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Editorial: Aerospace expansion nod to local workforce

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An aerospace company plans to expand its plant and nearly double its workforce in Greenwood.

L&E Engineering Co. wants to hire 40 more employees and make a $3.7 million investment in expanding its Greenwood facility, plant manager Jeff Derrer said. The company plans to pay an average wage of $21.43 for the new jobs, not including benefits.

The company’s plant is about 23,000 square feet and will expand to between 40,000 and 45,000 square feet. Engineers, quality engineers and supervisors all would be hired as part of the expansion.

The projected wage is higher than the county average and the $17.50 an hour that L&E Engineering pays its current employees, Johnson County Development Corp. President and Chief Executive Officer Cheryl Morphew said. The company employs 54 workers at its facility at 254 N. Graham Road, east of Interstate 65.


The new jobs will have higher pay because they require more highly skilled employees, Derrer said.

L&E Engineering is owned by the Ohio-based Ferco Aerospace Group, which also has facilities in Ohio and Kentucky. All three locations were considered as potential expansion sites before the company chose Greenwood.

Greenwood has many key benefits, chiefly an experienced labor force that can fill the jobs, Derrer said.

The announcement is particularly good news for the area for several reasons. First, the company is highly technical in a growing field. Second, and more importantly, company officials could have chosen nearly any of its facilities for the expansion but settled on Greenwood because they knew they could find the skilled workers they needed.

L&E Engineering makes tubes and brackets that go into airplane, gas turbine and industrial engines. The company needs to expand its tube manufacturing operations to keep up with rising demand in the aerospace industry, Derrer said. Aircraft engine makers need more tubes because of a global increase in orders for commercial airliners.

The company has been serving the aerospace industry since 1956 and makes a variety of tubes and other metal fabrications with high-strength titanium and aluminum, Derrer said. Major customers include GE Aviation and General Dynamics.

Airframe manufacturers have toured the plant to make sure that it can keep up with increasing demand for the tubes that go into airplane engines, Derrer said. They want to make sure that the whole industry won’t suffer from a slowdown in manufacturing capacity, he said.

L&E Engineering plans to start construction of the expansion in July and finish in mid-2014. All of the new manufacturing equipment should be added by sometime in 2016.

It’s always good news when a local company expands and plans to add jobs. But the fact L&E Engineering plans a bigger facility in Greenwood because company leaders know they can hire the higher-quality workers needed is a rare compliment indeed.

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