Over an intense two-day schedule, executives with Leonardo DRS visited Tuskegee and met with local stakeholders representing a broad cross section of the community.

Organized by Joe Turnham, Executive Director of the Macon County Economic Development Authority (MCEDA), the meetings were strategically designed to reinforce the historical barriers broken by Tuskegee Airmen during World War II and the modern-day barriers that will be shattered by the military power of the T-100.

Just the visual setting of the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site connected the dots for everyone who attended the meetings.

Prior to convening at the Airmen site, Leonardo DRS executives met at The Tuskegee History Center, where they listened to captivating reflections from attorney Fred Gray on his legal career, starting with his days as a young lawyer representing Rosa Parks. Attorney Gray ended by offering to support the T-100 project however he can, including legal services and office space in his law building on the Tuskegee Square.

Offers of support were repeated throughout the first day on Sept. 14 as Leonardo DRS executives talked to stakeholders and also learned from these community leaders.

Macon County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jacqueline Brooks impressed the Leonardo DRS delegation with the emphasis on STEM within the public school system. Leonardo DRS executives talked about the benefits of having a STEM centered community near their T-100 plant, which will be located at Moton Field.

The company is waiting for a decision from the U.S. Air Force concerning the T-100. However, Leonardo DRS is confident that the T-100 is the best aircraft in the competition. So, executives frame their remarks around “When We Win.”

Joe Militano, Senior Vice President for Corporate Communications said Leonardo DRS has competitive advantages.

“We have the best aircraft. We have the best solution.”

And he also spoke about local angles. “We’re bringing global technology to Tuskegee. We have a great workforce here. We have the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen. It all feels right.”

With unbridled enthusiasm, he proclaimed. “Yes, this is the new rallying cry — When We Win.”

The Leonardo DRS executives were clear that the Air Force is looking primarily at cost and technical aspects of the aircraft. Yet, they also said community support is needed and will be even more critical “When We Win.” That’s because immediately after the contract is awarded, other companies will mount protests.

The fight may even involve attempts to dismantle the Air Force program by de-funding it. So, “When We Win” will be a brief moment of exhilaration and a long period of solidarity binding Leonardo DRS to Tuskegee, Macon County, the surrounding region and the state of Alabama in a collective battle for the T-100 prize.

“When We Win” is about us getting ready for a fight that is down the road. But right now, “When We Win” is a declaration of faith and confidence as we wait for confirmation concerning T-100 BUSINESS MATTERS.

Karin Hopkins is executive director of the Tuskegee Area Chamber of Commerce and also co-founder of ECHOboom, a digital media platform. Contact her at ourchamberworks@gmail.com.

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