(An interview with Doug Paulson, general manager, BWX Technologies, Euclid, Ohio)
Tell me about how your business started.
BWX Technologies, Inc. (BWXT) traces its history all the way back to the 1850s when Stephen Wilcox patented the water tube boiler. Almost 100 years later, with the advent of nuclear energy, our expertise in the power generation business put us at the forefront of commercial and government nuclear industries. Operating for many years as the Babcock & Wilcox Company, we spun off our power generation business in 2015 to allow BWXT to focus on government and nuclear operations.
Why was the decision made to locate in Euclid?
BWXT purchased the Euclid operations from an offshoot of TRW in 2007. TRW’s predecessors have been in the Cleveland area since the early 1900s and here on Euclid Avenue since before World War II.
How are the products that you manufacture used?
BWXT’s Euclid site manufactures electro-mechanical components for naval nuclear reactors used in submarines and aircraft carriers.
For more than 60 years, the Navy’s submarines and aircraft carriers have safely steamed millions of miles using components manufactured by BWXT Nuclear Operations Group facilities – a track record that is highlighted by our commitment to safety, quality and integrity.
How many employees work in the facility in Euclid, and what kind of skilled labor do you hire?
About 350 employees work at our Euclid facility. Due to the high-consequence nature of our products, most of our employees are considered to be highly skilled. We employ machinists, welders, inspectors, engineers and a variety of professional support staff.
Are there ways that the company participates in the community?
We support the community through sponsorship of Euclid Chamber of Commerce events and contribute to a number of deserving charitable organizations in the community such as the United Way.
What do you think is the biggest challenge that manufacturing currently faces?
The retirement of the older generation of trade workers has, in many cases, left manufacturers with more openings than there are qualified and available employees. This is exacerbated by generally low unemployment. We have an advantage in that our factories have industry-leading safety records and that our work is especially meaningful. Our employees take tremendous pride in the fact that our products keep our sailors and our nation safe. These jobs pay well and do not require tens of thousands of dollars in student loans, so attitudes about trades and technical careers are changing quickly. Our schools and community colleges are helping us narrow the gap.
What does the future of manufacturing, especially in Northeast Ohio, look like?
We can only speak for ourselves. This is an exciting time to work for BWXT. BWXT’s Nuclear Operations Group, which includes our Euclid and Barberton manufacturing facilities, has reported record revenues each quarter for the last few years. The Nuclear Operations Group had a backlog of nearly $3 billion at the end of September. Our fourth quarter and full-year 2017 results are scheduled to be announced Feb. 28, 2018.
What inspires you?
Our products enable our sailors to carry out their mission to keep our nation safe. We keep those customers in the forefront of our minds in everything we do.
Are there interesting facts about you or your business that most people don’t know?
In August 2017, NASA awarded the company an $18.8 million contract to start designing a Nuclear Thermal Propulsion (NTP) reactor in support of a possible future manned mission to Mars. With NTP technology’s high-energy density and resulting spacecraft thrust, NASA is projecting up to a 50 percent reduction in interplanetary travel times compared to chemical rockets, significantly increasing the crew’s safety by reducing exposure to cosmic radiation.