Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Editor at large, locally

Posted by Courtney E. Howard

Travel is tough, especially in an economic downturn. Travel budgets are tightening across the board. Lucky for me, I live in the Pacific Northwest -- a hub of military and aerospace activity. I don't have to go too far to be right in the middle of it all.

I am a stone's throw from Fairchild Air Force base, home to a weapons squadron, training group and training squadron, office of special investigations, and more. After a one-hour flight to Portland, I am at FLIR Systems, Mentor Graphics, Lattice Semiconductor, TriQuint Semiconductor, or Intel.

In my own backyard, Spokane County, reside Agilent, SprayCool, General Dynamics Itronix, and others. I had the opportunity to tour General Dynamics Itronix today, in fact. I met some friendly, knowledgeable people, witnessed product assembly in a lean production lab, saw innovative testing facilities, and became privy to the latest technologies the company has to offer.

General Dynamics Itronix, like most other organizations, is not immune to today's harsh economic conditions. It was revealed last month that the Spokane Valley facility may close by the end of this year. A fixture in Spokane for more than two decades, General Dynamics Itronix employs roughly 380 people. Of that number, 20 may remain in Spokane Valley, 60 have the option to relocate to Sunrise, Fla., and the remainder will lose their jobs.

I know I am not alone when I say: I am anxious for things to turn around. It is unfortunate to see facilities that employ professional people in skilled jobs and who put out a quality, valued product suffer.

When I talk to high-level executives at firms suffering layoffs and other setbacks, they reveal that cuts are being made not because primes are suffering and military programs are being cut; rather, it is for no other reason than the poor economy. Heck, even Warren Buffett was knocked from atop his perch: It was revealed today that he has lost his "world's richest billionaire" status. Bill Gates (decades younger) now holds first place. Perhaps every community -- even a billionaires' club -- could use some "new blood" (for lack of a better term). My hat is off to mil-aero firms holding strong in the face of trying times, including my neighbors here in the Northwest. Kudos!

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