Editor’s note: Charlotte Beat is a regular feature on Wednesdays.The General Dynamics (NYSE:GD) division that is locating its 123,330 square foot chemical and biological detection manufacturing and research facility in Charlotte plans to open the doors by late summer.

John E. Suttle, director of communications, tells Local Tech Wire the company is the world leader in biological detection — a key element in thwarting terrorists at home and abroad. He says GD chose Charlotte for its division headquarters after looking closely at 11 sites.

The facility will employ 280 people, hiring some locally and transferring others from its DeLand, FL facility.

“Four years ago, this company was a one-building operation in Burlington, VT that built aircraft weapons systems,” Suttle explains. After several acquisitions, the company expanded its operations to sites in Lincoln, NEB; Canden, AK; Stone County, MS; Marion, VA; DeLand, FL; Goleta GA; Glencove, NY, Saco, Maine.

Those sites posed logistics problems that led the company to “an exhaustive site search,” for its headquarters and light manufacturing plant, says Suttle. “We looked at about 11 metrics, including quality of living issues, which are very important to us, and Charlotte was the clear choice.

“They have a fantastic county and local government and chamber here that worked with us and presented Charlotte as a good place to live and work,” Suttle says.

He adds that GD has historically been deeply involved in community activities and has already pledged $104,000 to the local United Way and gave away Super Bowl tickets to the Make A Wish Foundation. Suttle says it will also work with Reading is Fundamental, a group it supports in Burlington as well.

Suttle says the company is establishing a great relationship with the Charlotte Research Institute at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

The company’s new plant will be located at 4205 Westinghouse Commons in the Westlake Business Park. It will focus on light manufacturing tied to chemical biological detection of toxins. “That’s a tremendous area for us to be involved in. It’s a big need in light of homeland security concerns, and it’s something we do very well,” he says.

One product the company hopes to sell the military for mounting anywhere needed is a portable detection nit that weighs less than 300 pounds. A bit larger than a portable refrigerator, it could be mounted on military or law enforcement vehicles, on ships, in ports, airports, or anywhere that might be a terrorist target, Suttle says. It uses lasers to analyze samples and detect biological and chemical agents in microscopically tiny amounts.

General Dynamics, the parent corporation, is headquartered in Falls Church, VA. It employs approximately 67,600 people worldwide and had 2003 revenue of $16.6 billion. The company has leading market positions in land and amphibious combat systems, mission critical information systems and technologies, shipbuilding and marine systems, and business aviation.

Daniel gets media

Lynn Daniel, president of the Daniel Group, a strategy, research, and training firm in Charlotte, talked to the Asheville “Citizen Times,” yesterday about “The Hard Truth of Vanishing Jobs.” The article discusses the impact of lost manufacturing jobs in the Piedmont and western NC.

On the heels of the two-day emerging issues forum focused on the issue at North Carolina State University last week, the topic of outsourcing and jobs lost to cheaper overseas labor continues to be a hot media and political topic. The New York Times had a major story on outsourcing Tuesday, and Lou Dobbs continues to hit the topic nightly during his news hour. Democratic presidential candidates, particularly MA Sen. John Kerry and NC Sen. John Edwards have made it a mantra in their speeches.

Daniel told the Citizen Times we are in “a transition period” he thinks will be fairly long and compares it to the shift from an agricultural economy, which employed a third or more of the population in 1920 and now employs about 2 percent. “Yet we’re feeding not only the U.S. but a good chunk of the rest of the world,” says Daniel.

“What manufacturing there is going to be is going to look a whole lot different than what we might have grown up with in the Piedmont and Western North Carolina,” Daniel told the newspaper. “I feel we’re going to have manufacturers who are going to be much more technology-based, and that’s not necessarily computers or high technology but manufacturing that has a technical component to it.”

Customer Connect moves

Customer Connect Associates, Inc., which builds customer relationships through technology enhanced marketing and sales, has moved into offices at 452 S. Main St., Davidson.

“We have experienced phenomenal growth in the past year,” says Geoff Ables, president. “Our new 900 square-foot location in Davidson will give us the space to accommodate continued growth in 2004.”

Ables tells Local Tech Wire the company staff previously worked from home-based offices. He says the company plans to announce a staff addition in a few weeks.

Ables, who has landed a number of new clients recently, says the pickup in business is probably due to the improvement in the economy, but it isn’t specifically a pickup in information technology business. “In fact, many of our clients — who are focusing on their sales and marketing efforts — are trying to leverage the technology they bought a couple of years ago,” he says.

The company’s clients include: Travelocity, SAS, AAA, Fairfield Resorts, MedImpact, O’Malley Auto Group, Cardinal Health, Morehead Associates, BB&T, Halftime, and Astoria Federal Bank.

Ables, an expert in transforming sales and marketing communications through the strategic use of data, analysis and technology, founded the company in 2000.

Customer Connect: www.cust-connect.com

General Dynamics Armaments and Technical Products: http://www.gdatp.com