Curtiss-Wright shifts corporate headquarters to Charlotte

Curtiss-Wright Corp., a manufacturing company with roots that stretch to the Wright Brothers, has quietly moved its headquarters to Ballantyne, providing a boost to the Charlotte area’s defense and aerospace sector.

After decades in New Jersey, the company’s headquarters officially shifted to Charlotte on Jan. 1, said Jim Ryan, director of investor relations. David Adams, who was promoted to chief executive in August, is based here, and the company’s press releases have reflected the change since the beginning of the year, Ryan said.

Curtiss-Wright, which had more than $2 billion in sales in 2012, isn’t new to the area. A subsidiary called Curtiss-Wright Controls has an engineering facility in Gastonia and opened a headquarters in Ballantyne in 2005. Before becoming co-chief operating officer of the overall company in 2008, Adams was the president of Curtiss-Wright Controls.

The company made the headquarters move because Adams was based in Charlotte and for other “financial reasons,” Ryan said. The company has no current plans to add more employees here.

Adams succeeded Martin Benante, a company veteran who will remain executive chairman until he retires in April 2015.

Curtiss-Wright was formed through the 1929 merger of 12 Curtiss and Wright affiliated companies and has traded on the New York Stock Exchange ever since. Glenn Curtiss’ company was the largest manufacturer of airplanes during World War I, and Wright Aeronautical was a maker of plane engines with ties to the famous brothers whose first flight came at Kitty Hawk.

Since its founding, Curtiss-Wright has diversified into a variety of businesses, ranging from generators and pumps that power nuclear submarines to controls for unmanned aircraft to metal coatings that reduce wear and maintenance costs.

Under Adams, the company announced plans in December to reorganize its subsidiaries into three major segments: industrial/commercial, defense and energy. In a presentation to investors, the new CEO compared the restructuring to another big moment for the company: The Wright Brothers’ first flight.

“We’re in another one of those inflection points in this company where it’s not obviously as monumental as that, but it’s big to us,” he said.

Last week, the company announced that it was increasing its quarterly dividend by 30 percent to 13 cents per share.

Investors appear to be happy with the company’s direction. The company’s stock climbed more than 6 percent last Wednesday, the first trading day after the company announced the dividend increase. The stock, which closed Friday at $63.80, is trading near an all-time high.

At the investor day in December, Curtiss-Wright said it expects sales growth of 6 to 8 percent this year and earnings per share growth of 14 to 20 percent. The company reports fourth-quarter 2013 earnings on Wednesday.

Charlotte’s defense and aerospace sector has experienced consolidation in recent years. Connecticut-based United Technologies bought Charlotte-based Goodrich in 2012. And in July, General Dynamics announced it was closing the Charlotte headquarters of its General Dynamics Armament and Technical Products unit as part of a restructuring.