CHESHIRE — South Korea has long been a key ally of the United States, but local ties between South Korea and Cheshire are also becoming stronger.
A visit to town earlier this year from officials of the Gyeongsangnam-do Office of Education, and a return-visit from Cheshire Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jeffrey Solan to South Korea, are preparing the way for teacher exchanges and other educational cooperation. Now, Hanwha Aerospace, which has operated inside its spacious, hangar-like facility off Knotter Drive at McKee Place since 2016, is planning to add 40 jobs in Cheshire through the relocation of its international engines business, the company announced.
A multi-million dollar facilities upgrade is also planned, according to company officials.
Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont was the featured guest at the Nov. 9 event celebrating Hanwha’s commitment. Among the other attendees were state and local officials, along with employees on duty for the day shift.
The crowd enjoyed local apple cider and donuts as Connecticut officials touted the state’s commitment to high-tech and well-paying jobs creation. In his remarks, Lamont highlighted the robust presence of aerospace in the state’s economy, quipping that “you can’t fly without Connecticut.” The Governor also pointed to the importance of a locally-based supply chain and stated that Connecticut has “the most sophisticated workforce in the world. They recognize that in South Korea, that’s why they’re here.”
Hanwha CEO Jae-il Son, who traveled from South Korea in order to attend the event in person, also commented on central Connecticut's “rich history of excellence,” in the industry, saying his company planned to “continue with the development of new technology in cooperation with key partners.”
Inside the Hanwha complex, components for aircraft engines are prepared for packaging and shipping or await inspection. Most of what is fabricated there is subject to export controls and strict internal security measures.
The state’s Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner, Alexandra Daum, pointed out that this includes, “mission-critical engines and engine parts,” which will form the major focus of Hanwha’s work. Also critical, per Daum, is “shortening the supply chain.”
One of Hanwha’s most important partners is aircraft manufacturer Pratt & Whitney, which has offices in East Hartford and Middletown. This has led to the nickname “aerospace alley” for central Connecticut, Daum said. Daum also noted that while Connecticut makes up approximately 1% of the United States’ GDP (gross domestic product), it “punches above its weight,” making up about 25% of the country’s aerospace industry.
Tim te Riele, who took over as Head of Hanwha's International Engine Business in October, addressed the importance of developing a "local workforce" through partnerships with both technical high schools and community colleges in the area. He underlined the company’s “commitment to producing safe, reliable, efficient aircraft,” while adding that it has also invested around $3 million in making the process "more sustainable.”
Per Cheshire Economic Development Coordinator Andrew Martelli, Hanwha did consider locating the new office in a different town before ultimately choosing Cheshire. The addition of the senior roles, he suggested, would be a boost to the town.
Cheshire Chamber of Commerce President Yetta Augur commented that bringing those additional jobs at Hanwha creates “a ripple effect that helps businesses throughout Cheshire,” by spending at local restaurants and other businesses.
Town Council Chair Tim Slocum added that “it really is a wonderful thing to see manufacturing, especially a worldwide company, investing in Cheshire.”
The South Korean company, originally founded in 1952, first focused on explosives manufacturing. Hanwha since has diversified into multiple business lines, including green energy, finance, and retail enterpises. Hanwha Aerospace has also developed space technology used for the Korea Aerospace Research Institute's (which has a similar role to NASA stateside) Nuri rocket program. It also builds artillery, armored vehicles and other military equipment. Its defense sector clients include NATO allies such as Romania and Poland as well as Australia, Egypt and other key partners of the US military, per its website.
The bulk of the work done at the Cheshire facility will continue to focus on aircraft.