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Economic development is paying off for Utah — our defense industry proves it

Officials uses shovels to symbolically break ground as Northrop Grumman begins work on a missile defense development facility in Roy on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2019.
Scott G Winterton

Utah’s aerospace and defense industry plays a vital role in our state’s economy. The aerospace industry accounts for approximately 944 different businesses, with more than 31,390 jobs. It’s projected to grow by 2% per year over the next decade. The innovative technologies developed by these companies diversify our supply chain and fuel the growth of our economy.

This week, the U.S. Air Force announced Utah’s largest aerospace and defense employer, Northrop Grumman, was awarded a contract to modernize the United States’ Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) system. Last year, Northrop Grumman selected Utah as the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrence (GBSD) program’s headquarters and broke ground on a new campus in Roy. Ten months later, the first building is finished, home to hundreds of employees supporting the GBSD program. I congratulate Northrop Grumman and its employees on all they have accomplished so far and look forward to working closely with them as they continue to grow in Utah.

Every Utahn can be proud of GBSD. For generations, Utah has contributed to America’s national security, including the strategic deterrence mission. Since 1959, Hill Air Force Base has played a central role in managing and supporting the nation’s ICBM systems, a role that continues today with the management of both existing ICBMs and the GBSD modernization effort.

Beyond the security imperative, the direct and indirect economic impact from GBSD will benefit generations of Utahns. In fact, despite the current economic challenges we face due to the effects of COVID-19, GBSD is already bringing high-paying jobs to Roy, Ogden, Promontory, Salt Lake City, Clearfield and Magna.

GBSD will create more than 2,250 additional jobs in Utah and support more than 10,000 jobs in the U.S. during the next 20 years. The Governor’s Office of Economic Development estimates that Northrop Grumman’s expansion in Utah will generate nearly $200 million in tax revenue, almost $4.5 billion in wages and $380 million in capital investment.

Utah’s workforce is prepared to meet the opportunities GBSD presents. Thanks to research universities such as Utah State University and the University of Utah, our state leads the nation in aerospace technology development. The Utah Legislature has led out in creating new workforce development programs and is committed to strengthening those programs in critical fields, like systems engineering and advanced materials manufacturing. These credentials play an essential role in preparing Utahns for the jobs created by aerospace and defense programs such as GBSD.

Programs like GBSD don’t come to a state without a lot of work. There is a reason the aerospace and defense industry is one of Utah’s targeted industries. Talent Ready Utah, an initiative to increase industry and education partnerships in Utah, has facilitated increased coordination between aerospace and defense companies and our high schools and higher education institutions. The aerospace and defense industry’s commitment to these partnerships with Utah’s high schools, colleges and universities provides our students with hands-on experience and better prepares them for high-paying and rewarding careers.

Despite the current challenges we face as a state and nation, our future is bright. You’ve heard the accolades before. Utah has the best economic outlook and has been called America’s economic star. With programs like GBSD, Utah’s aerospace and defense industry will continue to be significant contributors to Utah’s vibrant and expanding economy.

Val Hale serves as the executive director of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development.