With $216 million coming from DOD, Aerojet Rocketdyne adding jobs in Camden

by Steve Brawner ([email protected]) 2,591 views 

Aerojet Rocketdyne employees in East Camden install rocket motors in Lockheed Martin’s Patriot and Stinger missiles. (photo courtesy of Aerojet Rocketdyne)

Aerojet Rocketdyne, which is producing rocket motors used in weapons provided to Ukraine, will be expanding its workforce in Camden by a couple of hundred jobs and will be receiving $215.6 million from the Department of Defense (DOD).

Chandra Hooker, Aerojet Rocketdyne senior director and site executive, told the Rotary Club of Little Rock (Club 99) Tuesday (May 30) that the company will add those jobs to the company’s current workforce of more than 1,100 employees in the Highland Industrial Park. Hooker noted the company’s Camden workforce has grown more than 80% in the last seven years and is still expanding.

The Camden site produces more than 75,000 solid rocket motors a year, mostly for Lockheed Martin. Its operations are spread over 2,000 acres and more than 150 buildings, not including bunkers, she said. The company has about 26 product lines in Camden. One supplies products to the government while the rest go to customers such as Lockheed Martin, which also employs more than 1,000 at the Highland Industrial Park.

Aerojet Rocketdyne, which is headquartered in California, produces rocket propulsion systems used by the military and also space launch vehicles and national security satellites. Among its notable systems are three being used by Ukraine: Javelin shoulder-fired anti-tank weapons, Stinger air defense systems, and Guided Multiple Launch Rocket Systems. Another weapons system used by Ukraine, the HIMARS light multiple rocket launcher, is manufactured by Lockheed Martin at the Highland Industrial Park.

The DOD announced April 14 that the Office of Manufacturing Capability Expansion and Investment Prioritization was making the $215.6 million grant to Aerojet Rocketdyne. The funds will expand and modernize the company’s facilities in Camden and also in Huntsville, Alabama, and Orange County, Virginia. The funds will consolidate production lines, purchase equipment, build data processing systems, and increase production and delivery speed. The announcement said the agreement will help the Department of Defense replenish its ammunition supplies.

The money is coming as a result of the Additional Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2023, which provided $47 billion in emergency funding to support Ukraine in its war against Russia.

Hooker was part of a panel discussion that included John Schaffitzel, president of Highland Industrial Park, and James Lee Silliman, executive director of the Ouachita Partnership for Economic Development. Andrew Parker, Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce director of governmental affairs, moderated the discussion.

In December, L3Harris Technologies announced it was attempting to acquire Aerojet Rocketdyne for $4.7 billion. It expects the deal to close this year. The move comes after the Federal Trade Commission blocked an attempt by Lockheed Martin to acquire Aerojet Rocketdyne for $4.4 billion.

In addition to Aerojet Rocketdyne and Lockheed Martin, Highland Industrial Park also is home to General Dynamics, Raytheon Technologies, and numerous smaller subcontractors.

Schaffitzel said about 2,700 individuals work within the industrial park. About 80 employees work for the park itself, while virtually all the rest are in the aerospace and defense industries. The park contains 5.5 million square feet of buildings and more than 19,000 acres. While there are no empty buildings, it has significant green field space available to develop.

“You don’t fly over these sites and see million-square-foot buildings out there,” he said. “You see a whole lot of 10,000-square-foot buildings or 5,000-square-foot buildings that it takes to do the certain processes.”

One challenge for park and company officials is finding housing for employees. Schaffitzel said Camden has not had a new housing development in 20 years. Many employees commute up to 75 miles from Little Rock, Hot Springs, El Dorado and elsewhere.