"We truly appreciate the community's support which helped make this possible."
Photo Credit: 
Chronicle photos by Lisa Carroll

ELGIN - Senator James "Jim" Inhofe and Congressman Tom Cole joined BAE Systems executives as they celebrated the completion of the Elgin facility expansion with a brief ceremony yesterday morning.

Taking almost a year to finish, the expansion project has added more than 52,000 square feet of factory space to the BAE Systems' Elgin facility. On Tuesday, Oct. 1, Site Lead Scott Collins, referred to the completed development as a "milestone event," saying that BAE Systems now has the capability to supply new howitzers the U.S. Army has requested. Guy Montminy, President of Platforms and Services for BAE Systems, referenced the Elgin facility as being a "key element" of company manufacturing. The recent expansion is said to have tripled the previous factory space capacity. The improvements not only enhance the facility's future assembly capability, but the expansion also offers more employment opportunities, leaving a "significant economic impact" on the community, Guy said.


Combined with the original warehouse, manufacturing and office spaces, the Elgin site now incorporates over 72,000 square feet of total space. New features include a high bay area and paint facility, ultimately increasing the rate on final production of M109 Self-Propelled Howitzers. "We truly appreciate the community's support which helped make this possible," Guy said. "We do a number of expansion projects across this country. I can tell you the community here, is tremendous..." Senator Inhofe and Congressman Cole each took to the stage offering their support of BAE Systems, employees, Fort Sill, and the Elgin community.


Comparing efforts to those at Tinker AFB and Altus AFB, looking ahead toward the future, Senator Inhofe described the work being accomplished by BAE Systems in Elgin as securing the future and "ensuring prosperity." It was BAE Systems' employees that Congressman Cole immediately turned his gratitude toward. Those in the back of the room, he said, are the ones "who have made this possible. "Just thank you for what you do, because it's gonna make a big deal of difference for us in some very difficult times undoubtedly (...) at some point," said Congressman Cole. "Thanks for what you do. Your hard work, your craftsmanship is what makes this possible."


Cole continued by thank- ing Elgin Mayor Larry Thoma, saying, "Nobody has worked harder, locally, to get this job done than the mayor..." He then took time to praise BAE Systems for their efforts, adjustments, and flexibility in supporting the military before wrapping up by focusing on Senator Inhofe's commitment to our soldiers. "We are so fortunate to have him in the United States Senate. From an Oklahoma standpoint, the people that are really fortunate are the men and women in uniform," Congressman Cole said. "Nobody cares more about American soldiers (...) than Jim Inhofe does, nobody. "Nobody works harder to make sure they have the training and the capability that they need. We spent a lot of the last generation, frankly, outgunned by potential opponents. That should never happen. We should never put America in a situation where we might be outgunned by the enemy. This country has the capacity to make sure that doesn't happen for our men and women in uniform. This is a giant step toward making sure."


By neighboring with Fort Sill, BAE Systems' executives said the proximity of  the Elgin facility allows for the ability to "access a highly skilled and experienced artillery workforce while enabling the transition of the vehicles from production to verification." The facility currently operates by conducting sub-assembly and testing, manufacturing, vehicle integration, and vehicle tests and sales for the M109 Self-Propelled Howitzer. Helping to support the surrounding community, BAE Systems' executives said they are an active supporter of the Elgin Chamber of Commerce, Elgin Public Schools, Fort Sill Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR), United Way and the Oklahoma Blood Institute.