Raytheon president discusses growth and priorities in Tucson

This week we check in
with southern Arizona’s largest private employer,
Raytheon Missiles Systems. The company went through a
number of changes this year, including a new president
and a much publicized merger. I spoke with new president,
Wes Kremer, to learn more about the company’s
future in Tucson. Wes Kremer took the reins
at Raytheon Missile Systems in late March, putting
him in charge of a company that employs more than
13 thousand people and did more than eight billion
dollars in sales last year. In Arizona, the company’s
annual economic impact tops 2.6 billion dollars,
that according to a report the company commissioned from
Arizona State University. As for Kremer, before rising
through the ranks at Raytheon, he served 11 years as a
weapons system officer in the Air Force. You were in the backseat
of F-111s, F-15s, interesting position now to
be at the top of the company making a lot of the
weapons. Does that change how you think about your job? – Well, I think I’ve
always had that focus since I started out my career
in the Air Force to try to always think about it from
the war fighter perspective. And to now be in this
position of leading a large organization, and
of primarily delivering weapons that go to our war
fighters, I think it does give me a unique perspective on that. – [Christopher] In addition
to developing missiles, Kremer is eager to
advance Raytheon’s ballistic missile
defense systems, like
it’s kill vehicles. Designed to collide
with and destroy long-range ballistic
missiles in space, something Kremer likens
to the type of technology President Ronald
Reagan first called for more than 35 years ago. – I call upon the scientific
community in our country, those who gave us nuclear
weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause
of mankind and world peace. – You know, since President
Reagan made his famous speech in the 80s, around
the, you know, creating a missile defense
shield, a lot of that activity has been here.
You know the next new wave is hypersonics, and we talked
a little bit about, you know, that’s weapons that travel,
you know, faster than Mach-5, or five times the speed of
sound. The next generation of stuff, you go from where
we are today to Mach-5 is then eventually getting
to speed of light weapons. So, lasers, high-powered
microwaves, of course cyber happens at the speed of light.
All of those things like that are also areas where
we’re investing and
where we’re winning programs and developing new
and exciting technologies. – Kremer will also have an
elevated role when Raytheon completes its merger
with United Technologies, an aerospace company
based in Connecticut. He’ll serve as president
of integrated defense and missile systems
after the merger closes, which is expected
sometime next year. A lot of people got worried
that Raytheon could go away. Is that a valid concern? – No, I mean, Raytheon’s
not going away. We have such a large base
here, of not only of employees, but facilities and
investment, and so, you know, there will be an
upcoming decision about where the headquarters
goes, but the headquarters is not a large number of jobs. The core competency of
what we do here in Tucson will remain in Tucson,
regardless of those decisions. – The merger hasn’t led
Raytheon Missile Systems to put the brakes on
expanding in Tucson. It plans for growth,
including hiring a thousand new employees
in the coming years and continuing to
build new facilities. – Over the past several
years, we’re in the process of making over 550
million dollars worth of capital investment, and it
includes seven new buildings on campus, a relocation
of a new substation to provide power to
this part of campus, and really, it’s part
of our growth here of needs spaces for
all these new employees and all these new programs. – [Christopher] Hiring and
retaining qualified employees remains a priority for Raytheon. It’s 2018 annual
report details the need to successfully recruit
new personnel as quote “a significant percentage
of its current workforce is nearing or eligible
for retirement.” In Tucson, the company’s
outreach can begin as early as elementary school. Do you have a hard time
convincing students that they want to come
to a missile company and not to an Internet company
or something like that? – So you know, we’re not
for everybody. (laughing) 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, you know, an aunt, an
uncle, a father, a mother, something like that.
But the other thing that we do is we
really to connect them to our overall mission
statement, you know, which is “One global integrated team
creating innovative solutions to make the world
a safer place.” – The company also
heavily recruits from Arizona’s three
public universities and Embrey-Riddle
Aeronautical University in Prescott. We sat down
with three employees, all who attended
college in Arizona and are beginning their
careers with Raytheon. Including U of A alumni Mari
McCarthy and Danny Ybarra, who both work as
software engineers and combined have less than
two years of experience at the company. – I always wanted
to work in defense because my cousin, who works
here, also was in the Army. – [Christopher] Originally
from Las Angeles, McCarthy was part of
a mentorship program in college that paired her with
a female Raytheon engineer. – I’m actually first
generation college student. – [Christopher] Ybarra
grew up in Tucson and says STEM-related
courses and programs in high school helped guide
her toward engineering. – It was until I got
to college and started to interact with all the
companies and stuff like that where I found what
I wanted to do. – Defense contractors wasn’t
really on my mind at the time when I was in school. – [Christopher] Three years
ago, Raytheon recruited Roman Biggae at NAU
and after graduating, he moved to its division
in Massachusetts before transferring to
Tucson several months ago. – You know it stuck with me. Two of my older sisters
were in the military. – [Christopher] All
spoke optimistically about their experience
at the company so far. – I consider my co-workers
my family at this point. – [Christopher] And all
volunteer their time outside of work in
different STEM programs, including at the U of A. – That’s where I’m actually
being able to coach on and mentor students. – [Christopher] Desert
View High School – Now I’m one of the women
that are representing us for the younger age. – [Christopher] And San
Javier Mission School. – We’re showing these kids
that, you know, Native Americans are in these STEM
fields that, you know, they can make it
past high school and pursue college careers. – [Christopher] Fostering
a sense of service is part of Raytheon’s strategy to decrease turnover
according to Kremer. – Our data shows that once
an employee has been here five years, then we usually
keep them for a long time. It’s really that first five
years that’s the most critical. So one of the things
is to, you know, make sure they’re
engaged not only in work, but in the local community. – Where do you see yourself
at that five year mark, that 10 year mark
going down the road? – I still see myself here.
Looking forward to staying here in Tucson and being
closer to home. – I’m planning to start
my masters next year in cyber-security. I’m
really interested in trying to use that degree here
at Missile Defense. – Everybody saw how homesick
I was in the beginning, they all thought like, “Oh,
maybe she won’t end up staying,” but the more I got to know
the people I worked with, and the more I got to
get into my project, I realized that I could
stay here and actually make a life in Tucson.

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