This week, Arizona 360 visits Southern Arizona’s largest, private employer, Raytheon Missile Systems. The company went through a number of changes this year, including appointing a new president and moving forward with a much-publicized merger. Christopher Conover sat down with President Wes Kremer to learn more about the company’s future in Tucson.
Kremer took the reins at Raytheon Missile Systems in late March, putting him in charge of more than 13,000 employees. Its annual economic impact in Arizona tops $2.8 billion, according to a report from Arizona State University that the company commissioned. Before rising through the ranks at the Raytheon Company, he served 11 years as a weapons systems officer in the U.S. Air Force and flew fighter aircrafts.
“I think I’ve always had that focus since I started out my career in the Air Force, to try and always think about it from the war fighter perspective. To now be in this position of leading a large organization and primarily delivering weapons that go to our war fighters, I think it does give me a unique perspective on that,” Kremer said.
Kremer will also have an elevated role after Raytheon Company merges with United Technologies, an aerospace company based in Connecticut. He will serve as president of Integrated Defense and Missile Systems after the merger closes, which is expected in the first half of 2020. Conover asked Kremer whether the merger will cause Raytheon Missile Systems to scale back its operations in Tucson.
“Raytheon’s not going away. We have such a large base here of not only employees but facilities and investment. There will be an upcoming decision about where the headquarters goes, but the headquarters is not a large number of jobs,” Kremer said. “The core competency of what we do here in Tucson will remain in Tucson regardless of those decisions.”
Newly constructed buildings and plans to break ground on more structures serve as evidence of the company’s plans to grow in Tucson. According to Kremer, the company is in the process of making about $550 million worth of capital investments. That includes several new buildings and a new substation to power the expansion. Raytheon Missile Systems also plans to hire 1,000 more employees in the coming years. Hiring and retaining qualified workers remains a priority for the entire company. Its 2018 annual report detailed the need to successfully recruit new personnel as a “significant percentage of its current workforce is nearing or eligible for retirement.” Conover asked Kremer if the company has trouble convincing people to work for a missile company.
“We’re not for everybody. I mean that’s reality. What we do, is we do national defense. And we tend to see that the employees that come here and stay here for a career usually are very patriotic in nature, often have some connection to the military,” Kremer said. “We really try to connect them to our overall mission statement, which is one global integrated team creating innovative solutions to make the world a safer place.”
Raytheon Company recruits heavily from the state’s three public universities and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott. In addition to speaking to Kremer, Conover also sat down with three early-career employees who all attended college in Arizona. They discussed beginning their careers with the company and how they’re also involved with STEM-related outreach efforts in the community.
Featured in this discussion: Roman Begay, systems administrator; Dani Ibarra, software engineer;Mari McCarthy, software engineer.