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2011 RANKINGS: Wichita Rules the Sky

It seems that Wichita, KS has taken up permanent residence atop the annual Aerospace/Defense Manufacturing category in Business Facilities’ Metro Rankings, but the Charleston, SC area (ranked second this year) is revving up its jet engines for a dogfight in years to come, fueled by the growth in aerospace jobs that are expected to follow Boeing’s placement of its 787 assembly facility in North Charleston.

Wichita is home to the world’s best-known aviation cluster, often referred to as the “Air Capital of the World.” For nine decades—almost as long as manned flight has existed—aircraft and aircraft components have been built in the Kansas hub.

The Wichita area hosts four aerospace OEMs (Boeing Integrated Defense Systems, Bombadier Learjet, Cessna Aircraft and Hawker Beechcraft). Wichita also is the site of the Airbus Engineering Design Center, and some of the most specialized equipment in the world for metal and composite material fabrication. The Wichita area boasts a network of more than 200 precision machine shots, tool and die shops, and other aerospace subcontract manufacturers. There are more than 40 Boeing-certified gold and silver suppliers within a 200-mile radius of the city.

South Carolina officials hailed Boeing’s decision to place its 787 plant in the Palmetto State instead of its traditional jet manufacturing hub near Seattle, WA (our 2009 Economic Development Deal of the Year Gold Award winner) as “the largest investment” in the history of the state, comparing it to BMW’s decision to site a huge assembly facility in Spartanburg, SC, which established the Palmetto state as a major player in automotive manufacturing. The project is expected to create more than 4,000 jobs.

Our third-place Aerospace Defense Manufacturing leader, Huntsville, AL, is known as the “Rocket City” for its status as the primary hub for the nation’s missile defense, space and military aerospace programs. Huntsville/

Madison County is home to the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and the U.S. Army’s Redstone Arsenal, both of which are centers of research and development.

Here are the top 10 finishers in the aerospace/defense category:

 2011 METRO RANKINGS: AEROSPACE/DEFENSE MANUFACTURING

1. WICHITA, KS

2. CHARLESTON, SC

3. HUNTSVILLE, AL

4. FT. WORTH, TX

5. SEATTLE, WA

6. TUCSON, AZ

7. LOS ANGELES, CA

8. PHOENIX, AZ

9. TAMPA/ST. PETERSBURG, FL

10. ORLANDO, FL

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