Keep community interests a focus in Rockwell merger

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Much has already been written about the intention of Connecticut-based United Technologies Corp. to acquire Rockwell Collins. Before shareholders and regulators approve the deal, much more will be reported.

The impact on the aerospace industry is obvious, with some already labeling the merger as the largest aerospace deal in history. Concerns about local jobs have arisen, another unsurprising development since Rockwell is Cedar Rapids’ largest employer with roughly 8,000 people on its payroll.

Perhaps what isn’t as immediately obvious, however, is what could be lost if the merged headquarters is moved elsewhere. From matching donations of employee charitable giving to initiatives promoting STEM education to regional nudges on workplace diversity and civic leadership, Rockwell has supported Iowans and set a tone of positive corporate engagement in the community.

State and local officials have been steadily working behind the scenes for months, beginning a drumbeat to keep the new entity, Collins Aerospace Systems, headquartered locally.

It’s a smart move to begin the conversation early and to keep the lines of communication open. Rockwell has provided high-quality, good-paying jobs for residents of the Corridor. These are jobs that have remained, it’s worth noting, through a host of other industry shifts that have impacted the company over the years. Keeping those jobs local is absolutely a priority because the wages Rockwell pays benefit far more than the individuals who earn them.

Yet, as a strong community presence, Rockwell has gone beyond passive economic development achieved through wages. The Rockwell Collins Charitable Corporation, established in 2002, has given about $5 million annually from corporate profits to STEM, arts and cultural programs. In communities where Rockwell has at least 100 employees, the Rockwell Collins Community Partnership Fund has supported nonprofit groups via fundraising, sponsorships and other events and activities. The social fabric of this community is stronger due to corporate and employee giving campaigns benefiting the United Way, and environmental programs have flourished due to the company’s Green Communities grant program.

Beyond the tangible and monetary, Rockwell leadership often doubles as civic leadership. Taking point on regionalism and diversity opportunities, Rockwell employees and executives have cultivated a tone of community resilience and cooperation that has benefited the Corridor in ways too numerous to count.

The proposed merger will result in change. Moving an independent company into a much larger one is complex, and initial decisions may give way to better alternatives. Thousands of adjustments, not all of them known to the public, will take place in the coming months.

Without a doubt Cedar Rapids and the Corridor would benefit from decisions that keep company leaders and facilities here.

• Comments: (319) 398-8262; editorial@thegazette.com

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