Southeast Michigan important to aircraft manufacturing, U.S. defense, state leaders say


Township of Shelby — Defense and state leaders highlighted the importance of Southeast Michigan’s manufacturing companies at an event Friday in Macomb County highlighting the region’s role in aircraft manufacturing. F-35 fighter.

Michigan has some 600 aerospace-related companies and employs more industrial designers than any other state, according to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

When the auto industry plummeted in 2008, many manufacturing companies switched from making tools and car parts to aerospace-related projects, said Phil Neale, president of Models & Tools in Shelby Township. , during the event.

Models & Tools, where he was held, is one of the local manufacturing companies that helped create the F-35 aircraft.

Attendees of the event had the opportunity to “fly” in an F-35 cockpit simulator to demonstrate how service members can complete their missions and return home safely.

Neale said Southeast Michigan has become the largest aerospace engineering area, generating about $800 million in revenue annually and providing 3,000 jobs for manufacturers and suppliers.

Macomb County is also home to Selfridge Air National Guard Base, which has been active for over 100 years. However, the leaders are worried and are mobilizing to ensure its future.

Selfridge is home to a fleet of A-10 Warthog aircraft, which are aging in favor of aircraft better suited for combat, such as the F-35s. The A-10s have survived retirement at the request of the Army a few times, but Michigan leaders are arguing over the designation of Selfridge as a planned international training center for the F-35s.

Models & Tools President Phil Neale, far right, addresses the crowd at a press conference ahead of an F-35 cockpit simulator demonstration, Friday, Aug. 19, 2022, in Shelby Township , Michigan.

Selfridge has been passed over for the occasion previously in favor of other states, but U.S. Representative Lisa McClain told the Detroit News on Friday that she thinks U.S. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall III’s visit to the base the July 8 opened his eyes to the capacity of the state. to accommodate more aerospace efforts.

Companies like Models & Tools that have manufacturing expertise since the 1970s are crucial to U.S. defense, said Edward Smith, director of F-35 business development at Lockheed Martin.

Lockheed Martin is the contracting company that manufactures the F-35 aircraft.

“We can’t find this expertise anywhere else,” Smith said.

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