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Wednesday, Feb 8, 2023

Aerospace, Defense Contractors Steady on OC Jobs

Employment over the past 12 months at Orange County’s largest aerospace and defense contractors held about steady, combining for 22,785 jobs here, according to this week’s Business Journal list.

The companies make airplanes, systems and parts for commercial and military aircraft, among other products. Two companies are based in OC, while the rest have subsidiary offices and significant operations here.

The local employment total came to a loss of 64 jobs, a decline of less than 1%. It followed a gain of 7.6% a year earlier, when the sector snapped a five-year streak of job cuts here.

Companywide employment for the group also decreased by less than 1%, to a total of 1,095,559.

Ten companies added employees to their OC operations, and two made cuts. Two were flat from a year ago, while 10 others were Business Journal estimates.

The list ranks the companies by number of local employees.

Perennial No. 1 Chicago-based Boeing Co. shed 535 positions, bringing its workforce to 6,890, down 7.2% from a year ago.

Boeing’s local employment has fallen by more than 3,000 in recent years as the company aims to improve manufacturing efficiencies and drive down overall costs.

The Business Journal last week reported the Seal Beach and Huntington Beach hubs of Boeing’s Space and Intelligence Systems unit are among the Southern California locations that will cut 250 to 300 workers this year.

The El Segundo-based unit is one of the largest satellite makers in the world.


The cuts were prompted by an ongoing shift from individual engineering to a “production line mentality,” according to spokesperson Diana Ball.

“The upfront engineering work will be reduced,” she said.

Late last year, the Business Journal reported Boeing planned to sell two of several buildings it has in Seal Beach as part of a restructuring aimed to slash $1.6 billion in expenses by 2015 that includes reductions in its executive ranks.

Boeing is adding work at its Huntington Beach hub, which will design the Phantom Phoenix, a new line of small satellites that it hopes will find buyers in the defense and commercial sectors. The program aims to manufacture systems quickly and affordably for specific missions.

It’s unclear whether that project—which is overseen by Boeing’s St. Louis-based Defense, Space & Security division—will lead to any hires for design in Huntington Beach. The company is looking at potential sites in Southern California and elsewhere to produce the satellites.

Increases in employment came mostly at companies targeting the commercial aircraft segment.

Panasonic Avionics

Lake Forest-based Panasonic Avionics Corp. moved down one spot to No. 3, despite adding 206 employees for a total of 1,675 people, up 14% from a year ago.

The company won several contracts, including deals to outfit United Airlines’ first onboard satellite-based Wi-Fi connection on overseas routes and to supply Etihad Airways with in-flight Internet and mobile connectivity service, in addition to a 10-year technical services agreement with Aeromexico to support the Mexican airline’s fleet of 737-800 BSI aircraft.

Earlier this month, the company, part of Osaka, Japan-based Panasonic Corp., announced it acquired real-time weather data and forecasting technology from Morrisville, N.C.-based AirDat LLC.

Panasonic Avionics’ Irvine-based rival, Thales Avionics Inc., moved up a notch to No. 8, adding 138 employees for a total of 850 people, up 19.4% from a year ago.

Thales, part of French electronics company Thales Group, has been on a local and companywide hiring push.

“More business is the primary driver,” said spokeswoman Lori Krans. “Our Irvine operations continue to grow at a very good pace.”

Late last year, the company expanded operations, with four new buildings that house engineering labs, production lines, a service operations center and distribution.

Thales is seeing demand grow for its products, which include communications systems, back-seat screens and ground- or satellite-based connectivity services. The company is a big in-flight entertainment products supplier in the Middle East, China and Europe.

Costa Mesa-based Ceradyne Inc. held on to its No. 17 ranking with an estimated 401 employees.

The company, which makes ceramics-based products for the defense, industrial and commercial markets, was sold late last year to St. Paul, Minn.-based 3M Co. for $860 million.

Ceradyne saw $343.2 million in revenue and a loss of $12.4 million for the first nine months of last year, which preceded the company’s sale.

Big Winner

No. 21 EADS North America Test and Services, which has an office in Irvine, had the largest percentage increase after adding 51 workers, up 36.4% to 191 employees.

Last year the company posted the largest percentage drop when it shrank its OC work force by 14% to 140.

“2011 was our low point,” said John Armstrong, director of human resources. “We did some rebounding in 2012 and are continuing this year.”

The company, which makes testing and measurement equipment and software for the military, chipmakers and other commercial customers, has seen demand rise across the board, according to Armstrong.

Its companywide employment remained flat, with 133,000 workers.


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