The president of Ferra USA, Jerry Cook, told Grove Rotary members that when he joined the company in January 2018 it had 12 employees. Today, the company employees 71 people in Grove and expects to grow to between 150 and 300 employees in the next two or three years.
The modernistic 43,000 square-foot plant on Highway 10 east of downtown was built originally on 10 acres. A recent addition of 90 additional acres allowed the company to begin a 50,000 square-foot addition which is expected to be completed after the first of the year. And if that isn't enough good news, they plan another 50,000 square-foot-addition by 2021.
The company is an independently owned Australian manufacturer specializing in manufacturing, assembling and testing aerospace and naval defense structures. The company is a turnkey project management manufacturer with contracts that include the Boeing Company, Northrop Grumman, the Airbus Group, GE Aviation and Thales to name a few. They now have offices in London, India, and three additional cities in the United States including Anaheim, Calif., Arlington, Va., and Rogers, Ark.
The Rogers plant reports to the Grove headquarters. It is a recent acquisition of a machine shop that has eight machines that give the Grove plant additional capabilities.
The initial mission of the Grove plant was to assemble parts, but with the new addition, they will be manufacturing parts as well.
The company is adding five 5-axis machines which will allow them to manufacture parts, just not assembly them. The three medium-size machines each required three semi-trucks to bring them to the plant. The two large machines which are expected to be in place by July of next year, will each require 13 semi-trucks to bring them to the plant. Each machine which cost about $2 million each will weigh about 190,000 pounds.
According to Cook, it takes between 5 hours and 12 weeks to program a machine to manufacture a part depending on its multiple dimensions. Some of the most complex jobs require entering more than 800 dimensions. Then it takes about 40 hours to actually produce the part.
The company is reaching out to Grove high school students who have an interest in manufacturing and engineering to intern with the company after school. "We want to encourage students interest in manufacturing," Cook said.
Cook, who has been in the manufacturing industry for 42 years with 34 of those years in aerospace, said that Grove is becoming a "mecca for the aerospace industry and bringing lots of jobs to the area."