Harris Heads to Florida
Dr. Joseph Boyd had only been in Florida for about five years when he headed north again.
In 1967 he was serving as the president of Radiation, Inc., a Brevard County, Florida-based aerospace electronics company. Another company named Harris-Intertype acquired Radiation to add electronic communications technology as a new complement to its successful printing press business. Boyd, who had come from running engineering labs at the University of Michigan, moved to the newly combined company’s headquarters in Cleveland.
But Florida never left his mind, and it had nothing to do with the weather. That’s because the newly combined company’s geographic hub remained in Florida, with 10 of 19 operating divisions based in the state.
Strategic business decisions would put Boyd and Harris Corporation on the path to move the company’s worldwide headquarters to Melbourne, Florida in April 1978 – 40 years ago this year.
“There was nothing wrong with Cleveland as a place to live, but it was no longer the place from which to manage the company,” Boyd said later. “The intellectual focus of the company had shifted to Florida, and it was clear that we were going to become an electronics company. When I became CEO, I wanted to be at the center of gravity.”
Over the next 40 years, the company transformed into a global technology innovator – with 17,000 employees, customers in more than 100 countries and major U.S. operations in New York, Virginia, Colorado, New Jersey and its home base, Florida.
Today, Florida is an important hub of Harris activity. The company’s presence has grown from four Radiation employees working in a single facility to about 6,600 employees operating in 3.5 million square feet at 15 locations.
And Brevard County is home to the company’s corporate headquarters, more than 90 percent of its Florida employees, two of its three major operating segments and two of its newest facilities – the Harris Technology Center and the Harris Global Innovation Center.
As one of the Florida’s largest technology companies, Harris today also has a major impact on the state’s economy and communities. The company provides about $600 million in direct wages and conducts more than $200 million in annual business with Florida suppliers.
In addition, the company has contributed nearly $14 million to community and academic organizations and its employees have volunteered thousands of hours to state community and academic organizations, with a special focus on STEM education.
1978 was not be the only time the company’s Florida presence would be a question mark. In 2015, when Harris acquired Virginia-based Exelis Inc., speculation arose that the newly combined company might move the headquarters to be closer to its Washington, D.C. government customers. But, Chairman, President and CEO Bill Brown reaffirmed the company’s “commitment to the state where we have a shared vision to grow Florida’s reputation as a center for technology innovation.”
So today the company’s headquarters remain just a stone’s throw from where its Florida roots were first planted – 40 years ago.