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 Fall 2015


Winter 2012

Ten successful aviation and aerospace clusters in the South

With Boeing's relocations of significant operations to the South and foreign-based players in the industry choosing to locate in the region, maybe we can now say that the American South is indeed the world's capital of aviation and aerospace. Here are 10 locations that back up that claim.

Oklahoma City (Tinker AFB)

Oklahoma is one of the top 10 states in traditional aerospace occupation employment in the nation. Leading the way in terms of facilities and jobs is Oklahoma City-based Tinker Air Force Base -- the largest group of civilian Air Force personnel in the U.S., and Oklahoma's largest single-site employer with an annual statewide economic impact of close to $4 billion. Tinker Air Force Base is a major industrial complex surrounded by a diverse set of aerospace companies such as Boeing, L3, Northrup Grumman and Pratt Whitney, both on base and in Oklahoma City.

The booming growth of this cluster is not just a trend -- foundations are in place to ensure its success. The dynamic, trusting relationship between local leadership in Oklahoma City and the County is unmatched -- leaders have a combined strategy that offers clients a one-stop shop and quick turnaround on complex projects. In 2005, when General Motors announced plans to close its $500 million Oklahoma City plant, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, Oklahoma County, the State of Oklahoma, the Department of Defense, GM and Tinker Air Force Base joined forces to quickly repurpose the plant through a $54 million bond election. Today, Tinker Aerospace Complex (TAC) is considered the most advanced Air Force aviation and aerospace manufacturing production facility in the world, thanks to a strong community/Air Force relationship.

Virginia’s Gateway Region – Prince George, Virginia

Strategically located in the middle of the United States Defense Triangle, Prince George County and Virginia’s Gateway Region are poised to be the next nerve-center for the aerospace industry. Construction on the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing’s (CCAM) 60,000-square-foot research facility is scheduled to be completed in September 2012, with research activities to commence this fall. CCAM is the only collaboration of its kind in North America, and one of only seven in the world, that bridges the gap between research and product development. Primary themes for research are surface engineering and manufacturing systems. Virginia’s elite higher education institutions -- University of Virginia, Virginia Tech, and Virginia State University -- combined with corporate heavyweight partners Rolls-Royce, Siemens, Sulzer Metco, Newport News Shipbuilding, Chromalloy, Sandvik Coromant, Canon, and Aerojet, will offer a sustainable and diversified research portfolio from industry and federal sources totaling more than $16 million per year. CCAM students will have the opportunity to work on industrial-scale equipment and graduate with industry related experience. The combination of industry and academia will yield cutting-edge shop floor results and will mark the region as a worldwide center of excellence in advanced manufacturing practices.

Lake Charles, La.

Lake Charles, located in Southwest Louisiana, is home to Chennault International Airport. Northrop Grumman has been a tenant of Chennault's for many years, building the Joint STARS aircraft for the Air Force. In addition, Aeroframe Services has operated at Chennault since 2000 as a commercial MRO and recently announced a large expansion in Lake Charles that will add workers that now total 400 housed at Chennault.  

Kinston-N.C. Global Transpark, N.C.

Kinston is located in eastern North Carolina and is home to North Carolina's Global TransPark, a 2,500-acre (over 5,000 acres developable) industrial airport site that features an 11,500-foot runway. The reason the Global TransPark is an emerging aerospace cluster market centers on Spirit Aerosystems and the 500,000-square-foot facility operating there. Spirit is building center fuselages for the A350 XWB (Xtra Wide Body) program. Other tenants at the Global TransPark include DB Schenker, Delta Private Jets, Henley Aviation, MJE Telestructure, Mountain Air Cargo and Spatial Integrated Systems.

Northwest Florida Aviation and Aerospace Cluster

F-35, Eglin Air Force Base, Fort Walton Beach, Fla.The presence of numerous military bases with world-class research and development capacity is the major reason Northwest Florida has become a global aviation and aerospace leader. The Northwest Florida region is home to six aviation-related military installations: NAS Pensacola, NAS Whiting Field, Eglin Air Force Base, Hurlburt Field, Duke Field and Tyndall Air Force Base. Alabama’s Ft. Rucker is also proximate to the Florida Panhandle. Eglin Air Force Base, geographically the world’s largest military installation, is a magnet for most of the nation’s largest defense contractors.  Eglin is home to the Air Force’s Integrated Weapons and Armaments Research, Acquisition, Test and Evaluation Center, the Air Armament Center, the Air Force Research Laboratory Munitions Directorate and three test wings.

