CRESTVIEW — Florida Gov. Rick Scott visited L-3 Crestview Aerospace on Wednesday to see the facility’s recent expansion and stress the importance of hiring veterans. He joined state Rep. Doug Broxson, Rep. Matt Gaetz and his father, Sen. Don Gaetz.
Florida veterans’ unemployment rate dropped from 15 percent to 6.8 percent this past year and L-3 contributed to this development, having collaborated with the Workforce Development Board of Okaloosa and Walton Counties to hire some 70 employees, many of them former military members.
Scott — who talked to workers while he walked through hangars where they assemble aircraft equipment — received input about L3 employers.
"It's impressive," Scott said, when asked his views on the facility. "You can see just how much the employees enjoy working here. They are excited by the fact that jobs are growing here.”
One such employee who weighed in was Scott Holovack, of Baker, an assembly production operator who recently started working at the facility.
"It's been more than expected," Holovack said. "As far as a job with benefits, it's been great."
L-3’s expansion partially is credited to thinking outside the box, officials said.
"They are using the commercial space, not just the military space, to add more jobs,” Sen. Don Gaetz said, referencing that the Crestview plant manufactures parts for commercial and military aircraft.
More than 1,000 people work at L-3 Crestview Aerospace, a division of L-3 Communications, which has manufacturing facilities across the world. L3 develops and integrates defense and commercial technology for U.S. and allied customers, according to the company’s website. L-3 acquired the 100-acre property of Crestview Aerospace in 2006.
"Businesses have to grow to survive, so we want to make sure that this company grows," Rep. Matt Gaetz said. "The Crestview airport is the greatest … asset (that can be leveraged) in Okaloosa County. To have Governor Scott here just reinforces our growing manufacturing base we have here in Northwest Florida.”
The Hub City’s economy can benefit from the Port City’s Gulf Coast contributions, officials said.
"We have Airbus that is going to Mobile (Ala.), which should help a lot of suppliers in this part of the state," Scott said. That plant — which should create thousands of Gulf Coast jobs — is expected annually to produce 40 to 50 aircraft by 2018, according to the company’s website.
"That's a huge opportunity for us ... Mobile is only a couple of hours away," Jeff Barger, L-3’s vice president and general manager, said. "There is no one else in the area that competes with us."
Northwest Florida Daily News Business Editor Dusty Ricketts contributed to this report.