Turning little drone parts into big Reno jobs

Turning little drone parts into big Reno jobs


When drone-makers arrive in Nevada, they’ll need parts. Reno-area factories hope to make them.

“We want a piece of those jobs,” said Jeff Englehart of Nevada Industry Excellence. “We want it to happen here.”

He spoke Thursday at session devoted to unmanned aerial vehicles — often called drones — during the Nevada Manufacturers Conference at the JA Nugget in Sparks.

More than 100,000 new drone-related jobs are projected for the United States over the next 10 years, according to Englehart’s presentation. Nevada could do well, because the Federal Aviation Administration made the Silver State a drone test site earlier this year.

Tucked into industrial buildings around Northern Nevada, manufacturers of the parts that go into drones are hoping they’ll see some business.

At Click Bond in Carson City, 400 employees work on adhesive fasteners that partially replace old-fashioned rivets.

Alex Carter, Click Bond’s vice-president of manufacturing, says drones are a natural growth step for the company, which currently serves the aerospace and transportation industries. Boeing and Northrop Grumman have been Click Bond customers.

“We’re already working with companies looking to develop (drones) this area,” Carter said. “It’s exciting to have them in our back yard.”

Another Carson City parts maker, REDCO, employs several dozen people making rubber pieces, die-cut gaskets and machined metal parts.

“We’d like to get in the door and converse with (drone makers), be part of their supplier base,” said Mitch Watts, the company’s president and CEO.

Recently, the FAA relaxed a few of the restrictions for non-military drone testing. That could drive faster development of area drone businesses, Kathy Halbardier of Nevada Industry Excellence said.

Civilian drone uses can include flying medical supplies into remote areas, spotting oil and gas line issues, surveillance and keeping track of agricultural fields, she told the group.

Some of Nevada’s drone jobs will depend on “matchmaking” local parts manufacturers with the drone-makers who need them, Halbardier said.

On the other hand, funding has been wobbly for development of civilian UAS uses. Investors looking for dramatic growth can see roadblocks in public uncertainty and slow-moving regulatory agencies.

In Sparks, Lam-Tex Composites makes plastic and fiberglass aircraft parts for Department of Defense contractors. CEO Thomas Klenke would like to do more.

He’d like to make parts for primary drone contractors like Drone America. He’s looking for ways to get his half-dozen workers certified to work with aerospace-level materials.

“We want to work our way up the food chain,” he said.

The conference was sponsored by Northern Nevada Development Authority, Nevada Industry Excellence and the Economic Development Authority of Northern Nevada.


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