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Cirrus Aircraft continues growing in Grand Forks

By John Hageman
Grand Forks Herald 

Cirrus Aircraft has expanded in Grand Forks, now employing more than 140.

An aircraft maker with a factory in Grand Forks announced last week that it shipped 9 percent more planes last year than it had in 2012.

Along with that increase, Duluth-based Cirrus Aircraft’s workforce in Grand Forks has grown by almost 75 percent in the past 18 months. And with new projects in development and the national economy slowly improving, Cirrus executives are optimistic about the future.

“We’re a little bullish,” said Bill King, the company’s vice president of business administration. “We actually think (2014) is going to be better than last.”

Still, the 276 planes Cirrus delivered in 2013 are just a portion of what it sold in the years before the recession. King said the entire aircraft industry is still feeling the effects of the economic downturn.

King said he doesn’t expect to Cirrus sales to return to pre-recession levels any time soon. The company shipped 710 planes in 2007 before dropping to 268 in 2009, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

 “We don’t see it happening in the very near future, but we do think it will happen,” King said. “It’s certainly not something we’re structuring for over the next year or two, we think it’s further out than that.”

“But if it happens … we’ll find a way to build ‘em,” he added.

Improved sales

Cirrus’ sales numbers last year represented its largest shipment since 2008, and its share in the single-engine piston market grew to a record 37 percent, the company reported.

The company has been able to dominate the sector, King said, simply because they’ve been able to offer quality planes at a decent price.

“In this day and age, people want value,” King said. “It doesn’t matter if they’re buying cars, planes or pencil sharpeners.”

Its workforce here has grown from 83 to 144 in the past 18 months, King said. In Duluth, it employs about 500 people.

(For full story, click headline)

Air Force, local community join forces to create business opportunity

Base Realignment Impact Committee members coordinated a tour of the Grand Forks Air Force Base and proposed Grand Sky project site for regional legislative, city and county officials on Sept. 19. 

The shroud of mystery that used to envelop military installations, isolating them from neighboring communities, has slowly slipped away over the past decade.

Recognizing the important role neighboring communities play, providing a “home away from home” for military families, Air Force leaders began dedicating more time and resources to strengthen those ties. Through this process, it was discovered the benefits of partner communities extend far beyond emotional support.

“There was a big loss in personnel for the base when the tanker mission was taken away,” said Grand Forks County Commissioner John Schmisek. “It affected everyone in the region.”

With grant assistance from the Department of Defense Office of Economic Adjustment, the (Base Realignment Impact Committee and the) county evaluated economic opportunities that could offset job losses.

Community leaders also began attending conferences hosted by the Association of Defense Communities. Schmisek said it was during one of these conferences that the idea of pursuing an Enhanced Use Lease, or EUL, was first introduced.

“Around 2008 we started to take a serious look at EULs. We approached the base commander in charge at that time to see if there were land sites available that wouldn’t interfere with the base mission,” Schmisek said. “Since then, we have worked with a total of four commanders at Grand Forks, and each one was supportive and enthusiastic about what we were doing.”

“This project brings a whole new industry to Grand Forks,” said Schmisek. “We will have 1.2 million square feet of space for UAS training, research and development — and we’re not closing the door on opportunities to expand that to all unmanned systems.”

Enthusiasm for the project extends far beyond the gates of Grand Forks, said Schmisek.

“The governor’s office and our congressional delegation have been very involved throughout the whole process.”

In addition to the estimated 2,500 to 3,000 well-paid jobs it’s expected to generate, Schmisek said state officials also focused on what the UAS industry means to new graduates.

The collaborative, proactive approach in Grand Forks is something AFCEC’s Strategic Asset Utilization Division Chief Brian Brown would like to see happen across the Air Force.

 “We constantly look for new EUL opportunities as a way to generate revenue for our installations,” Brown said. “Every installation has a community partner, and our partners are among our most valued assets.”

Brown considers the Grand Forks project a game changer for the EUL program.

“Instead of sitting back and waiting for a private developer to act, the county did the research, identified an opportunity, secured the funding and, once the final lease is signed, I have no doubt they will do great things for not just their county, but the entire region.”

Full story 

EAPC Business Excellence adds new dimension to design services

EAPC's Chad Frost will work with businesses to find areas of improvement in production functions.
Chad Frost, director of Business Excellence at EAPC Architects and Engineers, worked with employees at Retrax to create efficiencies in their production processes.

What could you do with a 50 percent productivity improvement?  A new business division at EAPC Architects and Engineers offers EAPC clients another tool to improve their bottom line by removing waste and improving operational flow.

”Business Excellence is complimentary to the design and management EAPC does for our customers’ building and industrial projects in the sense that my focus is to look at the people and interactions within a building or process and to see how we can do better,” says Chad Frost, director of Business Excellence for EAPC Architects and Engineers.

There are four components to the division: operational excellence, business strategy and planning, quality management and tools, and assessment and audit.

Chief Operations Officer and Principal Architect Wayne Dietrich says it’s a new dimension to their design team and a natural evolution for this progressive company, which specializes in architecture, engineering, industrial, and wind energy design.  Additionally, many of the skills and tools Frost brings to EAPC are being used to improve their internal processes.

Frost may collaborate with building designers and clients to pinpoint areas where a company’s process can be streamlined and the square footage reduced. Business Excellence is also a way for EAPC to add value for its clients after a design project is complete by offering continuous improvement services to customers’ actual operations inside the building.

“Company culture is a big aspect. I can draw all day and not break through that,” says Dietrich. “With these tools, we can help people accept planned changes and design a better, more effective and efficient floor plan to serve the majority.” 

Frost has more than 20 years of experience managing production floors and working with management teams in companies including LM Wind Power and AGCO-GSI. He is a certified Internal Organization for Standardization (ISO) lead auditor as well, and will work with companies seeking this endorsement of a quality management system in their operations. 

“Many manufacturers and service providers are finding their customers mandate an ISO certification and we can help these companies execute the implementation of these systems to meet their customers’ demands,” he said.

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Business profiles highlight member and client companies that are thriving in the Northern Red River Valley. Unless otherwise attributed, profiles are written by the Grand Forks Region EDC.

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