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In state, defense is a major employer
Published March 5-6, 2011
By James A. Johnson/Daily News staff
The defense industry employs more than 16,000 Rhode Islanders and generates more than $1.75 billion for the state annually, according to Timothy DelGuidice, chairman of the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance.
"Aquidneck Island has the largest cluster of defense-related companies in the state, with 11,000 military and civilian people," he said, citing a 2009 study of the industry.
In terms of employment and total payroll, the defense industry has a significant impact on the overall economy of the state, and Aquidneck Island in particular, DelGuidice said. Most of the defense firms on the island employ about 100 people, he said, but there are some with as many as 200 and others with only about 10.
Raytheon Co. in Portsmouth is the exception; it is part of Rhode Island's "Big Three" defense firms, along with Textron Inc., which has its world headquarters in Providence, and General Dynamics Electric Boat at Quonset Point in North Kingstown.
"The defense industry in Rhode Island has proven time and time again to be a very strong, close-knit community," DelGuidice said. "We have withstood issues in the past, whether they have been national budget cuts or the BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) process."
The BRAC process, scheduled every 10 years, is what really solidified the state's defense industry, he said. It also led to the formation of SENEDIA, a chamber-of-commerce-type, nonprofit organization that represents more than 500 companies in and around Rhode Island.
The organization and state officials already have started preparing for the next round of military base realignments and closings, expected to occur in 2015.
"This is great to set the table before the BRAC process even starts," DelGuidice said. "Rhode Island is getting out in front of it and is getting prepared for it."
He said the close-knit nature of the local defense industry makes it an interesting community of competition and cooperation. "One day, two companies might be competing for an opportunity, while on another day, they might be teammates on a different opportunity," DelGuidice said.
People in the industry coined the term "competimates" to describe that relationship, he said.

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