Northwest Aerospace News August | September Issue No. 4 | Page 39

Big Plans From The Big Sky By Bryan Corliss I n Missoula, the heart of the Big Sky Country, CM Manufacturing fabricates landing gear parts. After years of pursuing certifica- tions, the business is poised to take off. There’s just one problem, says CM President Ken Johnson — a shortage of skilled manpower. “That’s the toughest one I’m dealing with right now,” he said. “Recruiting is a big problem and it’s not going to get any better until the high schools start doing their jobs, and the legisla- tors do their part by funding the programs that are out there.” Montana is on the edge of the aerospace frontier. Boeing’s Helena plant is the flagship, with more than 140 employees and more in the hiring pipeline, now that the company has completed a 55,000 square foot expan- sion. The plant does large- scale titanium forgings. But the majority of aerospace companies in Montana are small-town machine shops that have found themselves a prof- itable industry niche, said Doug Cairns, a Montana State University engineering professor and one of the directors of the Montana Aerospace Development Association. AUGUST | SEPTEMBER 2018 ISSUE NO. 4 39