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Grumman's Order Backlog Remains Strong

By Guy HalversonStaff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / September 16, 1992



NEW YORK

TALK about corporate downsizing! Grumman Corporation has been the biggest employer on Long Island for the past several decades. But apparently no longer. Regional planning officials reckon that the island's Roman Catholic archdiocese employs more people through its schools and other religious institutions than does Grumman, which now has only 22,000 workers.

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But what Grumman does have - and what no other employer on Long Island can match - is a hefty business backlog of $7 billion in orders as of the end of the second quarter of 1992. "The figure is down only slightly from a backlog of $7.7 billion" for the same period in June, 1991, says Robert Harwood, a Grumman official.

Grumman's most famous jet aircraft of the past few decades has been the F-14, a $50 million-per-plane fighter/bomber. However, the last F-14 moved through Grumman's production lines a few months back. Grumman's main Long Island plant at Calverton, N.Y., is now given over to revamping work on the F-14 - that is, restoring and updating existing aircraft.

One worry facing Grumman is keeping its suppliers strong. The company has thousands of subcontractors who must scramble to find new manufacturing work, given Grumman's cutbacks.

Still, Grumman retains a number of diversified and lucrative contracts, with sales of about $4 billion annually. It is helping to build post office trucks, for example. A unique defense-intelligence software program involves adding a sophisticated electronics system to Boeing 707s. That work, however, is mainly done elsewhere in the United States, off Long Island.

Looking ahead, Grumman is competing for the US Navy's AX attack plane program, which is expected to be announced next spring. Grumman is also competing to win a contract to build a jet trainer for the Air Force.

"Grumman has pretty well stabilized its business," says Paul Nisbet, a defense analyst with Prudential Securities Inc. in Manhattan. He notes that Grumman's stock price has held up in recent months. Mr. Nisbet says the company will have to fight very hard to win the AX fighter contract that it so desperately wants.

"Long Island has been closely tied to aerospace and defense. Now, with Pentagon cutbacks, we'll be hard pressed to maintain that standard," says Roger Wunderlich, editor of the Long Island Historical Journal.