Manufacturing in R.I., Chapter 6: Manufacturing Defense Growth

Manufacturing has taken a positive turn with signals that orders and production are poised to continue the trend upward. Small and large companies are ramping up hiring, training and operations activity, while support from the new state administration has also been positive.

We have a large defense industry here in Rhode Island. Many people only think about General Dynamics Electric Boat, Raytheon Co. and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center when we talk about defense, but there’s a large network of manufacturing companies that support these important players, while also producing on their own military contracts. How do these smaller companies survive and grow without being completely dependent on one large client? There are a few mechanisms.

STEAM Engine is a project sponsored by the R.I. Commerce Corp. and targeted at supporting regional defense-related manufacturing companies that serve as vital links in the defense-industry supply chain. The effort is focused on helping manufacturers identify opportunities to diversify their product offerings and thereby increase their business.

Rhode Island’s Procurement Technical Assistance Center also helps small companies navigate the nontrivial world of military contracts.

How do all of these small companies leverage each other and grow efficiently? The Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance is the defense-focused industry partnership and provides a highly educated technical workforce, experience with ocean environment and technologies, knowledge of advanced manufacturing requirements, and an understanding of the threats of the cyber-environment.

Do you want to talk about economic impact? Rhode Island’s defense sector provides $3.7 billion annually in economic output. In addition, it is the highest-wage sector in Rhode Island, with average salaries between $72,000 and $95,000.

The companies, employees and products are incredibly important, including everything from military-service medals to nuclear engines. Support and growth of each of these entities is critical.

Post also published on Providence Business News.

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