Aerospace Industry: The Sky’s The Limit

Commercial aircraft production and military defense spending will directly affect the growth trajectory of the aerospace and defense industry in 2019.

By Dominique Cantelme
From the January/February 2019 Issue

Strengthened demand for passenger travel and rising global military expenditures helped the global aerospace and defense industry create a successful 2018. According to Deloitte’s 2019 Global Aerospace and Defense Outlook, Robin Lineberger’s take, leader of Deloitte’s Aerospace & Defense industry practice, the industry is expected to continue its growth trajectory in 2019, led by growing commercial aircraft production and strong defense spending.

This report explains that in the commercial aerospace sector, “aircraft order backlog remains at an all-time high as demand for next-generation, fuel-efficient aircraft continues to surge with the rise in oil prices. With the aircraft backlog at its peak, manufacturers are expected to ramp up production rates, hence, driving growth in the sector.”

The backlog is at its peak of more than 14,000 and about 38,000 aircraft are expected to be produced over the next two decades.

An example of this commercial aircraft production is the expansion of Airbus’ manufacturing plant in Mobile, Alabama. It represents an investment of more than $200 million and will facilitate the assembly of A220-100 and A220-300 aircraft for U.S. customers with the expectation of creating 432 full-time jobs.

Another rise in 2019 will come from military defense spending due to geopolitical tensions, with many countries looking to counter land, maritime, air, cyber, satellite and other security threats.

The United States’ national defense budget increased from almost $700 billion in 2018 to $716 billion in 2019. In Germany, the Defense Ministry alone will receive more than $49 billion to purchase new ships and transport helicopters, this is an increase of almost $5 billion compared to last year. Japan’s defense budget also went up 2.1 percent to $47.6 billion dollars for 2018-19. 


Boasting open skies, a tech-ready workforce and premier educational opportunities, Sierra Vista offers space to soar. This southeastern Arizona community is home to Fort Huachuca, an Army post with a long history of tech-heavy aviation programs, strategic missions, communications testing and intelligence operations that are more vital now than ever to national defense.

aerospace industry
Just minutes from Sierra Vista, the Sierra Vista Municipal Airport (SVMA) offers both great views and top-tier training and testing opportunities. (Source: City of Sierra Vista)

The City of Sierra Vista and Fort Huachuca share a joint-use airport with a variety of general aviation services on the municipal side, while as many as 135,000 air missions are run each year from Libby Army Airfield, including pilot training for the Army’s Unmanned Aerial Systems. A 12,001-foot runway—along with the 964 square miles of restricted airspace, high elevation and favorable weather—enables unique training and testing to occur.

In addition to pilot training, the 2,500-square-mile open air Buffalo Soldier Electronic Test Range creates a one-of-a-kind test area for the Army’s Electronic Proving Ground.

However you view it, the joint-use airport agreement has allowed Sierra Vista to offer a slate of general aviation services unavailable anywhere else in the United States while supporting Fort Huachuca’s missions and opening the door for aerospace- and airport-related industries.

In addition to military aircraft, the airfield also serves other Federal agencies, which operate, fly and train in Sierra Vista’s airspace to include the U.S. Forest Service’s wildland firefighting aircraft and the U.S. Border Patrol’s rotary and unmanned aircraft.

“With adjacent developable property, available hangar space and close proximity to Interstate 10, the airport has vast untapped potential for private investment,” says Tony Boone, economic development manager for the City of Sierra Vista. “And because of its close relationship with Fort Huachuca, Sierra Vista is home to myriad contractors specializing in aerospace and technology that further military missions.”

The open skies, high altitude and phenomenal flying weather create a superb combination for the Army’s diverse missions as well as private operations.

Home to five higher education institutions, including one of the first nationally recognized Cyber Operations programs and one of the top ranked community colleges in the country, Sierra Vista offers another business advantage with its highly skilled, educated workforce.

University of Arizona Sierra Vista boasts one of the nation’s top Cyber Operations programs. The National Security Agency recently designated U of A’s Cyber Operations program as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations—a designation shared by only 20 cyber programs in the nation. Students emerge from the program with the knowledge, skills and abilities to operate in the challenging environment of cyber space.

