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The saying “The best offense is a good defense” is a commonly used phrase in sports but also translates to a nation’s military. Military success starts with grassroots manufacturers ready to produce any needed product at a moment’s notice. A North Carolina racing company turned defense manufacturer contacted NC State University Industry Expansion Solutions (IES) to transform their ambitions of fine-tuning their processes into reality.

MSI Defense Solutions, LLC is a Mooresville, NC-based defense equipment manufacturer shifting the organization’s contemporary motorsports experience to military vehicles and systems in the form of components, technology and processes. MSI Defense employs over 100 people, 20% of those are engineers ready to engineer and prototype designs for their defense customer’s urgent and complex needs.

David Holden, the president of MSI Defense Solutions says the transition to becoming a defense manufacturer wasn’t easy. “We went from a motorsports company to a defense manufacturer in 2008. The defense industry is much more regimented than the racing industry”, Holden stated. This shift brought the desire for guidance.

MSI Defense knew of NC State University Industry Expansion Solutions through the North Carolina Defense Industry Diversification Initiative (NCDIDI). “With IES, we saw an opportunity to elevate our game regarding export control and training, cybersecurity and market growth. We had various ideas but needed someone to come in, ‘clean up the clutter’ and help us hone in on objectives”, Holden remarked.

MSI Defense partnered with IES to complete various DoD Office of Local Defense Community Cooperation (OLDCC) Implementation projects in information technology, business development and export market growth. When MSI Defense needed assistance innovating how they approach exports, IES referred MSI Defense to industry experts at Strategic International in Cary, North Carolina. Strategic International created an export “playbook” to help with foreign military sales by evaluating the organization’s system via export compliance audit and export compliance education proposal. As a result of the solutions, MSI Defense bolstered their export. “In 2022 our foreign military sales business jumped up 25% thanks to the support from IES. For us, that’s a big deal.”

When MSI Defense aimed to become Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) compliant, they contacted IES. IES connected MSI Solutions to another client, Reef Systems. Reef Systems is one of two North Carolina organizations with Certified Third-Party Assessor Organization (CP3AO) authorization and one of 21 CP3AO-authorized organizations nationally. Reef Systems conducted a cybersecurity compliance assessment. MSI Defense system administrator Emily Whitaker said, “It was an eye-opening experience. The information we gathered continues to benefit the information technology and the cybersecurity team.” Through the assessment, MSI Defense continues to develop a cybersecurity model to achieve its CMMC certification.

Holden says MSI Defense continues to choose to work with IES because they understand their organization and collaborates with them to create an individual, customized plan to complement their goals. Holden stated, “Our IES contacts were incredibly experienced and informed. Michael Mullins and I exchange emails at four, five or six in the morning letting me know he’s as dedicated to the process as we are. Kami Baggett (IES Regional Manager) has always been responsive and open to any questions, even questions completely unrelated to the IES program.”

As a result of working with IES and other partner organizations, MSI Defense increased sales by $4,000,000 and invested $250,000 in new product development or processes management, $100,000 in plant and equipment, $120,000 in information systems and $65,000 in workforce practices and employee skills. The organization also created six new jobs, retained ten and identified $250,000 of investments not necessary right now.

“Our collaborative relationship with IES and NCMEP has been very fruitful. We identified areas where we should speed up investment and where we may want to ‘keep our powder dry’ until something else is flushed out.” Holden continued, “The NCMEP is also always a resource that we can turn to even for a quick question to get pointed in the right direction. We have seen growth in new businesses in North Carolina and believe that having such a resource would strengthen North Carolina’s competitive stance.”

About MSI Defense

MSI Defense Solutions was founded with one goal – to transfer our 300-plus years of contemporary motorsports experience to military vehicles and systems in the form of components, technology, and processes. Our employees have succeeded at the highest racing and vehicle design, testing, and development levels. Along the way, they have accumulated countless years of experience in off-road racing, motorcycle and motocross racing, NASCAR, Formula 1 and premium road car development. MSI produces some of the most technologically advanced, highest-performance vehicle and integration systems for use on land, air and water. It is the collaborative expertise and shared technologies that allow MSI to design the right part, the first time, for your mission now and years ahead.

MSI rapidly deploys innovative techniques and the latest technologies to programs accomplishing accelerated manufacturing timelines to quickly design, engineer, and deliver capabilities for numerous systems – suspension, mechanical design and integration, communications infrastructures, command and control, electronic controls, mechatronics and as an ATF FFL Level 9 holder, weapon systems.

Using MSI’s vast breadth of complete vehicle design experience, and an array of analytical and mechanical testing tools, users can rest assured that delivered solutions have been validated. MSI vehicles have been airdropped, EMI chamber tested and performance and durability tested through the extreme rigors of the Nevada Automotive Testing Center (NATC) and other proving grounds for thousands and thousands of real-mission miles.

MSI Defense Solutions’ experienced group of Project and Design Engineers combined with its uniquely experienced Technical Sales, Fabrication, and Assembly teams leverage their motorsport and military experience in vehicle engineering to deliver on any Customer project. Skilled in Engineering Test, Development, and Validation, MSI’s teams possess the agility to swiftly respond to critical needs, whether developing bespoke projects in a compressed timeframe or problem-solving and trouble-shooting an existing mission-critical system. Projects such as suspension and braking system design, drivetrain integration and re-power efforts, engine management system development and tuning, and environmental and transportability testing are routinely part of MSI’s daily work. Integration of comms and weapons systems, big and small, as well as a modular design for kitting and multi-mission flexibility and commonality on Non-Standard Commercial Vehicles (NSCV) and commercial thin-skinned vehicles for special missions and conventional military platforms. MSI is well-versed in vehicles from 1,200 lbs to more than 75,000 lbs, with solutions fielded to military Customers around the globe in these disciplines.

Their extensive use of Computer Aided Engineering (CAE) tools drives design and manufacture accompanied with real-world and mission-critical testing to validate our designs, enabling us to field fully capable solutions.