Florida Aerospace & Defense Workforce Summit, Palm Bay, Fla.

Remarks by David F. Melcher
President and CEO, Aerospace Industries Association
Florida Aerospace & Defense Workforce Summit
Harris Corporation Technology Center
Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Good morning.  This forum provides a tremendous opportunity to address Florida’s aerospace and defense workforce needs and I’m happy to be here.

I appreciate seeing so many people from the Florida education community, from our industry which is so active here in the state, and other stakeholders including journalists and government officials such as Mayor Capote and staff members serving Florida’s congressional delegation, including Representative Bill Posey’s District Director Patrick Gavin and Senator Bill Nelson’s Regional Director Helen Miller. Welcome everyone.

For those in the audience who aren’t familiar with AIA, we are the aerospace and defense industry’s premier trade association. We represent and advocate for 347 member companies who produce the worlds’ most innovative space systems, defense platforms and civil aircraft—both manned and unmanned. Of course, many of our companies, like our host, the Harris Corporation, are headquartered here in Florida.

We’re living in a remarkable age for aerospace and defense activities. And Florida is pivotal to our industry’s record of innovation. We all marvel at the rockets that take off from Cape Canaveral to low Earth Orbit, the planets and beyond. We are more secure thanks to the state’s many military facilities that protect our homeland, and in the case of the Tampa based U.S. Central Command, help project U.S. power throughout the globe. And Florida’s role as an air transportation hub for the Caribbean, Central and South America enhances our nation’s prosperity.

It is a dedicated and noble workforce that has enabled Florida to be an aerospace and defense powerhouse. That is worth celebrating, but we must also prepare for an upcoming wave of retirements and the need for new talent to keep up with growth of the industry. This growth is certainly on display in Florida’s space coast with the addition of good manufacturing jobs here at Harris’s facilities in Palm Bay, at Boeing’s commercial crew facility in Titusville, at Northrop Grumman and Thales Avionics in Melbourne and at numerous other companies and locations.

We must therefore do our utmost to inspire and recruit the next generation of scientists and engineers. These are the young men and women, many attending this conference, who – from Florida – will launch American astronauts to Mars; control from military bases drone operations that eliminate terrorist targets half a world away, and make Florida the departure point for the exciting new airplanes of the future.

AIA has already invested heavily in the youth of your state and of all 50 states and U.S. territories through our premier STEM program, the Team America Rocketry Challenge.  TARC, as it has been known throughout its 15 years, is the world’s largest student rocketry competition.

TARC teams of seventh through twelfth graders work for an entire school year to develop the skills they will need in future engineering and science professions. One of our educational partners, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, even offers a scholarship for TARC participants. Over 60,000 students have participated throughout the lifetime of the program, and we want it to continue to grow.  That’s why I hope those of our companies with large Florida operations take the opportunity to sponsor TARC this year.

At AIA, we recognize we have much work to do to help inspire, educate and recruit the industry’s workforce of the future. I’d like to thank the association’s Workforce Policy Council, which works hard on workforce development efforts to create a robust STEM talent pipeline for our industry. I’d also like to applaud the AIA member companies who are offering local company tours tomorrow afternoon to attendees of this conference that will showcase the exciting jobs in our industry.

One of those companies, of course, is the Harris Corporation. It is now my pleasure to introduce Harris’s Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, Bill Brown.

I could say a great deal about how Bill is widely respected throughout our industry, based on his record at Harris, which he has led since 2011, and previously at United Technologies Corporation, where he was Senior Vice President for Corporate Strategy and Development and President of UTC’s Fire and Security Division.

But my accolades for Bill are more personal in nature. In 2015, when I was the President and CEO of Exelis Incorporated, a multi-billion-dollar aerospace and defense company, the Harris Corporation made an offer to purchase our company. I wouldn’t have allowed the deal to go forward if I didn’t know in my heart that Bill is a man of high integrity whose word is his bond. I just knew that he’d take good care of our employees. And everything that Bill promised, he delivered.

Bill is truly one of our industry’s shining stars. And he is uniquely qualified to talk about how our industry is expanding here in Florida and offer his views about the challenges and opportunities of workforce development. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Bill Brown.