With its main campus located next door to U of A Sierra Vista, Cochise College was named the second-best community college in the country in 2017 for its affordability, return on investment and student success rate. Cochise College serves over 11,000 students and offers 90 degrees and technical certificates, including in-demand degrees like registered nursing, cyber security, aviation and engineering.

Sierra Vista, influenced by nearly 150 years of military presence, is a cultural melting pot, easily seen in the diversity of ethnic restaurants as well as the citizenry. Residents and visitors enjoy dishes from around the globe, prepared in old-world traditions and bursting with fresh, authentic flavor.

At an elevation of 4,633 feet, Sierra Vista is bordered by the Huachuca Mountains to the south, part of the Sky Islands, a range of soaring mountain peaks that cup southeast Arizona and create one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world in a blend of tropical and temperate climates, riparian areas and expansive forests. The highest peak in the Huachucas stretches to nearly 9,500 feet, and determined hikers are rewarded with knock-out, 360-degree views.

An outdoor lifestyle is easy in Sierra Vista, with a temperate year-round climate and days that average in the high 70s. Paved multi-use paths crisscross the community, inviting walkers, runners and cyclists to enjoy to rolling terrain.

Committed to environmental stewardship, the City of Sierra Vista was named the nation’s first EPA WaterSense Community, thanks to its smart water use standards, and has partnered with many organizations to ensure that natural resource preservation, conservation and education remain a top priority for the region. These efforts ensure the quality of life for future generations.

Not only a great place to live, Sierra Vista is a Great American Defense Community and has been recognized by the Department of Defense for its contribution to national security, earning a sizable grant that has been utilized to evaluate the municipal side of the airport. The study shines a light on this untapped gem and the adjacent available property, along with the aerospace advantages, available hangar space and proximity to Interstate 10.

“The airport is one of Sierra Vista’s greatest assets,” Boone says, “particularly when coupled with the airspace, workforce and DoD partnership. We are currently evaluating the study’s findings and are gearing up to better utilize the airport for private ventures in development and training.”

Currently, top entrepreneurs and experienced defense agencies come from around the globe to Fort Huachuca to test and evaluate their leading edge technology.

Find out if Sierra Vista is right for your business plans. Visit or call (520) 439-2212.


[By Dr. Hasan Choudhuri, NASA MIRO Center for Space Exploration and Technology Research]

Innovation is lifting off in the desert Southwest as the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) has connected its powerful aerospace research to area resources as part of a fast-growing advanced engineering ecosystem.

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Rocket combustion testing in El Paso County, Texas. (Source: The University of Texas El Paso)

The strategy is activating commercial activity that mixes together the area’s engineering talents, UTEP’s excellent research and development facilities, and capabilities, regional economic development funds and private investment.

Developing new technology for aerospace and defense has become a nationally recognized forte at UTEP. Many of its graduates are helping to design cutting edge systems within the aerospace industry.

Indeed, UTEP has evolved into one of the most significant producers of Hispanic engineers and computer scientists in the country. It graduated more than 700 Bachelor, Masters and Ph.D. students in the previous academic year. However, the university has sharpened its focus on helping to cultivate aerospace and engineering businesses in El Paso County with an economic development agenda aimed at accelerating technology commercialization and supporting start-ups to help create high-paid jobs.

UTEP can offer 50,000 square feet of laboratory space and talent streaming through its recently formed Applied Research Institute (ARI), which integrates the success of UTEP’s two top-performing research centers—the W. M. Keck Center for 3D Innovation (Keck Center) and the NASA MIRO Center for Space Exploration and Technology Research (cSETR).

A partnership with El Paso County has led the university to activate a 400-acre airport and flight test range, as well as 8,000 acres of land for development of an off-campus testing facility in Fabens, Texas. Additionally, UTEP is collaborating with Horizon City for a business incubator focused on aerospace and defense technologies as well as advanced manufacturing. The incubator is providing infrastructure and building capacity to support the growth and creation of regional high-tech small businesses.

The fastest growing community in the El Paso metro area has created an economic development fund to incentivize technology business start-ups and business relocations. The fund can help a business acquire land, build a site and train its workforce.

