First In Flight

2013

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FIRST IN FLIGHT TURBOMECA MANUFACTURING INC. Sponsored Section Turbomeca Manufacturing Inc. builds parts for helicopter engines, including this rotating assembly, in Monroe. Support from the city and Union County helped bring its only U.S. plant there. systems in Goldsboro, to Fairfield, Conn.-based General Electric Corp.'s Unison Engine Components Inc. in Asheville, a leading supplier of parts for turbine engines. Blue Force is one of many innovation-minded startups with growth prospects here. Though small, with just nine employees and annual sales in the low seven figures, the company has high hopes. It is part of Reston, Va.-based defense and homeland-security contractor TenX Group — which purchased a stake in the company a year after Bledsoe started it — and provides engineering, prototyping and precision machining. "We specialize in projects that require a bit more engineering to put them over the top." It sells to Chicago-based The Boeing Co. and is working on projects for Hartford, Conn.-based United Technologies Corp. and Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, which is part of the Department of Defense. Blue Force is relying partly on North Carolina's history to carve out its place in the industry. "A lot of what we do with composites is similar to what companies in North Carolina used to do with textiles. You don't get to build those types of partnerships unless you're in a technology region." Interaction between aerospace and aviation companies in the state isn't by chance; it's part of North Carolina's strategy for developing the sector from within. "North Carolina discovered that if you look beneath the industry's big players you see that a large part of the supply chain is already here," says Will Austin, director of government affairs at Cary-based Lord Corp., a developer of adhesive, coating and motion-management technologies for aviation and other industries. "When you add it all up, it's an important presence." In recent years, N.C. Department of Commerce officials have organized trips for business leaders and economic developers to the Paris Air Show and Farnborough International Airshow outside London. At a forum organized by the North Carolina Military Business Center, representatives from Lord were introduced to executives of Machine Specialties Inc., a contract-machining and metal-finishing specialist in Whitsett. Machine Specialties is now a major supplier to Lord. "We believe it's important to do business locally if we can." Companies such as Blue Force and Lord also benefit from ready access to one of the world's largest buyers of aerospace and aviation products and services: the U.S. military. The major installations in North Carolina put the industry within easy reach of some of its most important customers. About 15% of Lord's sales come from the government. The Marine Corps' Fleet Readiness Center East in Cherry Point is one destination of Lord products. "It's very helpful to be able to drive down to Fort Bragg and talk to some of the end-users at the base," Austin says. Convenience to other bases on the East Coast, as well as the Pentagon, helps too. Lord first landed in North Carolina in 1981 when it opened a research center at leafy MacGregor Business Park in Cary. Impressed by their experience, company officials moved the headquarters there in 1995 from Erie, Pa., where it was founded in 1924. In 2011, the company announced a $20 million expansion that is adding about 51,000 square feet to the company's six-building MacGregor campus. The company's workforce needs are met by proximity to Research Triangle Park, Austin says. "We deploy so many different types of scientists that we really depend on the pipeline of talent from across the region." In Greensboro, TIMCO Aviation Services Inc., one of the world's largest providers of maintenance, repair and overhaul services for aircraft, is expanding its workforce and plant at its headquarters at Piedmont Triad International Airport. "We're having Silver Sponsor: 4 B U S I N E S S N O R T H C A R O L I N A

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