FORT WAYNE, Ind. – Northeast Indiana is home to a robust defense manufacturing sector. Nearly 11,000 people there work in defense and aerospace and there are more than 38,000 engineers in the region. Indiana’s 3rd District Congressman Jim Banks says the inaugural Northeast Indiana Defense Summit April 11 in Fort Wayne will focus on growing further growing the sector.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Banks said the summit will be “a great day of conversation about what northeast Indiana can do better.”
Banks says the summit’s guest lineup includes Jim Cannon, chief executive officer of South Bend-based AM General, and Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus VR and designer of the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality head-mounted display. Luckey is currently founder of California-based defense contractor Anduril Industries Inc.
“I also have Mike Rogers, who’s currently the Republican Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee,” said Banks. “I have a couple of authors of books as well. Jacob Helberg, The Wires of War, and Jerry Hendrix coming to talk about the navy.”
While the industry is down from what it once was, Banks says the region is seeing the defense, aerospace and industrial base and related jobs start to regrow again.
“Around 2010, we had nearly twice as many defense-related jobs in northeast Indiana as what we do today,” said Banks. “We have a number of great companies in northeast Indiana: L3 Harris, Raytheon, BAE, General Dynamics. We make sonobuoys in Columbia City, my hometown, we make Humvees just outside of my district in Elkhart. We have a good footprint, but now is the time to seize upon the growing defense budgets that Congress is passing to innovate and manufacture some of the innovative technologies that our military is creating so that we can compete with our adversaries now and in the future. That’s what my summit is geared towards focusing on.”
Banks says the entire region is growing.
“You can’t go to downtown Fort Wayne today and not see the difference,” said Banks. “Over the past 10 years, the riverfront development, new buildings, downtown is exciting. What we have to offer is exciting, and that’s why I enjoy bringing leaders from elsewhere to come and see how great Fort Wayne is and everything that’s going on there, because its a great place to attract new jobs and investment.”
You can connect to more information about the summit by clicking here.