Those incentives from the Horizon City Economic Development Corporation can be coupled with help from the State of Texas’ portfolio of incentives. The Lone Star State also offers excellent business conditions that include no personal income tax, a top-ten ranking for overall lowest tax burden from The Tax Foundation and a low, flat corporate franchise tax rate of 0.75 percent.

This synergy between UTEP, Horizon City and the County of El Paso comes at an important time for the aerospace industry, as many companies have cast a wider net for small businesses to take part in the supply chain. Not only that, the push to catalyze, nurture and grow the entrepreneurial endeavors of area engineers is aligned with the region’s growing concentration of aerospace activity.

El Paso County has a considerable strategic advantage in developing an innovation cluster centered around aerospace and defense technologies and advanced manufacturing. The region has an abundance of land and airspace resources suitable for such research and has a transportation infrastructure that connects to nearby Fort Bliss, White Sands Missile Range and NASA’s White Sands Test Facility. The area spanning West Texas, southern New Mexico and northern Mexico boasts over 2.5 million residents and ranks as the fifth largest concentration of manufacturing employees in North America.

We believe UTEP’s economic development focus on aerospace and engineering will transform this region’s economy, strengthen its global competitiveness and create an innovation cluster that makes El Paso County a pivotal player in the industry. And that’s just the beginning.


Florida has long been the world’s premier gateway to space, the undisputed air traffic hub of the Americas, a major hub for flight training and MRO and home to leading manufacturers of all types of aircraft and aircraft components. As a result, Florida has a rich supply chain and talent pool benefiting industry businesses. It’s no wonder industry leaders including Boeing, Embraer, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, Sikorsky and so many more have significant operations in the Sunshine State.

Business and government leaders in Charlotte County, Florida are bullish about the community’s economic future. In two years, the county has generated an unprecedented boom in development. 

Western Michigan University created a Florida footprint for its College of Aviation. It’s one of the premier programs in the U.S. for pilot and aviation mechanic training. MetalCraft Marine, a leader in jet-engine propelled first responder boats, chose Charlotte County for a new U.S. location to build boats from scratch and water-test them on a mile-long pond adjacent to Interstate Airport Park. After a nationwide search, Allegiant Travel Company chose Charlotte Harbor as the setting for Sunseeker Resort, the largest hotel-condo resort on the Gulf Coast. The $420 million first phase includes 500+ resort rooms, 180 condo units, 40,000 square feet of meeting space and themed restaurants and bars, plus a public boardwalk adjacent to the Harbor. Babcock Ranch is drawing national attention as America’s first community fully powered by solar energy. And Lost Lagoon, the investment group behind Volcano Bay in Orlando and Atlantis in the Bahamas, is on track to create a $132 million sports and entertainment district in Murdock Village with a planned water park, five hotels, retail center and amphitheater.

Why are these companies choosing new corporate homes in this picturesque corner of Southwest Florida? Charlotte County offers endless blue water and year-round sunny skies, with nationally rated golfing, sailing and tarpon fishing. Within 25 miles, companies can draw from a workforce that’s 250,000 strong, with customized training readily available. 

Charlotte County’s economic development boom is led by Lucienne Pears, one of the Top 50 economic development directors in North America for two consecutive years. Ms. Pears ensures that companies have ready access to inexpensive land, low local taxes, expedited permitting, a top-flight state tax structure and more.

With so many locations along Florida’s Gulf Coast looking to increase their aerospace footprint, having a nearly 300-acre site with access to a 6,000-foot runway is a major game changer.

The vision for Santa Rosa County’s Whiting Aviation Park in Milton is to create an aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul depot that could handle major and minor work for smaller military and civilian aircraft. To add to its appeal, the plan is to establish an education and training center as well.

The idea for the aviation park has been around since 2002, but it remained a tree-filled plot and a vision only. Then on July 18, Triumph gulf coast, a non-profit established to distribute recovery funds that resulted from the 2010 BP oil spill, gave preliminary approval for a grant of $8.5 million for Whiting Aviation Park and final approval was given later in October.

The funding will be used to improve 40 acres of industrial land outside the fence but adjacent to Naval Air Station Whiting Field. The improvements are intended to support helicopter maintenance, repair and overhaul operations in support of Whiting Field military training missions.

