WACO, TX — One of the biggest high-tech names in Central Texas will usher in some big changes as it merges with another company.
The merger between L3 Technologies and The Harris Corporation was forged in necessity. Both companies make most of their money from the defense business -- and government spending on defense has been on the decline.
That's why L3 underwent a series of layoffs in 2017. The company saw four rounds la layoffs that year, the last, cutting 124 jobs at the Waco facility. Then in 2018, L3 cut 64 more jobs here.
L3 and Harris knew they had to get bigger to survive and compete for those government defense contracts. Most observers expect the merger to add jobs to Waco, particularly high-paying jobs.
Edgar Martinez wants to fly for Southwest Airlines in a few years, and he said he believes the training he gets at Waco's Texas State Technical College will get him there.
"TSTC really cares about their students in general, and what they're majoring in as far as mechanics to pilots," he explained.
Now, he sees new opportunity, as L3 Technologies which sits at the other end of this former air force base, merges with Florida-Based Harris Corporation. The all-stock merger will take effect this Saturday, creating the nation's sixth largest defense contractor. It will take the name, L3 Harris Technologies.
For years, TSTC's aerospace program has trained students for jobs at L3, whose Waco facility most retrofitted and upgraded military aircraft. Leaders here believe the merger will mean more growth in the aerospace program.
"As the company grows, TSTC is ready to help meet the workforce needs for L3 Harris," said Adam Hutchinson, provost at Texas State Technical College at Waco.
Most observers say they expect the new workforce needs to amount to much more than the Waco facility has ever seen.
From Congressman Bill Flores, to Waco Mayor Kyle Deaver, almost everyone seems to agree the L3 Harris merger will bring big benefits to Waco and Central Texas, as the combined company funnels more work into Waco, creating more high-paying jobs.
And TSTC plans to keep pace with the demand by adding programs to address the new company's training needs.
”We're excited about growing that workforce with L3, not just in our traditional graduate model, but in customized training and providing needs for their specific contracts,” Hutchinson said.
And to Martinez, that adds up to more opportunity -- not just for him, but for his classmates too.
"This opens up a lot more doors for students in general TSTC is very well rounded with ap mechanics and pilots, ATC too. with the merger going on, it can really open some doors for many people," he said.
He believes, thanks to the L3 Harris merger, he and his friends may have the chance to get more specialized training, to bring home an even better paycheck.
While this merger stands to bring more high-tech work and high-tech salaries to Waco, the future remains a little murky for the merged company.
The merger will create the sixth largest defense contractor. L3 Harris must still compete with the big boys of defense, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and United Technologies. The new company will need to find a niche -- and fast.
Most financial analysts seem to have a cautious outlook on the long-term success of the merged companies, mostly due to the competitive issues. The merger will create the sixth largest defense contractor... but can number six survive long term? For the sake of the Waco economy, lots of people hope the answer is yes.