The Orange County Chamber of Commerce and the Orange County Review are partnering to highlight a Chamber business of the month. Those recognized are Chamber members who demonstrate support for both the Chamber and the community. Each month, a different business (selected by the Chamber) will be featured with a questionnaire designed to give the community some insight into both the business and the individuals responsible for its success.
Pictured, Chamber Executive Director Tammy Collins, right, presents Aerojet Rocketdyne Director of Manufacturing Operations Brian Wheatley with a certificate recognizing the Orange County facility.
This month, the Chamber recognizes Aerojet Rocketdyne, an innovative company delivering solutions that create value for its customers in the aerospace and defense markets. At its Pine Stake Road location, Aerojet Rocketdyne develops and manufactures propulsion systems and tests rocket motors and propulsion systems.
We spoke with Brian Wheatley, Director of Manufacturing Operations at the Orange County facility.
Describe your business:
Aerojet Rocketdyne (AR) is a world-recognized aerospace and defense leader providing propulsion and energetics to its space, missile defense, strategic, tactical missile and armaments customers throughout the world.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Satisfaction of being associated with a cutting-edge business that is one, helping to put satellites in space and ultimately manned vehicles on Mars; two, supporting our troops and the world with advanced equipment to make them more effective and keep them safe.
What’s the best thing about being in business in Orange?
I prefer a rural setting. I love my commute of 15 minutes through beautiful countryside rather than fighting interstate traffic. The people in Orange County are universally friendly, polite, helpful and down to earth. I cannot think of a better place to work and live than Orange County, if only the beach was next door.
How would you want someone to describe your business to someone else?
I would want someone to describe our business as, “A dynamic, up-and-coming aerospace company with plenty of growth opportunity.” Anyone want to become a rocket scientist?
What’s next for your business?
We have recently expanded our facility infrastructure, brought in new programs and expanded our workforce. Further controlled growth along these lines within our current facility will help us provide quality product to our customers at an affordable price.
What did you want to be when you grew up and what was your first job?
In all candor I was a fan of Jacque Cousteau when I first started mowing lawns to earn spending money, and I originally planned to spend much of my adult life underwater as a marine biologist. A dual background in chemistry and bio-chemistry left me with more options, and eventually the chemistry background won out. However, I still have a number of aquariums in my house, and water activities are a hobby rather than a career.
My first real job was at an equipment rental center during high school. Later, I did work in the oceanography department during college years and that experience helped me make a career decision to keep oceanography as a hobby.
What’s your hidden talent (or something folks don’t know about you?)
Since moving to Orange County, I have developed a real passion for history. Civil War history is cool, and I am living in what amounts to the heartland of the Civil War more battles were fought near here than anywhere else in the nation. There were so many changes during the 1860’s—culture, religion, medicine and warfare/weaponry. It was such a dynamic time.
Favorite book or movie?
Obviously, “Interstellar,” has to be at the top. AR actually consulted for some of the movie content. Before that it would have to be all the old Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns. Clint Eastwood is the best.
What music is on your playlist?
Chicago, Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and ELO (“Roll Over Beethoven,” best version.)
Who is someone you really admire?
My wife. She takes a lot from me and keeps me on a straight and narrow line!
If you were a vehicle what kind would you be?
Dodge Cummins Diesel Truck. I love my truck and if I were a truck, I would want to be loved in that way!
What’s a perfect weekend look like?
On my boat off the Chesapeake Bay with a fishing rod in one hand and _____ in the other.
Met anyone famous?
A number of astronauts. They always have the cool stories to tell.
Best business advice you could offer?
During your senior school year, spend time working with and around people in your planned career field, (internships and apprenticeships). If you stay with that career path, the experience you gain will be invaluable. If you’re unsure of your career path, that work experience will help you make an informed decision that will pay off the rest of your adult life.
Read article at Orange County Review, click here.