Local officials welcome General Dynamics

Photo by J.D. Sumner

Photo by J.D. Sumner

ALBANY, Ga. -- The vice president and general manager of a defense contractor that specializes in information technology and logistical support for the U.S. Navy said Monday he believes the company's decision to open an Albany office should help them better compete for coveted LOGCOM contracts.

Retired Rear Admiral Ken Slaght, who is currently the vice president and general manager of General Dynamics, was welcomed to the city by a mix of political, corporate and defense dignitaries during a press conference Monday.

Slaght and General Dynamics, which is based in San Diego near the Marine Corps' other major supply depot in Barstow, Calif., are hoping the move will allow them easier access to the decisionmakers at USMC Logistics Command, whose headquarters is located at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany.

"Our first major step is to get feet on the ground and literally own some real estate here. We feel that shows a certain level of commitment that helps to solidify and build our relationship with both local officials and our people at LOGCOM," Slaght said. "From there, we'll get to work and look for opportunities to provide our services to the Marines."

News of fresh economic development couldn't come at a better time in Southwest Georgia. In a climate where many businesses are more likely to downsize than expand, Albany's local officials were excited to obtain a commitment from a company positioned in an industry most view as primed for growth.

"This is obviously a great opportunity for growth and hopefully jobs," Albany-Dougherty Economic Development President Ted Clem said. "General Dynamics is a good company, and we are obviously excited they chose Albany and hope they'll bring more with them."

And although Slaght couldn't give a figure on the number of jobs the company will likely create, he said existing Albany businesses may benefit as well because of the company's trend of using Georgia-based companies to augment its services.

"I'd say that we're approaching 40 percent of the vendors and businesses that we use are Georgia-based companies with about half of that from Albany," Slaght said. "So we'd like to think that our impact expands beyond just the people we can employee."

In his speech, Slaght credited the relationships that the company had made with local officials and what he said was the "personal involvement" of U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Albany, for making the move happen.

Bishop, who was on hand Monday, said he's not only proud that the company has decided to locate in Southwest Georgia, but also for the possibility of increased support and service that moving to the area may bring for the Marines at MCLB-Albany.

Quoting a famous statement made by Theodore Roosevelt, Bishop praised the company's commitment to the Marine Corps.

"Thanks to General Dynamics, our Marines have more than just big sticks. Because of them and companies like them, our military is well supported and, in terms of MCLB, the Marines here in Albany will continue to grow stronger," Bishop said.

The relationship between General Dynamics and Bishop spans at least the last few years, including a flap that got Bishop snagged into a debate about congressional spending when -- as Congress was debating awarding a $550 million contract to General Dynamics subsidiary Gulfstream -- Bishop requested $70 million from the appropriations committee for one jet for federal use.

General Dynamics is a major player in the defense and aerospace industry, employing 91,000 people worldwide.

The company is largely divided into four sectors: Aerospace, Combat Systems, Marine Systems and Information Systems and Technology. It was recently awarded a $17 million contract by Boeing to build aircraft engines and $8 million to put new, safer fuel tanks in Light Armored Vehicles for the Marine Corps.

That retrofit for the LAVs will likely impact MCLB-Albany, according to the company's website, which says the new self-sealing tanks will be build in locations throughout the U.S. and Canada but will be sent to U.S. Marine depots for installation and upgrade.