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Boeing Company to employ 400 at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University research park



The Boeing Company and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University announced Tuesday a partnership that will bring a research arm of the multinational aerospace manufacturing giant to Daytona Beach as soon as this fall.

By the end of 2026, Boeing officials say they intend to bring 400 high-paying jobs to the soon-to-open Cici and Hyatt Brown Center for Aerospace Technology at ERAU’s booming research park along Clyde Morris Boulevard, just south of the university campus. The building’s construction was set in motion by a $25 million gift from the Browns and a $25 million match in last year’s state budget.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University officials hailed the Boeing news as a watershed moment for Daytona Beach and Volusia County.

Mori Hosseini, chairman of the Embry-Riddle Board of Trustees, said the announcement is the culmination of something the university has been working toward for many years: Diversifying the Volusia County workforce and complementing the space and defense businesses that help shape Cape Canaveral and Orlando.

“Embry-Riddle is at the tip of Florida’s Space Triangle, and Boeing selecting ERAU and Volusia County will redefine our university and our community,” Hosseini said. “With 400 new, high-paying jobs right here in our backyard, the future has never been brighter in Central Florida and Volusia County.”

Hosseini said Boeing’s presence in Daytona Beach will drive economic development, attracting other companies, and serves as “a major milestone” for the research park, which first opened in 2017.

Who will Boeing be hiring in Daytona Beach?

Boeing Air Dominance Vice President and General Manager Steve Nordlund said the venture will primarily involve engineers working to improve and develop products under the Defense, Space & Security division. They may also include supply-chain managers, human-resources personnel and business analysts.

“Typically when we open up a facility, we’re going to concentrate on, you know, what we need to deliver to our customers and that’s usually around, you know, development of our products and support of our products going forward,” Nordlund said.

The decision to expand into Daytona Beach was not triggered by anything, he said.

“We’re not divesting out of anywhere else. This is a growth opportunity for us,” Nordlund said.

“We are very optimistic about what our future business is,” he said, adding that President Joe Biden’s budget includes funding for the E-7 Wedgetail, an airborne warning and control system aircraft.

“Broadly, you know, we we feel good about our business and the growth aspects across the entire portfolio,” Nordlund said.

The company’s air dominance section involves design, manufacture and sales of fighter jets, such as the F/A 18 Super Hornets (used by the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels) the Air Force’s F-15EX, large-scale MQ-25 autonomous drones and the T-7A, the next U.S. Air Force trainer.

Nordlund said the initial plan for Daytona Beach does not involve development of spacecraft.

“Not initially, but … we will take our engineering resources and apply them to all kinds of hard problems,” he said. “So if there’s talent that’s sitting here in Daytona Beach and we got a problem in the world that we’ve got to go solve and they’re the right resources, we apply them to the problem.” 

Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at event

Gov. Ron DeSantis, speaking at an announcement lunch in the ERAU student center Tuesday, thanked the Browns for their $25 million gift and said Hosseini and Embry-Riddle made a compelling case for the $25 million in the 2023-24 Florida budget by noting the impact the Boeing project will have on not just the university and Volusia County, but the Central Florida region. 

Florida has state universities to fund, including the University of Florida, Florida State University and the University of Central Florida. DeSantis said a priority of his and the Republican-controlled Legislature in recent years has been to keep state spending “lean,” saying he vetoed more than $3 billion in the state budget of 2022. 

“While I wish the private universities well, typically that’s just not our focus because we have a state university system. So to get us to support something private like this, at that level, we would only do that if clearly there’s benefits for the state of Florida and this was the best interests to use taxpayer dollars to do it.” 

DeSantis also announced he will not veto another $26 million in this year’s budget that’s pegged for a different project ― related to hypersonics ― at the Embry-Riddle research park. 

What this means for Embry-Riddle

Embry-Riddle President Barry Butler said his university recruits faculty and students, many of whom have dreamed of working in the aviation and aerospace industry since they were small children attending air shows or watching rocket launches.

“They aspire to work for places, particularly Boeing, and quite a few of them end up going there,” Butler said. “So to have a (Boeing) facility right here on campus is really what an institution like ours is all about,” Butler said. “We bring students, we attract them who have an interest in the field, we educate them, we give them internship experiences, and at the end of the day, when they leave, they’re ready to work for the best aerospace companies in the world and having one sitting 100 yards from where you took your classes is a pretty, pretty nice opportunity for them.”

 Butler said he also hopes to tap into Boeing’s talent for guest lectures and other ways to engage students.

Long dance between Boeing, ERAU

Embry-Riddle trustees and presidents have long cultivated relationships with industry partners such as Boeing.

“It’s it’s not like it happened overnight, and things evolved with time,” he said.

Butler pointed to the appointment of Nordlund to Embry-Riddle’s board in 2019 as one example of the ties between the university and company.

Nordlund, a 1990 ERAU graduate, worked at the university as chief information officer until 1998, and has been with Boeing since 2009. He delivered a commencement address to graduates last month.

“From my lens, the relationship has really accelerated for I’d say the past seven or eight years,” Nordlund said.

“We started, you know, really increasing our focus on hiring and this is one of the elite schools within the Boeing portfolio that we target full-time employees, as well as make sure that we carve out a significant number of internships every year,” Nordlund said.

Boeing also endowed a two-year scholarship worth up to $15,000 for students with diverse backgrounds.

Watershed moment for growing research park

Hosseini said Boeing had not yet committed to expanding to Daytona Beach when the university announced the $25 million donation by the Browns two years ago. At some point later, the company asked Embry-Riddle about what space might be available to lease at the research park and the Brown Center had already gone under construction, fulfilling Daytona Beach insurance magnate Hyatt Brown’s vision as he expressed it in 2022.

“Our focused mission, now and in the future, is economic enhancement of entities in VolusiaCounty that positively affect the quality of life for all our citizens,” Hyatt Brown said then. “Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and other fine academic institutions are economic growth engines that augment and embellish local median family incomes and prepare citizens for productive, sustainable and visionary careers for generations to come.”

Rodney Cruise, ERAU’s senior vice president and chief operating officer, said the research park will soon have, in seven years, grown from a single 50,000 square foot facility to 250,000 square feet of business activity, giving rise to the need to expand the park to the east.

“As Research Park East is developed, that’s an additional 700,000 or 800,000 square feet of flex lease space. And we see Boeing coming into the research park as an inflection point in the growth of that,” Cruise said. “So you’re taking something that’s moving along quickly in the great big scheme of things to five times the size … and then you get the rock stars of the the aviation aerospace industry to come and set up shop here. We think it’s going to spur the growth of the research park really differently.” 

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