$30 million contract clinches plant's comeback

July 31, 2000

$30 million contract clinches plant's comeback

California Microwave SystemBy LAURA ERNDE / Staff Writer

photo: JOE CROCETTA / staff photographer

A $30 million contract to equip a government spy plane completes the economic rebound of California Microwave System's Hagerstown plant, company officials said Monday.


The plant laid off nearly 40 percent of its work force in February after completing the last of its U.S. Army work.

But the Army contract announced Monday by U.S. Sen. Paul Sarbanes, D-Md., combined with a $33 million U.S. Coast Guard contract, has stabilized employment at the plant for at least two years.


The company now has 80 employees and within six months expects to surpass its peak work force of 110, said spokesman Jim Reinhard.

Employees greeted Sarbanes with a standing ovation Monday.

"In the end we wouldn't get anywhere in any of this effort if you didn't do the first-class job on the line," Sarbanes told them.

The plant, owned by giant defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. of Century City, Calif., specializes in retrofitting civilian airplanes with reconnaissance and surveillance systems.

Under the new contract, California Microwave will modify its sixth RC-7B airplane for the Army.

The plane will replace one that crashed last summer.

Sarbanes visited the plant two years ago and promised to help bring the company more work.

He and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., lobbied members of Congress and helped to arrange meetings between the company and high-level Defense Department officials, he said.

Congress approved the supplemental appropriations bill in late June and President Clinton signed it into law July 13.

The high-tech aviation business is exactly the type of business the Hagerstown-Washington County Economic Development Commission would like to attract at Top Flight Air Park near Hagerstown Regional Airport, said John C. Howard, executive director of the Economic Development Commission.

"Our pride runs deep in having that facility," Howard said.

Because the company relies on government contracts, it will always be subject to volatility, Howard said.

Howard credited Sarbanes with working to secure the government contracts.

"He has made it a personal aim to accomplish more work for our good neighbor here at California Microwave with a zeal we in economic development admire and appreciate," Howard said.

In April, the company announced a $33 million contract to modify 15 HU-25A/C Falcon aircraft for the Coast Guard.

The work will last two years, with options worth $58 million to upgrade an additional 15 planes and provide logistics support, the company said.

In May, the company announced a $3 million contract with the U.S. Army to modify three RC-7B Airborne Reconnaissance Low-Multifunction (ARL-M) aircraft with upgraded airborne sensors.

The company has added nine employees since May 1 and currently has eight openings for aircraft mechanics, electricians and engineers.

The Herald-Mail Articles