Quebec aerospace execs meet up with NH businesses
Partnerships with larger contractors stressed at Nashua luncheon
Foreseeing the need for future partnerships in order to compete in one of the fastest-growing sectors globally, a delegation of a dozen aerospace companies from the Montreal area traveled for the first time to meet specifically with New Hampshire’s Aerospace and Defense Export Consortium as well as government trade officials.
Aero Montreal represents the third-largest aerospace cluster in the world, with 200 small and medium enterprises centered around four major contractors: Bombardier, Bell Helicopter Textron, CAE and Pratt & Whitney. In 2013, the newly formed NHADEC signed a memorandum of understanding with Aero Montreal to ensure further collaboration.
The assembled group, which included aerospace manufacturers that are members of NHADEC, met on Nov. 29 at BAE Systems and Elbit Systems to learn more about the aerospace manufacturing landscape in the state. A luncheon was also held at Nashua Country Club, where attendees heard from Sean Slatter, CEO at Logistics Specialties Inc., a consulting firm that works with Lockheed Martin and other major federal contractors.
Slatter spoke about the U.S. Department of Defense’s allocation of funds to upgrade aging aircrafts that are 40 to 60 years old.
The department will be spending $2 million to $3 million per KC-135 aircraft to rewire aging systems that are falling apart, he said. With 400 aircraft units, that will cost $800 million to $1.2 billion.
Slatter said there were “real opportunities to partner” to obtain contracts, especially as the U.S. Air Force itself is facing a major shortage of engineers – another sign that no entity is not experiencing workforce issues.
There’s even more reason for small manufacturers to compete for these bids, said Slatter, since Linda McMahon, director of the U.S. Small Business Administration, has been “aggressive” about keeping large contractors accountable to meeting the Office of Government Contracting’s 23 percent goal to contract with small firms.
The larger players’ focus on a worldwide supply chain has pushed companies to explore international business and partnerships to acquire those contracts, said Charlotte Laramee, project manager of market development and the small and medium-sized business supply chain at Aero Montreal.
She said that companies are asked to “sync abroad,” because they have to find partners to keep developing their business in aerospace, since staying with key players in Quebec is not enough to support their business.
Laramee said Quebec manufacturers want to develop business in the U.S., Mexico and Europe, but are also researching markets in Japan, Singapore and China.
In addition, Slatter mentioned India, Poland and the Czech Republic as growing global markets with opportunities.
But first, Aero Montreal is focused on building easy partnerships with New Hampshire manufacturers and becoming familiar with the supply chain. Just moments earlier, Laramee has connected an individual representing a New Hampshire manufacturer with a representative from a Montreal-based software firm.
“Some of [the companies] participating here today, they don’t really know what BAE and Elbit are doing, so it was a good opportunity to just know that. It’s a good way to open up the door in Quebec and the U.S. for them,” said Laramee.
“New Hampshire is a very important trade partner for us,” Marie-Claude Francoeur, the Quebec delegate to New England, told NH Business Review. Her office focuses on aerospace as well as information technology, life sciences, energy and green building.
During the luncheon, Francoeur noted Gov. Chris Sununu’s first trip abroad was to Montreal.
“So we do know there is very good support and there’s a very solid relationship there,” she told the group.
Sitting down with NH Business Review, Francoeur said 50 percent of all Canadian aerospace work is performed in Montreal, 70 percent of research and development is conducted in the area and 80 percent of what is produced by the cluster is exported.
“We think our businesses have a lot to offer. Right now I spend a lot of time in Quebec trying to tell people that you should keep coming to the United States, not to leave that market. The United States is not going to stop importing, so if you don’t take that market, someone else will,” said Francoeur, hinting at concerns over NAFTA. “What’s happening at the federal level is one thing; what’s happening with the states and provinces is another. Thirty-nine states have a Canadian province as their first trade partner.”
Brian Ward, director of business development sensors and controls at Jewell Instruments in Manchester, is looking forward to planning a future trip by NHADEC members to visit players in the greater Montreal aerospace cluster.
“I think the membership would be interested in potential site visits. I know Jewell would be,” he said.
Now that physical meetings are taking place between Aero Montreal and NHADEC members, Ward foresees substantive progress for members.
“I think that’s the perfect partnership, as we both go back and forth and each get our opportunities. I think that’s how it will work,” said Ward.
“The state has worked a great deal over the past several years in building the aerospace and defense sector in New Hampshire through NHADEC, and the relationship with Aero Montreal is one of its successes,” said Tina Kasim, program manager for the state Office of International Commerce. “The partnership between NHADEC and Aero Montreal demonstrates our commitment to a more collaborative bond with Canada in a sector that continues to grow.”