry grow, expand and make their mark on the global marketplace.