ESCANABA - Tuesday marked the official launch of the Delta Green Aerospace and Marine Integrator project and a new marine and aerospace cluster involving seven U.P. companies. The launch took place at the Delta County Airport.
The Delta Green Integrator project will focus on the light-weighting of parts, sub-systems and systems, and refurbishment in the marine and aerospace sectors, according to a press release from the Delta County Economic Development Alliance and Delta County Airport.
The notion of green also extends to include more durable parts and components for ships and aircraft. Seven technology, engineering and manufacturing companies from the Upper Peninsula are involved as members of a cluster of businesses working together as part of the project.
These companies include Basic Marine of Escanaba, Creative Composites of Rapid River, Oldenburg Group International of Kingsford, Blanchard and Associates of McMillan, Acuren of Iron Mountain, and GS Engineering and Great Lakes Sound & Vibration - both of Houghton.
Representatives of the Delta County Airport, Delta County Economic Development Alliance, Delta County Board of Commissioners, and Explorer Solutions - an aerospace and economic development consulting firm that has worked with the county and airport since 2001 - spoke during the presentation Tuesday in the Delta County Airport lounge. Officials primarily discussed the marine portion of the project, as the aerospace sector will be addressed at a later time, but will focus on greener aircraft interior parts and sub-systems. According to Board Chairman Tom Elegeert, the first phase of the Delta Green Aerospace and Marine Integrator project began with Explorer Solutions in August 2010. Since then phases two and three have been completed.
"The member companies here today have a common vision of working together, bridging their own assets and skill sets in a cluster format to become more attractive to major players within the marine industry, and at the same time, helping themselves grow and expand faster," said Elegeert. "Delta County is proud of the work and result that has been put forth by all of those involved in this undertaking and look forward to great success and economic growth and prosperity."
Delta County EDA Director Vicki Schwab said this cluster is now coming to fruition after it was originally formed "to bring new ideas, new opportunities and new jobs" to Delta County. "We continue to be impressed by the level of commitment of all of the organizations that are involved in this partnership," she said. "This is a project that is moving economic development forward in our community."
Christian Perreault of Explorer Solutions spoke of the significance of the Delta Green Marine Integrator project, noting the major presence of several shipbuilding yards within a few hours' drive of Escanaba.
"The main objective of the cluster and the positioning is really to create ... and provide greener parts, greener sub-systems, with the vision of becoming an integrator," said Perreault. "An integrator technically will take those parts and sub-systems to create and deliver to OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and shipbuilders a full system - much larger parts and components."
One objective of the cluster is its ability to provide greener solutions with a vision of combining the skill sets and competencies of each cluster member and to create lighter and more durable parts that reduce the weight of ships and aircraft, thereby reducing fuel consumption.
"We have a strong team of people that can do re-engineering ... to provide more durable parts instead of replacing a part 20 times in the lifespan of a ship and we replace it only 15 times or 10 times," said Perreault. Reducing this supply chain would be a huge cost saving for manufacturers and operators of these ships, he said. The cluster also plans to address ship refurbishment.
"We know right now that the shipping industry worldwide is a bit at a slowdown since the economy is still lagging in most countries around the world, so the refurbishment side will become very important," he said.
In addition to manufacturing, engineering, and refurbishing, Perreault discussed the cluster's future potential involvement in research and development and having university partners involved in the project.
"The notion of a cluster will also include training," said Perreault. "We need to train these employees and we need to get more specialized employees."
The targeted clientele of the Delta Green Marine Integrator is shipbuilders throughout the Great Lakes and the United States, eventually expanding worldwide.
The cluster allows each of the seven cluster members to provide OEMs and shipbuilders with one point of entry or point of contact instead of dealing with each company separately.
"I think the end result ... is that major OEMs and shipbuilders are facing challenges with their supply chain," said Perreault. "They want groups that can provide solutions to the challenge they are meeting."
Perreault said the group hopes to announce their first contract through Delta Green in the next few months. Delta Green Integrator is headquartered at the Delta County Airport. For more information, visit its new website at www.deltagreen.pro.