By TOM WOERNER
Of The Record Staff
North Carolina military officials used a Lillington manufacturing site Thursday to announce the receipt of a grant that will be used to help businesses and industries impacted by reductions in defense spending throughout North Carolina.
North Carolina Veterans and Military Affairs Secretary Larry Hall was at SAAB Barracuda in Lillington to announce North Carolina’s winning of a $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense.
North Carolina will use the grant to devise a plan to help lessen the impacts of defense cuts resulting from the 2011 Budget Control Act. Military businesses throughout the state, including SAAB Barracuda, will benefit from the program.
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tant part of the defense industry in North Carolina and we think the company will benefit from this program,” Mr. Hall said.
SAAB Barracuda Vice President and Head of Communications John Belanger said there will not be a direct financial impact locally, but he expects the program to help his company and others around the state.
“We hosted this event because it is important for us to support the defense industry in North Carolina,” Mr. Belanger said.
“SAAB is honored to host Secretary Hall as he makes this exciting announcement,” SAAB Barracuda President and General Manager Brian Keller said. “We’re a proud member of the North Carolina defense community and we hope to see it continue to thrive.”
Gov. Roy Cooper also issued a statement.
“We’re proud to be the most military-friendly state in the nation and recognize that the businesses and people supporting our men and women in uniform are an economic engine across North Carolina,” he said. “Therefore, it is crucial that we take steps to create jobs and encourage businesses to grow throughout our military communities.”
“North Carolina is proud to be the home to so many businesses and people who work to support our military,” Mr. Hall said. “The defense sector is the second largest driver for North Carolina’s economy, and this grant can help these businesses find new ways to thrive in our state.”
N.C. State University’s Industry Expansion Solutions and the North Carolina Department of Military and Veterans Affairs will team up to use the grant to help defense related businesses that want to diversify or expand into new markets.
The grant will fund a supply chain study to analyze the economic challenges and opportunities for North Carolina’s defense sector, with the goal of identifying products that are currently imported into the state but have the potential to be procured locally in North Carolina.
The grant will also fund a pilot project led by N.C. State to deliver direct services to small- and medium- sized businesses in the defense sector to help them thrive.
In addition, the grant will be used to catalog existing resources and programs available so defense sector businesses in North Carolina can be matched with services they need to reduce their dependence on the defense budget.
North Carolina’s project will culminate in a plan to promote growth for small to medium sized defense-sector businesses and reduce vulnerabilities facing the defense supply chain in North Carolina.
SAAB Barracuda is one of two major defense based industries in one building on McNeill Street in Lillington. The business manufactures Ultralight Camouflage Netting systems, or ULCANS. The systems are used to camouflage both men and equipment.
Other products include mobile camouflage and solar shade systems. The Swedish-based company came to Lillington when it purchased its current facility from BAE Systems in 2002. The company currently employs 60 people at its Lillington facility.
Mr. Keller said in the press release that his company hopes for expansion in Lillington and other United States sites.
“Our company has supplied the U.S. military with American-made camouflage products since 2002,” Mr. Keller said. “As drone usage escalates and the U.S. presence in Europe expands, we foresee even greater demand for our offerings and we plan to grow accordingly.”
SAAB works in the same building as another defense contractor, Esterline Technologies. That company manufactures chaff used to deflect radar from planes.