For nearly 13 years, two local professionals have managed pivotal company operations from Honeywell Aerospace facilities in Puerto Rico.
THE WEEKLY JOURNAL interviewed engineers Luis Ramos and Vicente Nazario, who serve as the engineering operations site leaders at Honeywell Aerospace’s facilities in Moca and Aguadilla, respectively.
The service center in Aguadilla offers support with marketing, supply chains, customer service and legal affairs to Honeywell Aerospace’s global operations and customers. Meanwhile, the facility in Moca is a cutting-edge engineering design center and laboratory used to carry out research and development in this ever-growing industry.
Nazario graduated with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and applied physics from Case Western Reserve University, after starting his college career at the Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico.
Ramos holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental and civil engineering, an associate of science degree in electrical and electronic engineering from the University of Puerto Rico’s Mayagüez campus, and a master’s in technology management from the University of Phoenix. Both experts have been leading one of Puerto Rico’s top aerospace developers for 12 years.
“We do the development, research and testing for military and commercial aircraft navigation systems. The products themselves are manufactured elsewhere. We handle a lot of software for commercial and military aircraft, and we also do electromagnetic interference tests. These tests are required for virtually all space and aeronautical products because they ensure that there is no interference, either environmentally or by frequency, between the aircraft’s products,” Ramos explained.
Honeywell Aerospace’s headquarters are located in Phoenix, Arizona. In 2007, the company began operating on the island with only 12 employees, including Nazario and Ramos. The original idea was to designate these facilities as application development centers.
Since then, local operations have grown and now provide services to military platforms, such as planes, helicopters, satellites and rocket ships, among others. These services are extended to both the U.S. government and its allies, as well as the international space station.
Both engineers concurred that the quality of local professionals has allowed the company to grow for the past 12-plus years despite a changing sociopolitical landscape, the natural disasters experienced by Hurricane Maria in 2017 and the seismic events documented throughout Jan. 2020.
“The fact that Honeywell continues to grow in Puerto Rico is a testament to its trust in the people and the capabilities that are here on the island. Some 10 or 11 years ago the aerospace industry was basically nonexistent in Puerto Rico,” Ramos said.
The engineering operation site leader from the Moca facility observed that now every major engineering institution on the island has included aerospace courses in their curricula.
“In the last 10 years, the aerospace industry in Puerto Rico has been an engine for economic growth because it has been one of the fastest-growing industries in the past 10 years,” Ramos asserted.
Nazario also noted that when Honeywell Aerospace began operating locally, the company intended to hire roughly 200 more employees in five years. However, upon realizing the quality of local workers, the Arizona-based company decided to hired those 200 individuals within one year of initiating operations on the island.
“Two years ago we recruited around 500 people. Last year we recruited more than 100 and this year we will be growing by more than 100 new hires. In that sense, we have been lucky to have continued that growth pattern,” Ramos said.
He noted that other aerospace companies with a presence in Puerto Rico—such as Lufthansa Technik, Collins Aerospace and OPTI Manufacturing Corporation—have reported growth as well.
The engineers added that by the end of 2019, Puerto Rican engineers were awarded the second patent of an aerospace product. “All of this speaks volumes about the talent and quality of the people here in Puerto Rico,” Ramos said.
Honeywell Aerospace is committed to offering job opportunities to deter the mass emigration that has impacted the island in recent years, as well as to attract Puerto Ricans who have already left the island in search of new career options.
“This is a knowledge-based industry. We want to stop that migration that has taken hold of Puerto Rico and offer good opportunities with good pay to keep those people here on the island,” Ramos affirmed.
Ramos fondly recalled one such case from a job fair they held last year in Ponce. Ramos and his team made a job offer to an applicant who subsequently went outside where his family was and shed tears of joy. The new hire then explained that he was planning to move to the U.S. mainland because he couldn’t find a job on the island, so he felt grateful to be able to remain in his native land.
“In addition to that, we aren’t just trying to deter our greatest minds from leaving, but we are also recruiting those who have left so they can return to Puerto Rico… We have many cases of people who found out that we were hiring and made arrangements to return to Puerto Rico,” the Moca site leader beamed.
When asked about how many clients Honeywell Aerospace has worldwide, the engineers noted that they don’t have a precise number, but the client base includes “thousands and thousands” of different manufacturers.
“Honeywell has a presence in practically every plane platform, both commercial and military, and every aircraft flying at the moment. You will find something from Honeywell—whether it is software, pieces or navigation systems… you will find a piece or programming system from Honeywell in practically everything that flies. It is a great global industry,” Nazario affirmed.
Company to Hire More Than 100 Local Professionals
Honeywell Aerospace Puerto Rico will hold a job fair for new engineering and technology positions as part of the company’s expansion plans on the island.
The job fair will take place on Saturday, Feb. 8 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the company’s facilities in Las Américas Technology Park, Lote 1 on the PR-2, Km. 117.3 in Moca.
Ramos and Nazario confirmed that the company seeks to hire experts in mechanical, electrical, programming, computer, hardware, software and embedded systems engineering. All applicants must be able to speak English and Spanish and be U.S. citizens.
At this upcoming job fair, Honeywell Aerospace hopes to hire more than 150 applicants. According to Ramos, new hires will be regular, full-time employees.
Honeywell Aerospace closed off 2019 with nearly 1,000 employees between its facilities in Moca and Aguadilla, with this number representing a growth of roughly 83 percent since the company established itself in Puerto Rico.