Aerospace, defense firms gather in Concord to build 'supply chains' for exports, growth
By PAUL FEELY New Hampshire Union Leader
Keynote speaker Paul King, deputy vice president of operations and supplier partnerships at BAE Systems during the NH Aerospace and Defense Conference held at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord on Wednesday. (Thomas Roy/Union Leader)
CONCORD — Just 16 minutes into New Hampshire’s inaugural Aerospace and Defense Conference, Glenn Welch, president of Welch Manufacturing Technologies in Laconia was already proclaiming the day a success.
“We’ve been trying to get in to BAE systems for five years,” said Welch. “I just met their purchase manager, face to face, and about 30 seconds later he’s telling me they have a location in New York that could use what we do. This is great.”
The inaugural New Hampshire Aerospace and Defense Conference was held Wednesday afternoon at the McAuliffe-Shepard Discovery Center in Concord, featuring 31 exhibitors and over 228 registered attendees.
Organizers said the conference represented an opportunity for the more than 300 aerospace and defense industry manufacturers and companies located across the state to get together in one place, under one roof, and to talk about what has become two of the fastest growing sectors in the New Hampshire economy.
“New Hampshire is home to about 350 aerospace and defense companies, which employ over 7,000 people who earn an average annual salary of about $97,000,” said Zenagui Brahim, chairman of the New Hampshire Aerospace and Defense Export Consortium. “This conference spotlights the state’s capabilities in aerospace and defense, providing a forum for industry members to work together and strengthen the local supply chain, while increasing the state’s competitiveness in the global marketplace.”
Paul Kling, deputy vice president of Operations for BAE Systems in Nashua, served as the conference’s keynote speaker. He spoke about the challenges BAE and other manufacturers faced attracting students to pursue careers in their industry.
“We and other manufacturers in the state decided to take manufacturing to our high schools as a career,” said Kling. “The students there, they thought of manufacturing as what they did in the old mill buildings. It took a while, but in 2011 BAE Systems was given an Innovation Award by Gov. John Lynch. That year we had 115 students apply for 25 jobs at BAE. That hard work and energy is what we are all about, that’s what this conference is all about, and it’s the inspiration we should take out of this room going forward.”
The theme of the conference focused on building the supply chain in the Granite State for aerospace and defense exports.
“The reason why we wanted to do this was we wanted to expand everyone’s horizons a little bit,” said Tina Kasim, International Program Manager at the International Trade Resource Center in Concord. “We wanted to offer market strategies and point out opportunities outside the U.S. borders. We also began noticing that companies were working together, putting in bids, which leads to more opportunities internationally. It’s developed into a really nice ecosystem.”
“One of the message we’re putting out there to small businesses is that you don’t have to go it alone,” said Chris Way, Deputy Director of the state’s Division of Resources and Economic Development. “We want them to know who else is out there, what state resources are out there.”
Brian Ward, Director of Business Development for Sensors ad Controls at Manchester’s Jewell Instruments, was excited to take part in the conference.
“I don’t think people think of New Hampshire as a high tech state in terms of manufacturing,” said Ward, whose firm employs 125 people in the Queen City. “This conference is really making a statement. There are some great manufacturers in terms of technology here. I think it’s a great opportunity to intermingle.”
“I’m excited to see it,” said Ken Foote, vice president of Transupport, Inc., in Merrimack. “The good news is we’re getting it going. The bad news is they probably should have done it 20 years ago. There are so many new companies here that no one knows what they do.”
Brahim hopes that has changed after this week’s conference.
“There was a cluster of companies working in this state in this industry that no one heard about,” said Brahim. “This conference shows the world New Hampshire is the place to be to succeed in aerospace and defense.”