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Friday, June 25, 2010

Sargent Aerospace planning expansion

Sargent Aerospace &Defense, one of the Tucson area's largest aerospace-and-defense companies, has announced it will more than double the size of its facility in Marana.

The company, which makes parts for military and commercial uses, purchased 4 acres in a business park south of its headquarters. It said this week that it plans to build a 70,000-square-foot facility adjacent to the existing plant.

The new space will be used for an engineering-design lab. It is needed, the company said, to support the growth of 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.

A Sargent spokesman said the company expects the new space to open in March, but it's still unknown how many jobs will come to the area as a result.

"Sargent anticipates the aviation sector is going to bounce back in the latter half of 2011, and they want to have that extra capacity ready," said Adam Konowe of Sullivan Higdon and Sink, a public-relations company hired by Sargent. "Obviously, there will be more people in Tucson than there were before, but they really haven't determined yet what that really is and how many of those folks will come from other places."

In a statement, Sargent said it anticipates the addition, coupled with new development activity, will add jobs in the areas of design, manufacturing, test engineering and program management. Positions could include programmers, operators and test technicians.

"They are good high-paying jobs," said Laura Shaw, spokeswoman for Tucson Regional Economic Opportunities, an economic-development agency.

"They haven't finally determined the number of jobs, but we know that it will be significant based on their business-expansion plans."

Sargent started in Marana in 1990. It employs 250 people at its 60,000-square-foot factory.

The company does maintenance and overhaul work as well as design and manufacturing, Shaw said.

"They make products like hydraulic controls, specialty bearings, pneumatic-sealing devices, alignment joints, things like that," she said. "They are one of our biggest employers. Raytheon is the biggest, but we have more than 200 aerospace-and-defense companies here, and they are one of the biggest."

Scott Still, Sargent's president, said the company's decision to expand in the area was driven by a need to retain a strategic location with a culturally diverse employment base.

"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," Still said in a statement.

Sargent has a manufacturing plant in Guaymas, Mexico, and operations in Torrance, Calif.

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