Sargent Aerospace & Defense, a supplier of precision engineered components and aftermarket services and Marana's largest non-retail private employer, has chosen its I-10 location to expand and upgrade in support of current and projected business growth.
The company, quartered in Marana since 1990 and employing approximately 250 people locally, now occupies a 60,000 square-foot facility at 5675 West Burlingame in Marana.
In a joint announcement with the Town of Marana and Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities last week, Sargent said it is purchasing four acres south of its building, and constructing a new, adjacent, 70,000 square-foot facility.
About 45,000 square feet of Sargent's current space in Marana is dedicated to manufacturing. Plans for the internal configuration of the new building are in process, but Lisa Short, director of strategic planning for the company in Marana, said it would be "largely manufacturing square footage, not unlike the current building."
With the new campus, Sargent "will implement an engineering design and qualification lab center of excellence, while incorporating operational improvements and environmentally responsible building elements," according to a release from TREO.
Sargent needs greater capacity to support key programs such as the Virginia class submarine, the new Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 commercial aircraft, and Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The company expects to add jobs in specialty aerospace design, manufacturing, test engineering, program management, and highly-skilled manufacturing such as computed numerically controlled machine programmers, operators and test technicians.
Sargent is studying whether it would transfer operations from other sites in the U.S., Canada and Mexico to its "new footprint" in Marana, Short said. "We are realigning our operations in a strategic manner to maximize the efficiency of scale, and our competency on the basis of a production type," Short said. "We may transfer some of the activity. We do anticipate some new positions, however, we don't have a definitive plan on what that number is going to look like."
Sargent moved operations from several locations in southern California to Marana in 1990. Over that time, its number of employees has ranged from 175 up to the current level near 250 people.
The company's local operation is focused upon hydraulic valves and actuators, "utility hardware" that raises and lowers aircraft landing gear, and operates landing gear doors, Short said. It also produces "specialty bearings" for landing gear, and it has "a large presence" in bearings for rotorcraft, specifically the rotor head of a helicopter.
Specialty fasteners, the devices that connect engines to aircraft and wings, are another Sargent emphasis.
A tenant in a small building on the purchased property is leaving that space.
"Shortly, we will begin tearing that facility down and preparing that property," Short said. "We are looking at a first quarter 2011 grand opening, possibly late March. It's quite aggressive, and we know that."
Sargent Aerospace & Defense was founded in 1920. It is described as a premier global supplier of precision-engineered components designed, tested and built to customer specifications, as well as flight-critical aftermarket aviation services.
The website is www.sargentaerospace.com.
Location, work force, incentives helped Sargent make commitment
"Many factors" have led Sargent Aerospace & Defense to expand its Marana presence, including the local work force skill set, proximity to California and Mexico, and logistics in terms of available land and buildings, according to Lisa Short, director of strategic planning for the company in Marana.
Sargent, which has other locations in Miami, Fla., Torrance, Calif. and Franklin, Ind., has undergone a strategic analysis of where to expand. It also has locations in Montreal, Canada and Guaymas, Sonora. It has settled upon land adjacent to its I-10 facility, where 250 people now work.
"What was the best go-forward plan for increasing our overall manufacturing capabilities?" Short asked. "The decision came down to Marana being the foundation to build upon with that expansion."
"Our decision to expand in the greater Tucson region, specifically Marana, was driven by a need to retain a strategic location with a culturally diverse employment base," said Scott Still, president of Sargent Aerospace & Defense. "Being close to California and Mexico allows us access to both key aerospace suppliers and our existing manufacturing plants via a well-established transportation network. Southern Arizona provides long-term value while maximizing productivity and supporting our growth plans."
Packages offered by the Town of Marana were a factor as well, Short said. Earlier this year, the town council approved the Marana Job Creation Incentive Program, rebating construction sales tax revenues to employers who create at least 25 new non-retail jobs each paying $40,000 or more a year, who improve the appearance of the I-10 corridor, whose workers purchase homes in Marana, and who offer internships or training to local high school and college students.
"The town of Marana did work quite aggressively in putting a plan together for this project with Sargent in terms of some incentives," Short said. "That package was very attractive, and something we're looking forward to. It did bring a factor to the table. I won't say it made the decision or not in total, but it was definitely a significant bonus."
Josh Wright, assistant to the town manager, said the project will be "a tremendous economic driver for the entire Marana and greater regional area.
"Nobody has any doubt there will be a significant number of jobs created," along with a sizable — if not yet finalized — capital investment, he said.
Conversations with Sargent began last summer, with Marana "one of a number of cities across the country competing for this project," Wright said. Once the town council approved the job creation incentive program, it was offered to Sargent "to help with the decision."
Additionally, said Wright, Marana has committed to "a really strong development services process," with timely review of plans and issuance of permits. The company is on "a very aggressive schedule, and we fully intend to meet" it.
This was a very competitive site selection process and is now another feather in the hat for the Tucson region. We are a Top 5 Metro area nationwide for aerospace and defense, and Sargent has chosen the best place to grow and prosper for many years to come."
Joe Snell, president and chief executive officer of Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities
As Marana's largest, private, non-retail employer, Sargent has been a cornerstone of our community for nearly 20 years. This project will be a top priority and fast-tracked through the development process."
Marana Mayor Ed Honea