LIMA — U.S. Sen. Robert Portman’s latest visit to the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center Thursday stood in positive contrast to past tours: Employment is growing. More contracts are on the way. And the federal defense spending for Abrams upgrades and Stryker vehicles has steadily climbed in recent years.
“This is a good news story because here we are at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center and see more work coming in, more people being hired,” Portman told reporters Thursday. “It’s great to be here on the plant floor and actually see a lot of activity, because I’ve been there when there wasn’t much activity. … Now you see new products coming online and the possibility of more.”
Hiring has been underway for some time and is expected to peak around 900 in 2020 under current contracts.
The U.S. State Department in July approved a possible $2 billion arms sale to Taiwan, which includes Abrams tanks modernized by the JSMC.
In December of last year, General Dynamics Land Systems confirmed that it is developing new combat vehicle prototypes, a portion of which will be produced at the JSMC.
And new funding for Abrams upgrades and Stryker vehicle production is expected in the National Defense Authorization Act for 2020.
Portman, whose efforts on behalf of the JSMC include securing foreign military sales to keep the plant operational when federal funding was low, hopes he’s persuaded enough of his colleagues to maintain steady funding and avoid another costly reboot at the facility.
“It’s actually better for the taxpayer because when you have roller coaster funding, it’s hard for them to be as efficient as they want to be — to know how to plan how many welders they’re going to need, how many lines to keep open, what the hours are. When it goes up and down like that you tend to do more overtime, and that can be more costly,” Portman said.
“We’ve spent a lot of time educating colleagues on this plant and the importance of having steady tank production, not just a change of strategy every couple of years but keep the same focus,” he explained. “Yes, we need to upgrade. Yes, we need more modern technology in the tanks. All that’s good. But let’s keep the production going at a more steady rate.”
Portman’s three-day tour traveled to the Transportation Research Center in East Liberty to discuss federal funding for autonomous vehicle research and to northwest Ohio to talk with farmers affected by the spring’s extreme precipitation.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.