A bold step

By Staff
July 5, 2004
Taking a bold step, Chief Phillip Martin signed an agreement last week with the world's second largest helicopter manufacturer to train about 500 workers to make wire harnesses for the aerospace industry.
Two manufacturing plants on the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians reservation in Neshoba County will be sites for the venture with AgustaWestland Inc.
AgustaWestland is competing with Sikorski Aircraft for a contract from the Department of Defense in December for the manufacture of 23 presidential helicopters.
Believing that most automotive manufacturing jobs in the future will be outsourced, Martin seized an opportunity to convert from low-tech to higher-paying high-tech manufacturing. Many Choctaws already have experience from the days when the tribe ran wire harness production lines for car markers. Those skills are helpful in the move to produce far more complex aerospace harnesses that function as the helicopters' central nervous system.
The company expects to get an Army contract of almost $2 million within the next few weeks, the first phase of a larger $29 million contract. How many helicopters will ultimately be produced by the tribe depends on how many contracts AgustaWestland and AAI garner.
Over the past 10 years, Martin lifted his tribe from poverty through investments in gaming, manufacturing and digital mapping. The tribe is Mississippi's second largest private employer, with 9,000 workers. And now, the Choctaws have a new point of entry into a new, for them, field.
It's amazing what can be accomplished when a truly visionary leader like Chief Martin turns the vision into reality.

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