Santa Rosa County’s best-known aviation activity is Naval Air Station Whiting Field, one of the Navy’s two primary flight training bases. It’s the busiest air station in the world, accounting for nearly 1.5 million annual flight operations, including primary flight training of over 1,200 students.

For more information on doing business in Santa Rosa County, contact Shannon Ogletree at (850) 623-0174.

Brevard County, FL is home to unspoiled natural wonders, including 72 miles of pristine beachline. Also known as the Space Coast, it’s from these very beaches that national history has been made time and time again. The area that was once home to the Space Shuttle Program is now taking off as a, if not the, hub of the aerospace and aviation industry and has redefined itself as America’s High Tech Titan.

Brevard County is the optimal location for aerospace technology advancement. It is where the brightest minds for science, technology, engineering and math-related jobs are located. It is where aerospace employment is seven-times more concentrated than the U.S. average, and where almost one-fifth of the area payroll is rooted in the aerospace sector. Over 20,000 highly-qualified workers contribute to the success of local companies, many of which continue to expand their presence within the county.

Since October 2010, the Space Coast has seen tremendous growth in the aerospace sector. In partnership with the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, 22 aerospace projects have been announced creating 6,244 jobs. This represents over 2 billion dollars in capital investment. Industry top names such as the commercial space flight company Blue Origin and Brazil-based aircraft producer Embraer join others such as Boeing, Harris Corporation, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Collins Aerospace in calling the Space Coast an integral part of their path to success in aerospace and aviation.

The Space Coast has begun a new era of history from those 72 miles of beachline. Now, in addition to being known as the location where rockets soar, America’s High Tech Titan is launching the next generation of the aerospace and aviation industry.

To learn more about Florida’s Space Coast, contact Lynda Weatherman at (321) 638-2000.


Hernando County, located on the west coast of Florida in the highly-regarded Tampa Bay Region, offers the perfect blend of opportunity for business relocation, expansion and lifestyle. Availability, affordability, accessibility and community, that’s what it’s all about.

aerospace industry
Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport (Source: Hernando County)

The Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport & Technology Center provides an abundance of opportunity just 40 minutes north of Tampa International Airport, and features a 7,000-foot runway (with plans to expand to 8,000 feet), an air traffic control tower, airside parcels and CSX rail access sites with sidings in place. The Technology Center is a premier business location and the epicenter of economic development in Hernando County. The BKV Tech Center is a 2,400-acre, master planned facility with features that include available buildings, 1,000+ acres of land for development, sites with direct airside access and a Duke Energy Site Ready 285-acre parcel with infrastructure in place. With access to more than 300,000 workers within a 30-minute drive time, a technical high school and adult education center just across the street, you can see why it is home to successful businesses such as Airdyne Aerospace, Pem-Air Turbine Engine Services, American Aviation Flight Academy, Accuform Signs, Barrette Outdoor Living and Micro-Matic USA to name just a few.

On the east side of the county, just one mile from Interstate 75 and 40 miles from the Florida Turnpike, are several hundred acres ready for development. Situated on either side of a 1.5Msf Wal-Mart Distribution Center, these two sites are prime for manufacturing or logistics.

Accessibility is key to your business and with five major highways crisscrossing Hernando County, shipping and receiving is a breeze. North-south routes include Interstate 75, U.S. 19, the Suncoast Parkway and U.S. 41. The latter two run adjacent to the Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport and Technology Center, providing a two-stop light connection to Tampa Airport. I-75 is east of Brooksville and connects via the major east-west artery, State Road 50.

A business-friendly community, Hernando County is committed to growing industry. Creative and flexible business expansion and relocation incentives are available for job creation, workforce development and construction costs. These incentives, combined with Rapid Response Permitting and State of Florida incentives, make Hernando County the ideal place for business.

Your future workforce needs are a top priority. The County’s relationships with the local school system and post-secondary institutions help to influence curriculum and workforce training programs to suit specific business needs. Partnerships with Pasco-Hernando State College, St. Leo University, University of South Florida, University of Florida and others, along with a robust technical high school and adult education institutions like SunCoast Technical Education Center ensures access to any business expertise you may require as well as a pool of well-trained and motivated employees.

