Skilled to Work: New European office seeks to increase partnerships in Alabama

The European Office to Advance Economic Development officially launched in August.

Posted: Sep 5, 2019 9:52 PM
Updated: Sep 5, 2019 10:22 PM

When thinking of rockets, stretching metal honeycomb sheets may not be one of the first things that comes to mind.

But that’s just one of many jobs that aerospace technician Linda Letson does at RUAG Space USA in Decatur. She joined the company in February 2019 after wanting to join the aerospace manufacturing industry for a couple of years.

RUAG Space USA RUAG Space USA

“It is even more interesting than I thought. I knew it would be a lot different than anything I had ever done, but I wasn’t fully prepared,” said Letson.

RUAG Holding AG is a Swiss-based aerospace and defense technology company headquartered in Bern. It has been making payload fairings and composite structures in its space division for more than 20 years for both European and American rockets.

In 2016, the company opened a subsidiary called RUAG Space USA in Huntsville and opened its manufacturing plant in Decatur in 2017.

There they manufacture “composite technology based on aluminum honeycomb cores with carbon fiber reinforced plastic face sheets.” RUAG Space primarily works with United Launch Alliance (ULA), which is right next door to the Decatur site.

“Of course having ULA here and the heritage of rocket development here in the area was really important. The workforce here is just really fantastic for the company. And all that just really made sense,” said Robbie Harris, the manager of the Program Management Office at RUAG Space.

“There's not really anywhere else in the US that was so perfect.”

Harris said previously, the fairings they made for ULA were manufactured in Switzerland and flown to the United States. So having a US-based operation significantly cuts down on overall costs.

“This facility was selected because we could get what they need out of this facility at the rate that we need. Of course, coming to the US is, our plan is to grow and expand. And so we'll be looking to do that pretty aggressively,” said Harris.

And it’s not only RUAG doing business in the Tennessee Valley. According to the Office of the Governor, more than 70 companies operating in north Alabama are tied to European countries.

That’s why last week, Governor Kay Ivey announced the new European Office to Advance Economic Development.

“As we see investment from Europe on the rise, particularly in the automotive, aerospace, forest products and chemical sectors, it has become more apparent to us that having representation on the ground in Europe will help provide new connections, not only with companies within those sectors but also to help us advance our trade opportunities,” said Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield in a statement.

Christoph Doerr was appointed as the director of the office. According to the governor’s office, he is “an experienced German businessman who spent seven years in charge of an industrial operation in Alabama.

“I personally experienced the benefits of investing in Alabama, and I can share that with prospective companies, not just theoretical information about a business location in the state,” he stated.

The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce said having a dedicated representative in Germany will be a big boost to help grow the area.

“One thing we’ve learned in the last several years of being active and promoting Huntsville is that a lot of people know our history, but they don’t know what we offer today,” said Lucia Cape, Senior Vice President of Economic Development, Industrial Relations & Workforce.

Back at RAUG Space, Harris said some of those offerings include state and local training courses for technicians, like the ones done in tandem with Calhoun Community College.

"Having people trained before they come in the door through programs that the state sets up is a game changer for us. So we really take advantage of that,” said Harris.

Letson is just one beneficiary of that training and said it allows her to excel at RUAG Space.

"Everything has got to be flight ready. You can’t make mistakes. You can’t “oops.” It’s got to be done correct the first time, because a lot of this stuff, once it’s together, there’s no getting it apart,” said Letson.

To learn more about the new office, click here.

Huntsville/Redstone
Clear
53° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 53°
Muscle Shoals
Partly Cloudy
53° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 46°
Feels Like: 53°
Huntsville/Madison
Partly Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 48°
Feels Like: 48°
Decatur
Clear
50° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 50°
Fort Payne
Partly Cloudy
45° wxIcon
Hi: 73° Lo: 49°
Feels Like: 45°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 518588

Reported Deaths: 10712
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson753351487
Mobile37698798
Madison33829494
Tuscaloosa25245443
Montgomery23942565
Shelby23094238
Baldwin20617300
Lee15510165
Calhoun14277311
Morgan14137268
Etowah13660345
Marshall11952219
Houston10379278
Elmore9988200
Limestone9806147
Cullman9467188
St. Clair9422234
Lauderdale9208227
DeKalb8745181
Talladega8042171
Walker7087275
Jackson6753110
Autauga6715103
Blount6480135
Colbert6200130
Coffee5397112
Dale4766110
Russell428238
Franklin419882
Chilton4080109
Covington4053114
Tallapoosa3892146
Escambia387574
Dallas3526149
Chambers3499122
Clarke346360
Marion3065100
Pike305475
Lawrence295295
Winston272272
Bibb256258
Marengo248561
Geneva245875
Pickens232959
Barbour224755
Hale218675
Butler212266
Fayette208960
Henry187844
Cherokee182044
Randolph176741
Monroe171240
Washington163838
Macon154348
Clay149354
Crenshaw149257
Cleburne146041
Lamar139234
Lowndes136453
Wilcox124327
Bullock121340
Conecuh109028
Perry107926
Sumter102932
Coosa99228
Greene90734
Choctaw58624
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 822085

Reported Deaths: 12001
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby914971575
Davidson86563918
Knox48960619
Hamilton42811480
Rutherford41428415
Williamson26942213
Sumner22909338
Montgomery18780223
Out of TN17852101
Wilson17747223
Unassigned16441132
Sullivan15781283
Blount14839194
Bradley14284147
Washington13850240
Sevier12986174
Maury12901166
Putnam11072173
Madison10628240
Robertson9486127
Anderson8539171
Hamblen8409169
Greene7645151
Tipton7171104
Coffee6782121
Dickson6643108
Cumberland6461127
Gibson6355144
Bedford6350126
Carter6332156
McMinn625595
Roane6124101
Jefferson6008121
Loudon595869
Lawrence573186
Hawkins5682105
Monroe564395
Warren549481
Dyer5340104
Franklin504987
Fayette484578
Obion447196
Cocke439598
Cheatham436551
Rhea428075
Lincoln427963
Marshall407358
Campbell405462
Weakley398761
Giles391298
Henderson368375
Carroll355582
Macon354375
White351468
Hardin346166
Hardeman345063
Lauderdale312744
Henry309775
Marion307246
Scott303145
Claiborne302373
Overton294360
Wayne294134
Hickman278345
McNairy275354
DeKalb273953
Smith271737
Haywood267660
Grainger255449
Trousdale247822
Morgan242839
Fentress236346
Johnson226738
Chester208651
Bledsoe208211
Crockett199848
Polk196024
Unicoi191149
Cannon187531
Union184034
Grundy176431
Lake169526
Humphreys168721
Sequatchie165228
Benton160940
Decatur156438
Lewis154826
Meigs132123
Stewart129328
Jackson129235
Clay108331
Houston107333
Perry105628
Moore99217
Van Buren82621
Pickett75524
Hancock53612

Community Events