Small Businesses Support Big Programs: 5 Reasons to Go Small in Aerospace & Defense

F-35 Lightning II Spirit Electronics Small Business

Spirit Electronics sent a letter to the White House last week in support of an increased budget for the F-35 Lightning II program. The letter was co-signed by ten small businesses across the United States who are part of the F-35 supply chain. Lockheed Martin’s F-35 assembly line is currently planning to produce 156 planes per year in 2023 and onward. The small business requested increase would support an additional 100 planes per year to be delivered to the US Armed Forces and international allies.

This manufacturing schedule would be impossible without the support of our nation’s small businesses. Spirit Electronics takes pride in supporting the only 5th generation fighter jet protecting our troops and national security worldwide. The program means more than just military security for many businesses. It can also mean economic security. Such far-reaching manufacturing programs bring jobs and economic investment to local communities across the nation. 

If you’re looking for a partner for your next A&D program, here are 5 reasons why a small business can go above and beyond.

1. Dedicated & Agile Program Support

Spirit has 17 personnel dedicated to supporting the F-35 supply chain. With a team of about 25 members, this would be most of our business! But Team Spirit supports multiple customer programs among government prime contractors.

Our team has the flexibility to support multiple programs with our customer service and advanced business systems. We invested in customizing a powerful ERP system to manage purchase orders and shipment dates that offers real-time updates and reporting. We can manage your program’s full BOM (bill of materials) to order all your components from across the supply chain. We can cross reference part numbers to get you the best product for your needs.

With the allocation environment in the electronics market, order dates are at risk of moving out and lead times are extending. Spirit’s customer support can stay on top of your order dates, inform you of changes and take action to pull in or adjust order deliveries proactively.

In small business, we are used to cross training and filling many roles. Collaboration is easier. We can customize our testing services and logistics services, like SMI programs, and bring all your parts and services under one purchase order.

2. Responsive Product Quality and Safety

Spirit operates with an AS9100-certified quality management system that supports every aspect of our business. While also certified under ISO9001, AS9100 certification means operating with an understanding of product quality and safety in mission-critical aerospace programs. Being a small business with AS9100 lets us train our team and develop our processes to meet requirements more easily.

When your product comes in the door, we perform inspections, use ESD control and handling procedures and have a secure and environmentally controlled warehouse for your inventory. Our XRF analysis and test programs provide you with product data to guarantee your lot meets aerospace and defense requirements.

We manage the quality of your supply chain for you. Our inspections stop orders with documentation errors and physical defects. We resolve quality issues before parts ship to you. We work with each of our suppliers to make sure that your order is complete, handled properly, documented and shipped with quality and product safety top of mind.

As a small team, every employee is trained in ESD control, counterfeit prevention, ITAR and product safety. Our safety awareness is greater and can be more easily embedded in our daily operations.

3. Industry Specialization

As a small business, we can specialize our services and team training for the aerospace industry. We know the ins-and-outs of aerospace and defense regulatory requirements and industry challenges. Being specialized lets us make sure we understand and meet requirements on every order.

Our team understands the contract review process, and we have grown relationships with our manufacturers to make sure we work together to meet your order requirements. We set up our business programs to manage ITAR, counterfeit prevention and cybersecurity. When you order from us, you can be confident that your supply chain is supporting A&D regulatory programs.

4. Community and Economic Investment

When you buy with small businesses, you support local communities. This holds true at Spirit Electronics. The F-35 Lightning II program, while a national operation, generates over $1 billion in economic impact for our state of Arizona. Of the 1,800 businesses supporting the F-35 Lightning II, over 1,000 are small businesses providing more than 250,000 jobs nationally.

We invest our revenue back into our small business. We have hired new employees and trained team members new to aerospace and defense, growing our industry’s talent. Our Phoenix facility started as a vacant suite in a HUBZone, but we have invested in full building renovations. We now have 2,000 sq ft of warehouse space along with a test lab and a contract manufacturing line.

And we didn’t stop there. We started Spirit Gives, our nonprofit that is hosting events and drives to support our local neighborhood kids and families. Small business economic impact can reach communities on a local and personal level.

5. Small Business Spend Credit

Small Business spending credits can be a cherry on top of going small with your supply chain partners. The federal government requires a certain amount of federal contract dollars to be awarded to businesses in certain categories. By working with a small business, your program can meet contract requirements in these spending categories. The government’s goal is to diversify its supply chain in recognition of the critical economic growth and investment small businesses provide.

Spirit is a veteran-owned, woman-owned small business with HUBZone certification. We are certified with the Small Business Administration to meet these ownership qualities. Our HUBZone certification supports our investment in revitalizing our local community. Credit toward the federal program helps make sure that we continue our local economic impact.

Small Business Partners

Small Businesses are expert innovators with highly skilled teams offering quick service. Your program, like the F-35 Lightning II, can benefit from skilled and agile support, specialized services and the opportunity for community economic investment.

