CRESTVIEW — In the past year, Florida’s unemployment rate for veterans has dropped from 15 percent to 6.8 percent.
Gov. Rick Scott was in Crestview late Wednesday morning to take a tour of L-3 Crestview Aerospace and discuss the importance of hiring veterans. L-3 has worked with the Workforce Development Board of Okaloosa and Walton Counties to hire roughly 70 employees the past year, many of them former military members.
“These individuals have gone out defending our individual freedom, and now their unemployment rate is below our state average and thats very positive,” Scott said. “It’s nice to see all these people working. If we’re going to continue to focus on aviation and aerospace, it’s a big opportunity.
“What L-3 is doing, I want to make sure every company is doing, and that’s hiring all these great veterans,” he added. “And it’s working. Unemployment for veterans has come way down from a year ago.”
Scott was shown L-3’s administrative building as well as the buildings where parts for the CH-47 Chinook helicopter are assembled, the machine shop where parts are made from raw stock and the hangar where the UH-1Y Huey helicopter is built. About 25 people toured the L-3 facility with Scott, including state Sen. Don Gaetz, state Rep. Matt Gaetz and several representatives from the Workforce Development Board.
Scott said Florida is well positioned for continued growth. He said most of the big aerospace companies already do business in the state, but he wants them to do more.
In the past few years, Scott said the state has cut 2,200 regulations and reduced property taxes and the business tax for small companies. All of those things make Florida more attractive for doing business, he added.
He noted French aerospace giant Airbus, which plans to build its first plant in the United States in Mobile, Ala.
“Airbus is a great opportunity for us if we do the right thing,” Scott said. “They’re going to need suppliers. All of Florida is a big opportunity, but it’s probably a much bigger opportunity for the Panhandle. The workforce boards are focused on it, the state colleges are focused on it, our universities are putting out more degrees focused on science, math and engineering. The state’s positioned for us to do well over there.”
Scott came away impressed with L-3’s operation.
“You can see the workers and how much they enjoy what they’re doing,” Scott said. “They have a great mission; they’re building products that are going to help defend freedom. But you also see they like what they’re doing and they’re growing jobs here.”
L-3 Crestview Aerospace provides aircraft modifications and fabricates and assembles parts and frames for various aircraft. It employs more than 1,000 people, and that is expected to grow.
Construction is expected to start in the next year on a new hangar. Two more hangars are planned for the future for the staff to work on completed aircraft.
Construction is expected to begin even sooner on a 20,000-square-foot building to house the administrative staff and engineers, said Norm Ramby, senior director of operations at L-3.
“Our whole goal is to grow the business to make it a better place to work, to grow the business to get greater capacity — which means you can put more parts through here — to get greater capability to make different types of parts,” Ramby said. “It’s all about getting more business and growing the business.”
Contact Daily News Business Editor Dusty Ricketts at 850-315-4448 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DustyRnwfdn.