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Military technology firm takes on national defense from Canton

More than a year after winning $5,000 in the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce’s annual Business Start-up Competition, Aermor, an engineering and technical services business in Canton, is still growing.

After sweeping the competition, owner Penny Morgan announced some lofty goals — to become a 100-person, $26 million outfit within five years. With about a year and a half under her belt since his announcement, Morgan still thinks that is feasible.

“We are about 10 percent of that now,” Morgan said. “A lot of that is going to depend on the economy and government spending.”

Aermor offers cyber security, computer programming and engineering and information assurance for government and commercial clients, including the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Navy Information Operations Command. The company’s focus is on cyber security and information assurance.

Morgan was a Surface Warfare Officer for 14 years and taught at the U.S. Naval Academy, where she had received an English degree.

As a result of her time in the military, Morgan said she is connected to hundreds of armed forces personnel — some of whom she links up with students interested in a possible military career.

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Another goal that Morgan hoped to achieve was top-secret security clearance, which allows the firm to hire either fulltime or freelance workers to consult on projects that require a high level of security clearance.

“We can have individuals in our company who do more complex work,” Morgan said.

Morgan said Aermor is almost always hiring, looking for people with military backgrounds or someone to simply file paperwork and man its Main Street office in Canton. It currently employs 10 consultants and another eight fulltime employees.

But, “They could triple any day,” Morgan said as more work comes Aermor’s way.

For such a specialized field, it seems like it might be difficult to find enough trained, skilled workers. But, Morgan said she has not found that to be the case. In fact, all but three of Aermor’s employees are from Haywood County. 

“There is quite a surprising amount of people in Haywood County who are former military,” Morgan said, and possess the necessary knowledge.

With technology changing constantly, however, Morgan must provide some training for employees to keep them abreast of new innovations.

Right now, Morgan is fully focused on publicizing the Aermor name. Once people know the company exists and see the work it produces, it can attract more competitive contracts, Morgan said.

“We are starting to get a lot more interest,” Morgan said. “A lot more people are starting to learn about our company.”

More business will allow Aermor to hire more employees and one day buy its own office space — a long-term goal of Morgan’s.

“We will continue to provide jobs in Haywood County. We will continue to grow,” Morgan said. “Haywood County is a great place to start a business.”

Morgan is a native of Canton and is using her business to draw national attention to Western North Carolina.

“I am going to see if we can’t put us on the map even more,” Morgan said.

For a year after winning the start-up competition, the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce keeps in touch with the business owner. Although the chamber has stopped checking in on Aermor, it still hears positive feedback.

“Morgan was very impressive, just a very impressive young person,” said CeCe Hipps, executive director of the Haywood County Chamber of Commerce. “From the feedback we get, they are doing a great job.”

The county wants to attract a variety of businesses so as not to put all its eggs into a single basket, Hipps said, which is why a growing niche business is a great addition.

“That is why this business was extremely exciting just because of the number of jobs it has the potential of providing,” Hipps said.

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