John Joyce

Congressman John Joyce, R-Blair, talks to emloyees on Thursday at Kongsberg Protech Systems USA in Johnstown during their lunch break.

U.S. Rep. John Joyce on Thursday morning told an assembled group of Kongsberg Protech Systems USA employees that he is their “advocate in Washington,” then took an hour-long guided tour of the company’s Richland Township premises.

Joyce, R-Blair, spoke after the tour about his “respect for the incredible work ethic (of) the employees, the men and women who are part of the team here, as part of the tradition of the Johnstown community – with grandparents who worked in the steel industry, with parents, and now transitioning to the strong defense industry that’s here at Kongsberg.”

Addressing dozens of employees on their lunch break in the cafeteria of the company’s 216,500-square-foot Industrial Park Road facility, the first-term representative of Pennsylvania’s 13th congressional district said that his goals Thursday were to “learn more about what you do” and to “open the door of communication, not only with your executives, but with each and every one of you.”

“I want to consider myself an advocate for Kongsberg and an advocate for the employees here in Johnstown, to maintain the high technical skills that they’ve developed, the artisan work abilities that they’ve developed,” he said after the tour. “I welcome them to consider this an invitation for an open dialogue – whether they call me, whether they email me.”

Two top Kongsberg Protech Systems executives, Jeffrey R. Wood, general manager, and David Zucco, vice president, purchasing and export compliance, provided Joyce with an overview of the company’s history and corporate structure and a quick rundown of the weapons systems and other products it produces.

Wood told Joyce that the immediate future of Kongsberg Protech Systems “looks very, very good,” citing as an example a contract awarded to the company to build CROWS IV weapons systems that he said has a $500 million ceiling. 

CROWS stands for Commonly Remotely Operated Weapon Station; used by the U.S. military on various armored vehicles, they allow personnel to remain within the protection of their vehicles while remotely operating the systems.

“To date, and we’re not even a year into the contract, they’ve placed orders for half that amount – 250 million dollars,” Wood said. “We started getting very busy here in the July time frame – really, really busy – and we see that continuing for the next two to three years with the orders we’ve already booked. … We’re very optimistic on the future.”

Joyce also was told about efforts to keep Kongsberg Protech Systems’ supply chain “local as much as possible,” as Zucco put it, citing work done with local companies such as JWF Industries, of Johnstown; Kitron Inc., of Johnstown; and Augustine Die & Mold, of Somerset. After the tour, he said that such cooperation “adds to the employment in Johnstown and Cambria and adds to the overall success of what they’re doing here at Kongsberg.”

Joyce, who is a member of the House Committee on Homeland Security, after the tour described Kongsberg’s PROTECTOR family of weapons systems as “so important” to national and world safety. The information he gained during the tour, he added, “allows (him) to go back to Washington … to advocate for what goes on here in Johnstown. This is a major part of the (defense) industry.”

Kongsberg Protech Systems, a division of the Norwegian technology conglomerate Kongsberg Gruppen, has approximately 180 employees in the Johnstown area.

Mark Pesto is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkPesto.

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