MELBOURNE Harris Corp. is celebrating its 40th year anniversary of the company headquarters relocating to Melbourne from Cleveland, Ohio.

That’s big in itself.

It’s also the three-year anniversary of the company’s acquisition of Exelis Inc., a deal which many feared could have led to Harris moving its headquarters to McLean, Virginia, where Exelis had been based.

But it all worked out, both 40 years ago, and three years ago. Harris is solidified here on the Space Coast and its hard to overstate the company’s importance.

Harris has 17,000 workers globally and 6,600 in Florida. In the Sunshine State, all but 200 of Harris’ Florida workforce is concentrated in Brevard.

While there’s nothing huge planned for the company’s ruby anniversary, it’s interesting to take a look at Harris’ economic impact to the Space Coast community:

Employees contributed $1.35 million to the United Way of Brevard campaign in Fiscal Year 2017 and another $485,000 in charitable contributions from the Harris Foundation.

They volunteered 20,000 hours in the county during FY 2017 through the Harris Employees Actively Responding Together – or HEART – program.

The company’s average annual employee salary was $95,000. (The Harris payroll for 2017 was $608 million just for Brevard County.)

Harris spent more than $7.3 million in FY 2017 with Brevard vendors and suppliers.

During the past four decades the Harris footprint expanded to five major campuses in Palm Bay, Malabar and Melbourne.

Huge investments in state-of-the-art facilities, including most recently the Harris Technology Center in Palm Bay and the Global Innovation Center in Melbourne.

William Brown, Harris’ chairman, president and CEO — a leading force being the Exelis acquisition — recently answered a few questions posed to him by FLORIDA TODAY.

QUESTION: Was there any area, besides Brevard, that Harris was considering locating to from Cleveland? My guess is the space program played a huge role but maybe there were considerations outside Brevard?

Brown: Brevard County made much more sense for the future of the company, with more than half of Harris’ business organizations already located here and a larger part of our growth prospects based around space and other high-technology government programs. That was and remains our sweet spot. The company didn’t consider other locations because the business case for Melbourne specifically drove the decision.

Q: What were some of the factors/issues that played in the decision?

Brown: The decision was driven by our business strategy at the time. When Harris purchased Radiation Inc. in 1967, we operated in both print and electronic communications. Leaders quickly realized the electronics side was the future of the company. So, the corporate headquarters moved here in 1978 and the company exited the printed press business in 1983.

Q: As for Exelis, how well has that transition folded into Harris?

Brown: The Exelis acquisition, which closed three years ago, marked the beginning of a major transformation for Harris. The integration process that followed went extremely well and helped transition Harris into a larger, more innovative company focused on six core franchises — tactical communications, electronic warfare, avionics, air traffic management, space and intelligence and weather systems. The integration involved virtually every employee, and we are extremely proud of the way that it turned out.

Q: Any more acquisitions — maybe not the size of Exelis — probable/possible?

Brown: We don’t need mergers and acquisitions to grow or build scale because we already have the necessary scale and strong positions in each of our franchises. We are, however, always evaluating strategic opportunities that would be consistent with our current capabilities.

Price is Business Editor at FLORIDA TODAY. You can reach him at 321-242-3658 or You can also follow him on Twitter @Fla2dayBiz.  Source:

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