To work with Spirit Electronics, get a quote for a single part or even upload your full BOM for us to help you review. And don’t forget to ask about your testing, value-add and logistics options so your parts arrive ready to use.

Spirit’s Veterans Continue to Support the Military Mission: Veteran Owned, Veteran Driven

Spirit Veterans Team Spirit

Phoenix Business Journal this week named Spirit Electronics as the #10 largest Veteran-Owned business in the City of Phoenix. Our CEO Marti McCurdy, a US Air Force veteran, leads the company, but a heavy veteran team presence also helps drive Spirit’s mission and business growth.

Spirit’s value-added services and supply chain support in aerospace and defense includes delivering qualified high-reliability electronics to the military and prime contractors. While supporting this business mission, we also want to honor the veteran experiences and personal sacrifices that drive our team to succeed.

Our Veteran Experience in Military Service

Spirit CEO Marti McCurdy is a proud veteran of the US Air Force. But our experience in service gives us more than a small business boost. Our veterans have come from all branches of the military, with experience in aircraft to ground missions. We have always found our veterans bring an expert mindset to our business with tactical understanding of product safety and reliability, standards compliance and product requirements. Our veterans know first-hand why their team roles matter to the mission on the front lines.

Continuing to Support Military Programs: the F-35 Lightning II

Our components support mission-critical operations on the ground and in the air, with aircraft like the F-35 Lightning II elite fighter jet. Telling the story of her transition out of the Air Force, Marti explained, “I got out and thought, where are the F-111s? What am I going to do?”

This is one reason why our veterans excel in our aerospace and defense business—we continue to put their technical and hands-on potential to use in direct support of customer programs like the F-35. Spirit supplies components for the programmatic gate array for the F-35 avionics systems. Over 17 Spirit staff members support this program, including Warehouse Manager Jeremy Rolin, who previously supported the F-35 through aircraft maintenance in the US Air Force.

Spirit is one of 1,800 companies that support the F-35 Lightning II production line, and the program brings over $1 billion into our local Arizona economy. Read more about the F-35 Lightning II program.

Supporting Veterans in Our Civilian Workforce

Our veteran staff know the stress involved in career transitions. In fact, knowing how to prioritize, brush off stress, and focus on the team goal is one of the reasons we love our veteran hires. Marti sat down with our veteran team on our podcast to talk about the transition from military to civilian career and how to navigate it successfully.

Marine Corps veteran Thomas Stewart, who manages Spirit’s SMI programs, explained “You deal with a lot of stress in the military, and you’ll deal with a different stress when you get out. I think you have to focus on what you need to do. You learn that in the military, and you learn how to prioritize and focus on how to get the job done.”

“You deal with a lot of stress in the military, and you’ll deal with a different stress when you get out. I think you have to focus on what you need to do. You learn that in the military, and you learn how to prioritize and focus on how to get the job done.”

Spirit Finance Director Chris Sinerius, said he went from operations superintendent in charge of 170 team members to a staff accountant making $15 an hour in charge of nobody. “I think that’s the biggest challenge for a lot of folks is accepting that it’s a start over and that you have to work your way up again, being willing to find those new skills to adapt to the market.”

How can we help our veterans make the transition to a civilian career more easily? Warehouse Manager Jeremy Rolin, who just completed 22 years of service with the Air Force and now works with Team Spirit explains “Spirit actually makes it a little bit easier. The culture was definitely similar but different, in many ways.”  Supportive team culture, common goals, and the openness to learning more about military experience and culture have helped our veteran and civilian teammates work together.

Spirit: Behind the Screen podcast

Spirit Veterans on our Podcast

Listen to interviews with Spirit's Veteran team members on our Spirit: Behind the Screen podcast. Episode 15 talks with many of our veterans about their transition to civilian careers. Episode 21 talks with teammate Zac Scott as he heads out on active deployment.

We are also no strangers to reserve and guard activations. Many veterans continue to serve while also holding down a civilian career, and activations and deployments can add to the stress and transitions they experience. Our former teammate Zac Scott is currently on deployment and spoke with Marti about transitioning before he left on deployment. “This is actually my first corporate job ever,” Zac said. “ I would say coming in here and being welcomed with open arms—that was amazing. It was a hit the ground running and hey, what do you need for us to help you start learning and be an effective member of the team.”

Spirit Gives Foundation Supports Veterans and Their Families

Being no stranger to the stress of the military, the transitions from duty stations or to civilian life, we created a nonprofit foundation Spirit Gives to extend support to veteran families in our community. Our growing foundation wants to reach families in our area who need support to juggle work, life demands, and their children’s needs.

Spirit Gives holds seasonal donation drives and fundraisers to offer support with basic everyday needs like electric bills, school supplies, and mentorship time. For our current campaigns, visit SpiritGives.org.

Honoring Your Service this Veteran’s Day

To celebrate Veteran’s Day 2021, we want thank all of the military veterans on Team Spirit. Your hard work and experiences enrich our mission and help us continue to serve the aerospace and defense industry. We are grateful to you, to the veterans in our families, and to the veterans in our community for your service.