The metro markets of Tampa and Orlando are only a short drive away and residents in Hernando County have access to a wide range of professional sports venues, concert halls, cultural and fine arts and some of the top-ranked beaches in the United States. Residents here enjoy big-city conveniences while living in an active suburban community where the cost of living consistently ranks the lowest of Tampa Bay’s seven county region.

With a reputation as the most affordable county in the Tampa Bay Region and offering lifestyle choices from beaches to country clubs to ranches to historic homes, Hernando County has something for everyone. These assets, combined with a business-friendly government, available land and an abundant and well-trained workforce, make Hernando County a natural choice for business relocation and expansion.

To learn more about doing business in Hernando County, contact Valerie Pianta at (352) 540-6400, or visit


When Quiet Technology Aerospace needed space to expand their business producing advanced composite parts—used on Airbus A320 airliners and business jets—they turned to Hollywood, Florida.

The fast-growing high-tech aviation company was established in Miami and based in nearby Opa Locka, but found Hollywood to be the perfect mix of location, location, location and a can-do attitude towards providing the business, the space and approvals it needed for its high-value manufacturing facilities.

“We specialize in developing our own product line,” says Martin Gardner, Executive Vice President, Engineering and Customer Support. “Historically, we produced hush-kits, to quieten down older aircraft. In that, we developed an expertise in the use of composites and noise reduction, and on our last program we came up with a better widget than our competitors.”

What Gardner nicknames a widget is an advanced composite inlet cowl to replace metal versions installed on business jets. “We’re the only company in the world that can do that,” he says, and the manufacturing and finishing needs specialized for “clean rooms” and high-tech EPA-certified paint booth facilities.

That’s where Hollywood came in.

“We wanted a better standard of facility, better for the company image, and part of our product line is that we have to be able to paint our inlets and our products ready to be installed. Final painting of the products is a core part of our business,” Gardner explains. “Hollywood was friendly in that they allowed us to fit the facility out with two paint booths and certify them. Very few other locations would permit that.”

QTA’s facility adds to a diverse aerospace cluster in Hollywood, anchored by HEICO Corporation, a worldwide leader in manufacturing aerospace and electronic components, as well as Aerospace Precision, Inc. a global OEM repair, overhaul and manufacturing facility.

When it came to finding the right location, “we had two requirements,” Gardner says: a larger facility that allowed clean rooms and enabled the painting process, and “we wanted to be centrally positioned between the corporate aircraft airports in Southeast Florida. Hollywood is really nicely central to Opa Locka and Tamiami that serve Miami and Fort Lauderdale Executive and International, both covering West Palm Beach.”

Hollywood’s easy road and rail links are also a big plus. “We’re right on I-95 and right on one of the commuter Tri-Rail stations, so easy for our employees to get to and from us,” Gardner notes. “We’ve got employees who travel up from Miami on the train each day.” QTA also is located in the South Florida Design and Commerce Center within one of the City’s federally designated Opportunity Zones. This designation, under the U.S. Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, allows investors to receive substantial tax breaks for investment in these areas.

Being able to attract a multilingual skilled workforce is crucial to Quiet Technology’s success, Gardner says, “particularly in access to the South American markets. They’re quite significant in our business. We’re expanding our certification approvals to include Brazil and Mexico, and a lot of those customers will come to this area for their aircraft maintenance.”

As the company’s work in the commercial market increases, “we’re going to be doing some facility expansion of our clean room and composite shop to handle the volume,” Gardner says. The City is working to facilitate workforce training grants as well as connections with partner agencies to assist with workforce placement and development programs.

The City of Hollywood’s economic development team is committed to implementing a holistic and sustainable economic growth strategy that results in a robust economy and healthy neighborhoods. They will help you with project management, site selection, market research, business connections, permitting and economic incentives. Call (954) 921-3620 to speak with a team member.


By 2041, the population of the Greater Nashville Area is expected to surpass 2.5 million people, and Nashville International Airport (BNA) passenger traffic will grow from 16 million today to more than 23 million. With this growth comes increased business travel as corporations move to Music City to take advantage of a diverse environment that supports industries including healthcare, education, automotive, technology, financial, the arts and much more.

