Vice president and general manager of Exelis Aerostructures Mike Blair says the new deal with Boeing will help them add an additional 50 to 100 jobs a year at their Salt Lake City composite design and manufacturing plant. While Exelis has a long history with Boeing, this is the first time the company has been asked to provide parts for a plane’s substructure, or frame. Blair says the deal validates the large investments Exelis made in the Salt Lake City plant this past year.
“In this instance, being able to expand and use our automation technology that we’re providing, and that we’ve invested in really expands our footprint with Boeing and it’s a very important customer when you start to look at the overall market space,” he says.
Blair says the demand for composite parts in the aerospace industry will only increase in the future. Composite parts are made of woven fiber and resin that produce a product that is stronger and lighter than the aluminum used in older planes. Blair says Utah is quickly becoming the epicenter of composite manufacturing.
“You look at the end to end supply chain capability that we have, and the focus that the Governor’s office has put on developing that capability, from tooling to materials suppliers to the manufacturers here in the state," he says. "I think Utah, in terms of any company deciding to put business here along that line, would be a great choice.”
Utah’s growing composite manufacturing capabilities could continue to be attractive to Boeing as company officials decide the location for the 777X assembly plant. Several cities including Salt Lake are vying to host the operation, but talks were renewed recently between Boeing officials and the machinists union that operates in Boeing’s Pacific Northwest facilities.