b'LANDSIDE DEVELOPMENTELP 67are expected to begin arriving later thisgraduates with aerospace and defense spring. research experience, only to see them Over the next two years, ELP will alsomove elsewhere because jobs in their design and break ground on a 250-acrefields arent abundant in El Paso. Advanced Manufacturing and DesignYou cannot build all the opportunities Center capable of supporting full-scale,into a few American cities and think our low- to medium-volume manufacturingcountry is going to be OK, Choudhuri operations. The airport will spend $31.2says, noting that hundreds of aerospace million in a mix of federal and airportand engineering graduates from the funds to kick start the site with 250,000University of Texas at El Paso now live in square feet of space in a three-buildingthe Dallas Metroplex, and many work at complex slated to open its first phases inLockheed Martins Air Force Plant 4the late 2024. epicenter of the F-35 fighter jet program. By aiming small, ELP hopes to winChoudhuri explains defense bigfor El Paso and the United States. manufacturing must occur within the We could go after companies likeUnited States, or through select allied Lockheed (Martin Corp.), for example,countries, so parts can be traceable but getting thoseand replenished without risk of foreign large companies todependency during times of war. Trade come to the regionsecrets must also be safeguarded to is very hard, saysensure weapons and other key systems ELP Aviation Directorremain effective, he adds. Sam Rodriguez.When we start to lose our (national) So instead, youmanufacturing base, it has a humongous focus on the smallerimpact on overall capability, with a suppliers of Boeing,SAM RODRIGUEZ disproportionate impact on defense of Lockheed, of Raytheon, to be ablemanufacturing, Choudhuri cautions. to grow these groups and get them intoEven a simple plastic component for a an environment where they can bid onmissile defense systemyou cannot go (defense industry) work. somewhere else and bring it here.The federal grant ELP received is goingLed by the local university, ELP is to help it move up the timeline for thepart of a regional group known as the development of these industries in theWest Texas Aerospace and Defense region by years, he adds.Manufacturing Coalition. Its goal: to use The community is using federalfacilities at ELP to attract and assist legislationand a related $25 millionMilitary Might, Made entrants to aerospace and defense federal awardto create jobs andin Americaindustries, simultaneously boosting the opportunities through innovative on-airportThe U.S. Department of Defense hasregions workforce and manufacturing developments. Ironically, it was otheridentified several factors threateningprowess.federal legislation nearly three decadesAmericas industrial base, particularlyChoudhuri notes that while small ago that wreaked havoc on the historicgiven COVID-19s ongoing disruptions toand medium businesses comprise the manufacturing region in the first place.global supply chains. Escalating frictionsbackbone of American manufacturing The momentum already seems to bewith China and in Europe, rising shippingcapability, they often lack access to shifting, as years of work are coming tocosts plus general decreases in workforcethe necessary infrastructure to grow, fruition just east of ELPs runways. In lateavailability and manufacturing skills in theor sometimes even to bid on defense 2022, the airport converted nearly 30,000United States are all worrisome factors.contracts. Co-locating in a centralized square feet within an existing cargoChoudhuri is chairman and professorspace fosters economies of scale by building into a $1.9 million Innovationof Mechanical Engineering and directortrimming costs for back-office support, Factory. The aptly dubbed facility hasof the Center for Space Explorationenvironmental management and product private and shared spaces that will letTechnology Research, a NASA Universitydesign, among other, often prohibitiveentrepreneurs and small businessesResearch Center. He says that for years,line items. incubate and manufacture industrialthe University of Texas at El Paso hasTo get into the defense supply chain, products for commercial use. Tenantschurned out a steady stream of talentedthe cybersecurity is so big, a 20-person AirportImprovement.comMarch | April 2023'