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The BNA team unveiled architectural renderings that showcased the look and feel of the future of the airport with a redesign that plays on the themes and shape of an acoustic guitar. (Source: Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority)

That’s why BNA has been busy planning, projecting and building to meet the city and region’s travel needs. In July 2016, Nashville International Airport unveiled a comprehensive plan to accommodate the region’s booming population growth and meet the needs of the airport’s record-breaking passenger increases. The result is BNA Vision, a bold and innovative plan to create a state-of-the-art, world-class facility. 

The BNA team kicked off work with the unveiling of dramatic new architectural renderings that showcased the look and feel of the future of the airport. Inspired by Nashville’s impressive parks and green spaces, and influenced by its musical heritage, the airport redesign is spacious and airy, and plays on the themes and shape of an acoustic guitar. The improvements are designed to meet the evolving needs of the Nashville traveler, and new amenities include a plaza with an on-site hotel, as well as a potential transit station to incorporate Nashville’s future mass transit solution.

Fast forward to today, and many of the renderings and models had already become reality, with each component executed on time and with great precision. Upgrades to the Interim International Arrivals Building reached completion in March 2018 and included increased processing capacity for 400 passengers per hour, an additional passenger boarding bridge, self-check kiosks and enhanced U.S. Customs and Border Protection processing. This facility will serve international travelers while the future state-of-the-art International Arrivals Facility (IAF) is under construction. The permanent IAF is slated to be complete in 2023. As BNA’s international routes continue to expand, the IAF will be a much-needed asset.

Just a couple of months back in December 2018, BNA’s new Terminal Garage opened. The facility has 2,200 parking spaces, a parking space guidance system, electric vehicle charging stations, tire inflation station and the entire bottom level is a commercial ground transportation center. It also includes capacity for 20,000 gallons of rain water for landscape irrigation and a photo-worthy green-screen vegetation wall.

Work also is underway on Concourse D, the airport’s fourth concourse, which has gone unused for nearly 20 years. The 115,000-square-foot facility will include six domestic aircraft gates along with new dining and retail options. An additional 200,000 square feet of space to the north and south ends of the terminal will be created, enlarging the existing ticketing lobby and baggage claim area. The groundbreaking event was held in June 2018, and come 2020, Concourse D will be up and running.

The entire BNA Vision experience is at your fingertips at, which includes a video outlining the plan and a 360-degree virtual tour gives an interactive glimpse of the future of BNA and air travel in Middle Tennessee.

With more than 15.9 million passengers visiting each year, BNA is the 33rd busiest airport in the U.S. and the fastest growing U.S. airport of its size.

John C. Tune Airport (JWN) is located 8 miles from downtown Nashville. Minutes from the State Capital, Music Row, Gaylord Opryland Hotel, Music City Convention Center, major medical facilities, universities and world famous attractions, JWN truly is Nashville’s “Downtown” General Aviation Airport.


Like the dozens of tower and maintenance personnel, ground and flight-crew members required to get a plane down the runway, Kentucky is deep into assembling the elements to thrust its aviation, aerospace and defense industry to new heights.

aerospace industry
Kentucky’s rapidly growing aviation, aerospace and defense industry employs nearly 19,000 people full time at 77 facilities statewide. Companies include GE Aviation, which produces turbines and other jet engine components. (Source: Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development)

As one of the Bluegrass State’s target industries, aerospace players already include GE Aviation, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and UPS. The sector employs nearly 19,000 people full-time. Its 77 facilities across the state include specialty machine shops, aluminum and composites fabrication businesses, R&D, tech and service-related companies.

The state offers nation-leading levels of aluminum production, expertise and capacity. And aerospace parts and products consistently ranks as Kentucky’s No. 1 export category, with more than $9 billion in exports sent abroad last year through September, 6.5 percent ahead of the same months of 2017.

But breaking through to a new altitude requires considerably more ground-level planning, organization and implementation. Between industry cooperation, workforce-training programs, community prep initiatives and business climate improvement, Kentucky is gaining lift both in the immediacy and for the long-haul flight.

Founded in 2016, the Kentucky Aerospace Industry Consortium (KAIC) aims to make the state’s aerospace sector a globally recognized standard.

