A 1987 graduate of the Air Force Academy, Forsyth retired two years ago after 22 years in the Air Force to start a government communications division of Harris Corp.
He’s expanding the multibillion-dollar company’s reach in Colorado Springs to compete with global companies that have been on the scene for decades. Part of that expansion includes the recent move of his division into an 85,000-square-foot building in the city’s foreign trade zone, an area next to Colorado Springs Airport designated to ease customs and tax requirements for companies that export.
What is the goal of your division of Harris?
We are keeping close to our clients, which are Schriever and Peterson. We’re starting some expansion in the Army as well. We develop government communication systems in this building and we oversee those systems. We’ve spent four years on the development side here, and now we’re moving forward.
How large is the division?
Harris has two operations in the Springs. One is located at Schriever and has about 175 people. We’ve started out modestly here, and doubled our size last year. We now have 24 employees and plan to add more this year.
These are jobs that have economic impact — higher-than-average wages, which stay here in Colorado Springs.
What’s next for Harris?
We are starting to work on getting a piece of the cyber security market. If you see any news in the military, you know that cyber is the big focus. Harris, with its communications background, can be very competitive in that market. It’s mostly cyber security work, making sure that information transferred nationwide is safe and secure. It’s vitally important to the way we fight wars now. But it’s about more than that. Harris is using some of the products developed in this arena to make sure health records are secure as well. We’re reaching out in the areas of health care technology and telemedicine. Hospitals can now get lab tests and X-rays read by sending them to India, and we are working to make sure that information remains secure.
For such a small company, Harris made a large investment in a building this size. What are your plans?
We are in talks with several small defense contractors that can move here and help us with our mission. We’re not interested in people who will compete with us, but collaborate. It’s one way we plan to stay competitive here, by brining our partners in closer to us.
We also plan to open labs, research and development offices for the new cyber security work we will be doing. We’ve been here less than a year, and we’re still in the building phase of this part of the company.
We have to stay a generation ahead, continue to invest and explore our core competencies — that’s the reason behind hiring more people and our expansion here.
Audio excerpt of the interview with Chris Forsyth.