These military assets have catalyzed significant growth across a variety of disciplines, including unmanned systems, aircraft assembly and repair, composite materials, avionics, and flight training.  Together, aviation, aerospace and defense account for approximately 70,000 direct jobs in Northwest Florida, divided equally between military and civilian employees.  

Tulsa, Okla.

Tulsa’s aviation industry is a major contributor to businesses worldwide and an important component of the national and regional economy. The aerospace industry is comprised of manufacturers of aircraft parts, electronic components and other related services. Tulsa is home to American Airlines’ Maintenance and Engineering Base. Other major aerospace companies include: NORDAM Group, Spirit AeroSystems, Flight Safety International, BizJet International, Honeywell Aerospace, Lufthansa Technik Tulsa, L3 Aeromet, and Omni Air International.

Hancock County, Miss.

In the late 1960s and early 70s there was a saying ... “If you want to go to the moon, you first have to go through Hancock County.” Hancock County’s recognition as the ideal place for the aerospace industry began in 1961 with its selection by the federal government as the site of a rocket engine testing facility for the Apollo mission. With NASA’s Stennis Space Center anchored firmly in the center of the County’s geography and economy, the region has developed into a high-tech oasis in the Gulf Coast region. The Hancock County Development Commission continues to capitalize on its unique situation in the aerospace industry by partnering with not only neighboring parishes and counties, but also neighboring states. Success has been rich and apparent in a notable existing industry directory which includes the likes of Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Selex Galileo and Lockheed Martin. With Rolls-Royce North America’s recent announcement to expand its existing facility, Hancock County continues to international attention on the aerospace horizon.

North Charleston-Charleston, S.C.

A recent study done by the Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce’s Center for Business Research showed that the Charleston International Airport, the Air Force base in Charleston and Boeing’s new manufacturing complex together inject $6.8 billion into the three-county Charleston, S.C. region. The three anchors of Charleston’s aviation and aerospace industry support more than 34,000 jobs and account for $2 billion in annual wages. Boeing employs nearly 6,000 workers at the Charleston airport and its 787 Dreamliner assembly plant supports over 17,000 jobs. The first South Carolina Dreamliner is expected to be delivered this month.

Mobile, Ala.

Ripe with Southern charm and hospitality, Mobile Bay gives rise to countless opportunities. Already home to the Mobile Regional Airport and the Brookley Aeroplex, Mobile Bay is a hub of aerospace traffic, engineering, maintenance and technical training. The area has an impressive concentration of global aviation leaders including Airbus Americas Engineering, Airbus Military North America, Continental Motors and ST Aerospace Mobile. Creating even more appeal is Alabama’s status as a right-to-work state with a ready workforce, employee training programs, and tax and property incentives. But, just as impressive as our business climate is our quality of life. With a rich, welcoming history, strong transportation infrastructure and coastal location, Mobile Bay is a destination that frequently turns visitors into residents.

Monroe, N.C.

Monroe’s laser focus on aerospace recruitment began in 2002. Through the efforts of Monroe Economic Development to attract new companies as well as assist existing industries to become aerospace suppliers, this community’s success has lead to nearly 3,000 jobs and almost $600 million in aerospace-related capital investment. What is even more impressive is this has all occurred within a seven-mile radius. The community has come together to ensure the current and future health and competitiveness of this cluster. The local education community is proactively developing programs and facilities to enhance the labor force. South Piedmont Community College has created the Aerospace and Advanced Manufacturing Training Center, with unique capabilities possessed by only a handful of technical schools in the Country. The Union County Public School system offers very strong STEM curriculum to continuously feed the needs their aerospace industry will demand. As a result of the complete community buy-in, they possess the largest geographic concentration of aerospace companies in North Carolina. Companies that call Monroe home include Goodrich Corporation, ATI Allvac, Turbomeca Manufacturing, Cyril Bath Company, and Caledonia Alloys to name a few.

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