“We want to find new and innovative ways to ensure our commonwealth has a robust, connected and capable aerospace and defense supply chain,” Stewart Ditto, executive director of KAIC recently told consortium members. “Kentucky already offers an incredible manufacturing base grounded in immense transportation capabilities. We are No. 1 in automobile manufacturing per capita, No. 3 in aerospace exports nationally and we possess two of the top logistical hubs, through UPS in Louisville and DHL and Amazon Prime Air in Northern Kentucky. We also have research institutions and universities that are leaders in pilot training, UAS/drone testing and small satellite development.”

And that is just the beginning. KAIC is helping the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development recruit domestically and internationally. As well, the industry association offers an array of business services including helping current Kentucky-based facilities gain ISO and AS certification, connecting members with potential suppliers and customers and building legislative awareness.

“Make no mistake, Kentucky has the pieces it needs to make waves nationally and globally. We have the capability to be the central location for the testing and development of autonomous vehicles and become a center of engineering and manufacturing excellence,” Ditto said. 

To meet Gov. Matt Bevin’s target—to establish Kentucky as the nation’s hub of excellence in engineering and manufacturing—KY has put in place tremendous resources. Those include numerous workforce development efforts, such as the Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME) and Registered Apprenticeship programs, which give students classroom education and work experience at established manufacturers.

“Workforce development, at the end of the day, is the backbone of everything. We must, in the 21st century, make sure we equip Kentuckians with the training they need to work the jobs that exist,” Gov. Bevin said. 

Many of the new efforts put businesses—including numerous aerospace-related companies—at the center. They make companies active, committed partners in improving education and training programs. That is creating the custom-trained employees businesses need while providing rewarding careers for KY. 

Gov. Bevin simultaneously urged collaborations that maximize efforts of government agencies and access to services, including a network of Kentucky Career Centers, career and technical education resources, as well as primary, secondary and postsecondary education institutions. Kentucky’s workforce development initiatives include:

  • Kentucky’s Work Ready Skills Initiative, a $211 million-plus public/private investment to upgrade 40 training facilities statewide, increase enrollment and train workers for careers in five, high-demand sectors: advanced manufacturing (which includes aerospace, aviation and defense), healthcare, IT/business services, construction trades and transportation/logistics. 
  • Dual Credit and Work Ready Kentucky Scholarships expand training and educational support for high school students and early/mid-career workers. 
  • The state also continues expanding KY FAME. Through partnerships with 225 manufacturing-related companies and Kentucky Community and Technical Colleges, KY FAME offers students an apprentice-style education-and-training program. Sponsoring employers pay students to split each week between the classroom and the production floor. After five semesters, students earn an associate degree as an advanced manufacturing technician (AMT) to diagnose, repair and maintain factory systems. KY FAME recently added its 10th and 11th regional chapters. 
  • Aerospace companies sponsoring KY FAME students include GE Aviation’s Engine Division, a 541 employee facility producing aircraft engines, turbines, blades and vanes in the West Kentucky City of Madisonville; Zotefoams, a 46-employee provider of block and plastic foams in Northern Kentucky; and Whitworth Tool and Die Inc., a 190-employee operation in Hardinsburg, KY that provides components for the aerospace, defense, automotive and other industries.
  • Kentucky’s Registered Apprenticeship programs have expanded during the past three years to 206 with total engagement from 259 companies. Those account for 3,400 active apprentices.

A new daily nonstop flight starting this spring between Louisville and Los Angeles will serve West Coast and Asian businesses. Using a 12-month funding backstop agreement, a consortium of business, civic and government leaders helped attract the commitment from American Airlines.

Kentucky last year was among the first states to receive and announce federal Opportunity Zones. With 144 zones in 84 counties spanning rural, suburban and urban areas, small towns and its largest metros, Kentucky offers investors significant federal tax benefits for investing long-term in a variety of economic development projects.

With their Product Development Initiative, state leaders and the Kentucky Association of Economic Development will help communities identify and prepare A+ industrial sites and buildings over the coming three years. The program will replenish the state’s inventory of competitive greenfield sites and buildings following multiple years of highly successful economic development.

The results have been impressive: last year, Kentucky attracted 10 aerospace-related projects—one new facility and nine expansions of existing operations. As announced, those projects will bring $24 million in new investment and 139 new full-time jobs over the coming years. And across the past three years, Kentucky announced 30 aerospace-related projects promising to bring more than 1,100 new, full-time jobs and $1.54 billion in investment.