Strengthening Northeast Indiana’s Defense Industry with NIDIA in Washington D.C.

By: Nick Darrah on December 5th, 2019

Regional Partnership Travels to the Nation's Capitol to Enhance Region's Defense Industry

Around this time about 13 years ago, I found my 19-year-old self on a rooftop in Barwana, Iraq as a team of insurgents began firing on me and my fellow Marines, who were patrolling along the banks of the Euphrates River down below. It was my first firefight. As you can imagine, I had a lot of things to think about—I had to get my team on target and return fire. I had to pass information down to the guys on the ground. We had to post rear security. We needed a radio to coordinate with friendly forces, and much more. All of this was in addition to making sure I didn’t get shot.

What I didn’t have to think about was if the satellite imagery on my map was accurate. Or if our encrypted radios would let me safely communicate with other units nearby. Or if the avionics system of the Cobra gunship hovering overhead would keep it from falling out of the sky. None of this ever crossed my mind.

Our warfighters are able to keep their minds on the fight, and not worry about those details because civilians back home work every day to develop and build the highest quality equipment for them to accomplish their missions downrange.

More than 3,000 of these dedicated and highly skilled professionals make up the defense and aerospace industry cluster right here in Northeast Indiana. Our friends and neighbors work at companies like BAE Systems, Raytheon and L3Harris, making avionic electronics, tactical communication systems and advanced satellite instruments. BF Goodrich employees make the tires that go on Humvees and Clean Fuels National technicians service fuel tanks in Department of Defense (DOD) installations all across the U.S. Over 100 companies, from two-person shops to publically traded corporations, contribute to the multibillion-dollar impact that the defense and aerospace industry has on our economy.

Careers in this field are typically well above the average wage, which is one of the reasons that the Regional Partnership’s Business Development team actively supports this industry. Supporting these companies and jobs in Northeast Indiana will directly impact our goal of increasing per capita personal income (PCPI) against the national average, one of the Regional Partnership's Vision 2030 goals.

About a decade ago the Regional Partnership helped defense industry leaders to establish the Northeast Indiana Defense Industry Association (NIDIA). Through the power of collaboration, NIDIA is able to connect with our local educational institutions to ensure we have a robust talent pipeline of STEM skilled future employees, as well as provide advocacy to key stakeholders in government.

Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C. with retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Douglas Schwartz, on behalf of NIDIA. Col. Schwartz and I met our congressional delegation and key staffers to share information and discuss ways that we can all work together to support and advance this vital industry. I’m happy to report that in today’s tense political environment, our elected officials in D.C. are all eager to work together on this.

The message is simple. We owe it to those who defend our freedoms to provide them with the best equipment and services possible. So whether you are a company in the defense and aerospace industry, a highly-skilled professional looking for an impactful and well-paying career, or a legislator who is both responsible for supplying our national defense needs and accountable to the taxpayer, Northeast Indiana should be on the top of your list.

Northeast Indiana's strong defense industry offers job opportunties focused on personal and professional growth. Learn more about Fort Wayne's strondhold on R&D and manufacturing for the U.S. aerospace and defense industries.

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