Harris Corp., Brevard County’s largest private sector employer, is celebrating 40 years at its Melbourne headquarters.
Harris manufactures electronics and communications equipment widely used in the space and aviation industry, as well as the military. The company’s Brevard County operations, with approximately 6,400 local employees, has emerged as a leader in both industry and the community.
“Clearly, they’ve had a huge impact not only from the standpoint of their employees, which is in the several thousands,” Melbourne Regional Chamber of Commerce President Michael Ayers said. “But beyond that, also being involved in the community and all the organizations they support, from the local chambers to all the nonprofits.”
Globally, Harris has 17,000 employees. Besides Florida, most of those employees are based in New York, Virginia and Colorado. The company annually pumps more than $250 million into Florida’s economy, according to the Space Coast Economic Development Commission. Most of that is generated in Brevard County.
Two of the company’s three major facilities are in Brevard County, including the Harris Technology Center and the Harris Global Innovation Center.
Harris made the move from Cleveland, Ohio, to Melbourne in April 1978 after acquiring Radiation Inc., a Brevard-based aerospace electronics company. Radiation, with just four employees, became Harris’ first local facility.
Another acquisition, that of Virginia-based Exelis in 2015, cemented Harris’ commitment to Brevard County. There was some debate at the time whether the company would take over the Exelis headquarters and move closer to Washington, D.C. Instead, the company expanded its Florida operations.
In addition to its economic impact, Harris has a large community outreach program that often benefits the beachside communities where many of the company’s employees live.
“Employee groups regularly volunteer to do beach cleanups, with Paradise Beach Park a common location,” company spokesperson Matt Grimison said. “We’ve done at least three there in the last year through our Harris Employees Actively Responding Together (HEART) volunteering program.”
Grimison said employees also regularly help with Indian River Lagoon projects, often through the Brevard Zoo Restore our Shores program.
“A team of employees designed, built and donated a machine that automatically fills bags with oyster shells to be used as the foundation for new oyster beds in the lagoon, and there have been several employee events to bag the shells,” Grimison said.
The company also partners with many local school initiatives, especially those focused on STEM education.
Overall, the company has contributed some $14 million to community and academic organizations throughout the state.
Ayers credits Harris with attracting other high-tech industry to the area, and with promoting a corporate culture of community service that other companies have followed.
“They were one of the first and one of the trendsetters,” he said. “I think they’ve just been a phenomenal community partner and Brevard is fortunate to have a company like Harris that has called this area home for so long.”