The outgoing head of Rockwell Collins, one of Iowa’s largest corporations, says the company will soon be generating half of its revenue from outside the United States. The Cedar Rapids based aviation equipment maker has annual sales of nearly $5-billion and CEO Clayton Jones says the company’s goal of collecting 50-percent of that revenue from outside the U.S. could be accomplished within the next 3 to 4 years.
Jones says Rockwell Collins is losing business at home as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq wind down. “We’re seeing dramatic reductions in defense spending not only dragging down our revenues, but also dragging down the number of employees, especially the engineers that we have,” Jones says.
“That’s being compensated for by our balance that we have in our commercial markets. We’re seeing commercial markets thrive outside the United States.” Rockwell Collins has roughly 19,000 employees worldwide, including over 9,000 workers in Iowa – mainly in Cedar Rapids. Jones says the company is now finding new defense business with U.S. allies.
“As the United States draws back from its previous strong positions in some of these theaters, these local, international governments that are in these hot spots in the world are going to have to strengthen their own capability,” Jones says. “That’s what we (did) in Iraq, that’s what we’re standing up in Afghanistan, and it’s also what we’re going to have to do in the Middle East.”
Jones is retiring as CEO of Rockwell Collins on Wednesday after 34 years with the company. He spoke earlier this month at an Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress meeting about the need for a more “diverse” labor force in Iowa. “It has to change to become more diverse, to more inclusive, and match up to where the markets and the customers are going to be in the future – many of which are outside the United States. We’ve got to understand those markets,” Jones said.
“That’s going to be important for our businesses to be competitive.” Dubuque native Kelly Ortberg, president of Rockwell Collins, will succeed Jones as CEO. Ortberg has been with Rockwell Collins since 1987. Jones plans to continue to serve on the company’s board of directors as non-executive chairman.