Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing celebrates Dickinson expansion

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven on Thursday helped to celebrate Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing’s recent opening of a 24,000-square-foot expansion of its Dickinson factory.

The expansion will help the western North Dakota company boost its sales to Boeing Co., one of the world’s largest manufacturers of commercial and military aircraft, said Don Hedger, KMM’s co-founder and chief executive officer.

Hoeven, Dickinson Mayor Scott Decker and representatives of U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer, Gov. Doug Burgum, Lt. Gov. Brent Sanford, and Boeing attended Thursday’s grand opening at the company’s Dickinson factory, which is located at 1700 I-94 Business Loop East.

The project took about a year to complete. It was needed for building wire harnesses and fiber optic assemblies for Boeing’s P-8A military surveillance aircraft, said Kristin Hedger, KMM’s vice president for business development. The completed expansion gives KMM almost 90,000 square feet of space in Dickinson.

“We are proud to be a key supplier for the P-8A, which plays an important role in our national defense,” Kristin Hedger said. The wire harnesses and fiber optic assemblies that KMM makes for the P-8A can be likened to the aircraft’s brain and nervous system.

Kristin Hedger said the expansion will also allow KMM to pursue other aerospace business. This month, the company is hosting representatives from other aerospace companies for potential commercial and NASA-related space work. The company employs about 350 people in Dickinson, Killdeer, Regent and Hettinger in western North Dakota.

The P-8A is a modified version of Boeing’s 737 commercial jet. It has a nine-person crew and is equipped to hunt enemy submarines and perform reconnaissance and surveillance duties. It can carry missiles, torpedoes, mines and sonobuoys, which are dropped into the ocean to detect and track submarines.

The plane can be manufactured more efficiently and at less cost because of its similarities to the 737, which allows Boeing to spread its manufacturing costs over more aircraft. Much of its construction takes place at Boeing’s commercial 737 factory in Renton, Wash.

The U.S. Navy has already put more than 30 of the planes into service, and expects to acquire more than 100.

The P-8A is a successor to the Navy’s aging P-3 Orion, which is used by the United States and more than 15 other countries. Australia is buying 12 of the P-8As, the United Kingdom has contracted for nine, Norway is buying five, and India is operating eight P-8Is, a modified version. Other countries, including South Korea, Turkey and New Zealand, are considering P-8A purchases.

“We hope that Boeing is able to sell a lot of P-8As, and we would be pleased to supply some of the equipment that goes into them,” Kristin Hedger said.

Two Navy P-8As were used to search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 when the aircraft disappeared during a flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Beijing in March 2014. Air Marshal Leo Davies, chief of the Royal Australian Air Force, praised the P-8A’s capabilities at the time, saying the planes “went further and stayed longer in the Indian Ocean than any other aircraft.”

Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing Inc. is a family-owned, third-generation business. It is celebrating its 30th anniversary this summer. The company was founded in 1987 by Don Hedger and his wife, Patricia, in a former hardware store in Killdeer, a Dunn County community about 35 miles north of Dickinson.