SDI was incorporated in 1979 in Gainesville, FL by two professors at the University of Florida with a goal to support government aviation project offices. In 1984, Steve P. Smith, now-retired SDI Vice President, left his position as Chief, Technical Management Division, TADS/PNVS Project Office, to found SDI's Aviation Technical Center in St. Louis, MO. In 1988, three government senior executives left their positions to join SDI's small Huntsville, AL office and set up their respective technical divisions in Huntsville.
In an effort to be closer to our government customers and now the bulk of the technical staff, SDI moved its corporate headquarters from Gainesville to Huntsville in 1989. Soon after, one of those former government executives and SDI Technical Director, J.C. White, became the long-tenured President & CEO of SDI. He was formerly Chief of the Aquila Technical Management Division, RPV Project Office (Aquila being the Army's first major UAV effort), and prior to that, Chief of the Test Division, Hellfire Project Office.
Mr. White, with his Senior Management Team and the experienced, top-notch technical staff positioned SDI as a respected and valuable aviation and defense support contractor to our government customers for over 20 years. Mr. White moved SDI into our purpose-built facility in Research Park in 2007. The new facility provided SDI with laboratory and service-bay capabilities that are unique in the field.
Mr. White died unexpectedly in August of 2010. It was then that his wife, Pamela B. White, having retired from her own long DOD civil service and contracting career, took over as Chairman and CEO. Today, SDI operates as a certified Woman Owned Small Business (WOSB) with a 5-person Board of Directors. The Board consists of the shareholders and two outside directors, Paula Cushman and Ken Barnett. Each bring formidable industry acumen and experience to the Board. Paula Cushman retired as the President of Aviation & Missile Solutions, LLC (a Joint Venture of Camber Corporation and Dynetics, Inc.) in May 2014, having been responsible for performance of $113M in AMCOM EXPRESS technical task orders during her final year. Ken Barnett has served as Chief Financial Officer of Hexagon US Federal since 2012. He is a key member of their management team providing strategic financial direction and implementation for a company with revenues in excess of $100 million.
On SDI’s 40th anniversary in June of 2019, J. Brandi White took over as SDI’s new Chief Executive Officer after serving nearly 10 years on the Board of Directors and maintaining a significant hand in the executive operations of the business. Her first order of business was to find a new President for SDI in light of the scheduled retirement of our invaluable President, Mr. Bob Portney. After canvassing and vetting, it quickly became clear Mr. Forrest Davis was exactly who she needed to complete SDI's executive team, and Mr. Davis became SDI’s new President in November of 2019.
In early 2020, the new leadership barely had its feet on the ground before being hurled into one of the most serious crises any company could face. The COVID-19 crisis immediately galvanized our executive team and HQ staff, and an incredible level of nerve, commitment, and resolve emerged. As a result, we find ourselves confident that a better, more unified management team would indeed be hard to find. We’re proud to work together and proud of where we’re taking SDI into its fifth decade. Mr. White would be proud as well.