Utah’s largest industry associations in defense and advanced manufacturing announced on Monday they will combine forces to expand the state’s national security sector.

The merger between 47G, Utah’s recently rebranded association of aerospace and defense, and UAMMI, Utah’s Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Initiative, brings the state’s top advocates for military innovation and specialized mineral extraction and manufacturing under the same roof.

“What’s remarkable about this merger with UAMMI is that all of these advanced aircraft rely on minerals and materials for production and so this merger in a very real way is the coming together of a supply chain right here in our backyard,” 47G President and CEO Aaron Starks told the Deseret News on Monday.

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Starks, the former chief revenue officer of World Trade Center Utah, said by combining forces, the newly named 47G UAMMI Institute will continue to make Utah “the world’s premier ecosystem for aerospace, defense and cyber companies.”

Utah mines can provide 40 out of 50 minerals that the Department of Homeland Security has identified as critical to the national security of the United States, Starks said, making it a logical next step to unite the groups advocating for the state’s growing defense and mineral sectors.

The announcement is just the latest in a series of mergers and leadership changes meant to bring Utah to the leading edge of national security innovation.

Former Utah congressman and U.S. Air Force pilot Chris Stewart was named chairman of 47G shortly before its rebrand. Prior to his resignation from Congress on Sept. 15, Stewart served on the powerful House Intelligence Committee where he was regularly briefed on top-secret security information that built on his knowledge from 14 years in the United States Air Force.

“The 47G and UAMMI merger is a huge win for Utah and for the country,” Stewart said in a press release. “I have seen firsthand how advanced materials in the aerospace and defense industry enhance our economy and protect our national security.”

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Beginning in 2022, the Utah Aerospace and Defense Association has served as the first-ever convening body for aerospace and defense companies in the state of Utah. It promotes and represents over 120 companies that are working to develop the next generation of national security technology across three industry sectors, according to the press release. Their members include aerospace behemoth Boeing, defense contractor Northrop Grumman, and drone delivery company Zipline.

They also work in close communication with the Governor’s Office of Economic Opportunity, World Trade Center Utah, the state Legislature and institutions of higher education.

“We celebrate the growth and development of our aerospace and defense industry which contributes to our vibrant workforce and expansion of critical infrastructure,” said Utah Gov. Spencer Cox. “This consolidation of resources between two great organizations will enhance 47G’s ability to elevate Utah’s status as a premier hub for industry and destination for innovation, entrepreneurship and investment.”

The aerospace and defense industry is booming in Utah. From well-known large companies, down to small startups, there are more than 1,000 companies and half a dozen military installations across the state. Together, they make up almost 20% of the state’s economic activity, as the Deseret News has previously reported.

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Retaining seven of the largest defense contractors in the world in Utah is only sustainable if the state’s universities work in concert with the industry, Starks said.

“We aren’t going to solve any of the challenges that we face around innovation, supply chain, workforce development, unless we’re doing it in partnership with technology being commercialized at universities. So by bringing them in, we brought industry closer to academia to enrich the (research and development) experience.”

Multiple Utah universities are also members of 47G. Starks said the state’s Higher Education Committee on aerospace and defense recently completed a process of sharing their vision of how they want to lead the nation in these sectors, including a proposal from the University of Utah to build a space station in the west desert, something they have approached Boeing about doing, Starks said.

“The next generation of talent is being developed on university campuses,” Starks said. “And we need to tell the aerospace and defense story in a compelling way to where we can win that talent and industry.”