The head of an international avionics company headquartered in Cedar Rapids says they’re finally starting to experience growth after sluggish sales and layoffs over the past several years.
Rockwell Collins CEO Kelly Ortberg spoke at an annual investor conference in Washington, D.C. “I believe the market outlook is improving and we have not said that in a long time,” Ortberg said. Rockwell Collins has long separated the commercial side of its business from the defense systems it builds for militaries around the world. At the end of 2008, defense contracting made up 54-percent of the company’s sales.
Over the past five years, the recession and U.S. military spending cuts have forced Rockwell to reduce its government systems workforce by nearly a third. “We’ve closed 17 facilities. We’ve reduced our workforce by over 10-percent at the corporate level, much more at the government systems level, and we’ve also moved thousands of resources from our government business into our commercial business,” Ortberg said.
Those structural changes, Ortberg said, have put the company in a better position to handle the next round of defense cuts. Rockwell’s shift to the commercial markets has been boosted by the recent $1.4 billion acquisition of a transportation communications company, ARINC.
Ortberg became CEO of Rockwell Collins in August of last year. The company is Cedar Rapids’largest employer.