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Economic Boon From MX Seen : $1.8-Billion Hike in Orange County Activity Projected

March 28, 1985|LESLIE BERKMAN | Times Staff Writer

If the U.S. House of Representatives approves funding for 21 more MX missiles today, it could pave the way for a $1.8-billion increase in Orange County's economy.

The House vote, the fourth and final in the extension of the controversial defense system, will be closely watched by more than 100 companies in the county that are contractors or suppliers for the missile program. Orange County, a defense industry center, would reap more than one third of the total $6 billion expected to go to companies throughout the state during the peak production period, 1984 through 1988.

Within the next four years, about 12,336 jobs a year in Orange County will be tied to the program, if it is continued at full production, according to the U.S. Air Force. Statewide, the contracts are expected to generate 42,000 jobs.

Rockwell International, one of 14 prime contractors for the MX, employs about 2,100 on the program at its Rockwell Autonetics Strategic Systems Division plant in Anaheim. The Autonetics division has received $1.23 billion in contracts on the MX program since 1979.

Last year when Congress gave a go-ahead to the production of the first 21 MX missiles, Rockwell Autonetics was awarded a $233-million contract to build the automatic guidance and control systems.

Stakes in Program Vary

If the House of Representatives today approves the proposal to spend $1.5 billion to build another 21 missiles, Rockwell would probably again receive about $233 million worth of work, according to company spokesman Tony Longo.

There are several subcontractors and more than 160 suppliers to the program in Orange County, including McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co. in Huntington Beach, ITT Cannon's Military Aerospace Division in Santa Ana, Gulton Industries' Servonic Division in Costa Mesa, Parker Hannifin's Air and Space Products Division in Irvine, and Ford Aerospace in Newport Beach.

Each company's stake in the program varies widely. Ford Aerospace so far has received $4.3 million worth of contracts to develop and produce a device to extend the missile's rocket cone prior to blast-off. Only 10 Ford employees are working on the project.

McDonnell Douglas Astronautics Co., the Huntington Beach-based division of McDonnell Douglas Corp., employs about 20 workers on its project to build a metal shell to hold two stages of the missile together. Its contract is valued at $4 million to $8 million a year through 1987.

Despite the economic benefits the MX missile program has brought to Orange County, a termination of the program would not be disastrous, contends Rep. Robert Badham (R-Newport Beach). Badham, who favors continuation of the MX, said the benefit to Orange County was not his major consideration.

"Killing the program would not have a disastrous effect on the employment of Orange County because there would have to be other (military) systems that would be necessary in its stead," he said.

Because Orange County has a substantial aerospace industry, Badham said, he believes that any substitute program would also bring the county business.

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