Defense Contracts Keep Tulsa Firms in High Gear / $519.5 Million in 1986

Article excerpt

TULSA (AP) - Howard Duke says he is tired of hearing about gloomy economic news.

""All we hear about is the bad times,'' he said. ""We need to publicize some of the good news and the aircraft industry is real good news.''

President of Duke Manufacturing Inc., which he founded 14 years ago, Duke has seen his aircraft parts fabrication plant grow to 60 workers.

Currently, Duke holds 46 U.S. Department of Defense contracts worth $3 million, has been hiring ""a few'' workers and expects to be hiring more in the next two or three years, he said.

Duke Manufacturing's success story is being repeated in varying degrees across the city, according to industry officials and federal agencies.

Four years ago, 44 Tulsa firms contracted for $368.2 million worth of business with the Defense Department.

In 1986, 64 Tulsa corporations hold defense contracts worth $519.5 million - a 41 percent increase since 1982, according to the Defense Contracts Administration Services Region, Dallas, which manages federal agency contracts in a six-state region.

Products manufactured in Tulsa under the contracts range from first aid supplies, flight training manuals, aircraft and naval training simulators, spare parts for aircraft, tanks and ships to communications cables, telecommunications systems, fuel tanks, weapons pylons and portable shelters, officials say.

What this means for the metropolitan area is that almost $1 of every $13 of goods and services produced in the Tulsa economy this year will have been generated directly or indirectly by Pentagon spending, officials say.

And, while Tulsa's economic cornerstones, agriculture and oil, show little prospect for near-term growth, officials say the city's aerospace and high technology industries are in high gear and could bring more jobs, more growth and more Pentagon spending in the future.

But, as the recent announcement of layoffs of 100 workers at Rockwell International Corp. demonstrates, there may be pauses in the overall employment upturn generated by increased defense spending.

As early production lines of Rockwell's B-1 bomber program wind down, however, Air Force officials are making preparations for long-term maintenance and support programs for the B-1 that could total $1 billion, officials said.

Maj. General William P. Bowden, commander of the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center at Tinker Air Force Base, alluded to Tulsa's aerospace potential recently when he urged local firms to submit bids for parts and maintenance contracts on the B-1 bomber.

The B-1, 100 of which are being built for the Air Force by Rockwell International Corp., will be brought to Tinker for periodic maintenance, beginning in 1988, Bowden said.

""Last year, $100 million (in Tinker contract work) went to Oklahoma businesses,'' Bowden said. ""I think more and newer technology has been assigned to Tinker (during the past year) than during the past 20 years.

""The potential for selling spare parts, jet engines, is there.

""I feel very good about the future and about some of this high technology (work) coming into Tulsa. …