TUPELO – After months of waiting for a stop-work order to be lifted, FMC Corp. got the go-ahead last week on a five-year, $135-million contract to build 256
loaders for the U.S. Air Force.
After FMC-Tupelo was awarded the contract in June, a stop-work order was issued following a protest by another bidder. Teledyne Brown Engineering of
Huntsville, Ala., had also bid to produce the air cargo loader prototypes at their Corinth plant.
The announcement means that initial work related to the Next Generation Small Loaders (NGSL) program will begin at FMC’s Tupelo facility, one of the company’s
largest facilities, which provides turnkey operations, from sales and marketing to shipping.
“Our operation in Mississippi will be involved in manufacturing important components of the new loader,” said William A. Moran, plant manager and 21-year company
veteran. “In addition, we will be receiving new work orders from FMC’s Airport Systems business as the company prepares to meet the demands of this new Air
Between 65 and 100 new jobs will be generated at the Lee County facility over the life of the program, Moran said.
“It will obviously strengthen our employment in Tupelo,” he said. “By doing that, it’s going to add value to the area.”
FMC Corp. is working on plans to bring operations to Tupelo over the next year as part of a coordinated effort by several FMC business units that are affected by the
new program, Moran said.
The contract award, which covers production, logistics and engineering support, begins the U.S. Air Force’s program to replace its aging fleet of 700 small loaders.
The initial authorized spending for 2000 is $7.8 million for eight loaders to be delivered in 2001. According to an announcement by the Department of Defense, the
contract has the potential to generate $458 million in total sales over the next 15 years.
“Our technology and reliability as a supplier were key determinants in winning this contract, and we’re pleased that we are now able to proceed,” said Joseph H.
Netherland, president of FMC. “This work also has potential to open up additional areas of supply for military aircraft to use the type of equipment that FMC has
been providing for years to commercial airlines.”
The NGSL loads, unloads and transports palletized cargo, and is designed to serve both military and certain commercial aircraft, which are routinely used by the Air
Force for cargo operations. The NGSL, or Fly-away loader, is a lightweight vehicle that can be quickly reconfigured for shipment, driven into a C-130 aircraft and
flown to small, austere airfields that are close to battle. The Fly-away loader plays a key role in the growing need and ability of the U.S. to rapidly respond to conflicts
around the world, Moran said.
“We appreciate the strong support we’ve received from local officials in Tupelo, as well as the Mississippi congressional delegation, including Congressmen Roger
Wicker and Chip Pickering, and Senators Trent Lott and Thad Cochran,” he said. “We are very fortunate to have local, state and federal elected leaders dedicated to
bringing more jobs to our area.”
FMC Corp., a major supplier of aircraft cargo loaders to industries involving airfreight, is one of the world’s leading producers of machinery and chemicals for industry
and agriculture, employing more than 15,000 people at more than 90 manufacturing facilities and mines in approximately 25 countries. Federal Express in Memphis
uses FMC loaders exclusively in its program. FMC-Tupelo officially opened its doors on Oct. 26, 1974.
“Our 310 employees should feel proud that their contributions to our company are being recognized not only at FMC, but by the U.S. Air Force as well,” said Moran.
“It is a proud day for FMC and our community. We look forward to an opportunity where all of us at the Tupelo plant can celebrate this important milestone and
thank our officials for the role they played. FMC Tupelo is extremely proud of our role in strengthening the military capabilities of the U.S.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne Wilbanks Jeter at email@example.com or (601) 853-3967.