Insitu chief seeks places to land

New CEO of aerial drone maker looking for new main campus, home

By Cami Joner, Columbian retail & real estate reporter

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BINGEN — As Insitu Inc.’s new CEO searches for a place to live, he is also in charge of looking for a home for the fledgling Boeing Co. subsidiary and maker of unmanned aircraft.

It’s likely that both the company base and its leader’s private residence will be located somewhere within the Columbia River Gorge, Steve Morrow, Insitu’s president and chief executive officer, said Wednesday during his first press conference at the company’s Bingen headquarters. Morrow was hired in late April to replace Insitu’s former executive Steve Silwa, who retired April 1.

In October, Insitu announced it was seeking a 20- to 25-acre campus in the Gorge area to consolidate most of its other sites and serve as company headquarters. Morrow said Insitu is looking at 30 potential sites, including a 20-acre parcel at the Port of Klickitat, where the company already has some operations.

The company hasn’t secured a site but it is still moving forward with efforts to consolidate, going from 27 buildings to 22 buildings in Bingen, he said.

Today, the unmanned aircraft maker employs 800 people in Bingen, White Salmon, Stevenson, Vancouver, and Oregon’s Hood River and The Dalles, all towns Morrow and his wife Connie visited during their recent house hunt, he said.

“Our house-hunting trip went from Stevenson to The Dalles,” Morrow said, adding that the couple enjoyed the picturesque Gorge scenery.

"When I was offered this job, I didn't think more than a nanosecond before accepting it," he said.

The June issue of Smithsonian magazine profiled the company, which was founded in 1998 and purchased by Boeing in 2008. Insitu made $400 million in revenue in 2010, Morrow said.

Insitu’s aerial drones, originally developed to conduct scientific research over the oceans, are now widely used by the U.S. military to gather intelligence in war zones. Department of Defense contracts provide the bulk of its revenue.

Before his appointment in April, Morrow served as director of Boeing’s Stand-off Strike unit for St. Louis-based Boeing Defense, Space & Security unit.