Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing has been honored by Lockheed Martin as an Elite Supplier for its 2017 performance.

As one of 23 companies out of 1,400 given the award, this puts KMM in the top 2 percent of all its suppliers, Jim Wilsford, Lockheed Martin senior project manager, told KMM employees at a special celebration Tuesday.

The award recognizes "impeccable performance" from suppliers and "exceeding customer expectations."

"Operational excellence is a key tenant of the Lockheed Martin aeronautics business model," Wilsford said. " Our customers expect zero defects, excellent workmanship and a superior standard of performance that showcases best value for all."

The security of the nation benefits from the quality of work done at KMM, Wilsford said, emphasizing the importance of the intelligence gathered by military planes and ensured safety of its pilots.

"If a U-2 Dragon Lady cannot fly, it is not good for this country," he said. "What you do for the U-2 when we send you, 'here is a harness, go repair it,' that's what you're doing. You're going to put a bird back in the sky."

With 100 percent quality and delivery ratings for 2018 so far, Wilsford said KMM is on track for another recognition.

Don Hedger, KMM founder, said the company owes much of its growth to Lockheed Martin, including its partnership in the modernization of the C-5A military aircraft.

"These were really great, beneficial programs as we grew," Hedger said.

KMM is on the verge of further growth. With 360 employees currently, another 20 are being added ahead of coming expansion efforts.

In 2017, the company's 30th year, a 24,000 square foot expansion was completed.

"We have just embarked, officially, to add another 32,000 square feet directly south of us," Hedger said.

The two levels will each be 16,000 square feet, Hedger said, and dedicated to manufacturing.

"We're optimistic about the future," he said, "and we know we need more space and we're getting prepared for that."

Hedger expects construction efforts to begin in January and be completed in August.

He thanked Lockheed Martin for the recognition and its continued support.

"We commit to doing our very best to live up to the high standards of the Elite Supplier award," he said.

Mayor Scott Decker called the honor a "momentous occasion" and applauded the facility and its 360 employees.

"Dickinson is complimented in our diversity by having KMM," he said. "It allows us to weather the boom much better than most cities, because we are such a diverse economy."

A veteran of the U.S. Army, serving 10 of his 21 years as an infantryman, Decker said the care taken by KMM's employees is truly appreciated.

"Being able to speak with those birds in the sky, and getting that information, and being an infantryman down on the ground, at the tip of the spear, you cannot realize how important that is to the 25 percent of us in the U.S. military who put their lives on the line," he said.

He added, "That one bit of data they can get that lets you know exactly where an enemy force is, someone trying to do you harm or other people harm, is so important."

State Sen. Kelly Armstrong (D-36), also praised KMM Tuesday, saying the award proves North Dakota offers more than just agriculture and energy.

"I'm not sure there's a company in North Dakota that has more of a global impact than the one we're in right now," Armstrong said. "The people who do the work here touch every aspect of aerospace across the globe, and that's a really impressive thing."