The U.S. Army plans to make a nearly $30 million investment in the Joint Manufacturing and Technology Center that's aimed at bolstering its advanced manufacturing capabilities, a top general said Tuesday.
The investment would also lead a change in how the factory is doing business, said Gen. Gustave Perna, commander of the Army Materiel Command, which oversees much of Arsenal Island.
Perna was on the island Tuesday, and in an interview with the Quad-City Times, he detailed his plans to substantially bulk up the JMTC's high tech capabilities. He wants the factory to focus on its core manufacturing capability, supplying Army units with parts it often gets from the private sector, rather than chasing other types of projects.
The investment would mean the addition of 11 new advanced manufacturing machines, such as 3D printers, which take materials and, under a computer's control, join them to make equipment.
It also would mean a new focus on training the factory's workforce.
The Arsenal has sought to enhance advanced manufacturing to better compete with the private sector. The new investment would be a step in that direction.
His plan would mean the factory would make parts Army units need, and fill those orders faster than the private industry is doing. That, he said, would benefit the Arsenal, too.
"When we do that, we will grow, I believe, substantially, a requirement for them to have a lot of work load," he said.
Perna cautioned the size of the workforce would remain about the same. But there would be a steady flow of work. Over the years, that has fluctuated. About 1,100 people work at the JMTC now.
Perna said his plan has been approved. But the money is not in hand yet. The general said he could have it by October. After that, it would take a year to be fully operational.
The viability of the JMTC has long been thought to be important to the long-term sustainability of the entire installation, which is one of the Quad-Cities' largest employers.
Over the last several years, especially after the draw down following the war in Iraq, the factory has sometimes struggled to get work. When it has succeeded, sometimes those projects have been temporary.
Often, the problem has said to have been high overhead costs.
But Perna said a steady supply of work would bring those costs down. The general said he discussed his plan with Under Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy when he was here Friday.
McCarthy visited the Arsenal along with Perna and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill. After the tour, Durbin and Bustos announced the issuance of new Army guidance they said would mean greater opportunities for the JMTC to get work.
The new "make or buy" guidelines are something that lawmakers supporting the Arsenal have tried to get for years. Officials say the new directive will make it more incumbent upon acquisition officials to consider the Arsenal when making purchasing decisions. "This is a very strong policy letter that we believe is going to increase workload," Perna said.