By Gov. Mary Fallin
Special to The Sun
OKLA. CITY —
In Oklahoma, the aerospace industry holds potential for job growth and investment that can lift our state’s economy to even greater heights. Aerospace already is big business in our state and we have a long and rich tradition as a leader in aviation. More than 150,000 jobs are supported by more than 500 aerospace and defense-related companies, and those companies combine to create more than $12 billion in economic activity each year.
To support that growth, we are taking steps to develop a highly skilled, highly educated workforce capable of filling technically challenging jobs. That’s why we’re emphasizing the importance of STEM — that’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math — at our high schools, colleges and career techs.
We’re also developing unique, one-of-a-kind resources that will make Oklahoma the destination in the United States for one of aerospace’s newest, most promising sectors: unmanned aerial vehicles for use by first responders in the wake of natural disasters.
To ensure we retain the aerospace jobs we already have, and to make sure we attract more, it’s important that Oklahoma has a strong presence at international hubs for business like the recent Paris Air Show, which is the world’s premier aerospace industry event, attracting more than 350,000 visitors and featuring more than 2,200 exhibitors representing 45 countries.
I was proud to lead the Oklahoma delegation to the air show. Our entire state was well represented by companies like NORDAM and Spirit AeroSystems, both based in Tulsa, Enviro Systems Inc. of Seminole, Janeway Machine Inc. of Sapulpa, Choctaw Defense in McAlester, and Vertical Aerospace in Bristow. We also met with major international aerospace companies doing business in Oklahoma like Boeing, GE Aviation, Rolls Royce, Sikorsky and Raytheon.
The air show gave us the chance to showcase Oklahoma’s unique assets to a broad international audience of high-level aerospace executives. Interacting with a global audience is important to the industry’s continued success. In 2012, Oklahoma exports accounted for more than $6.6 billion, with aerospace-related products accounting for the largest segment of the exports. Also in 2012, 13 internationally owned companies announced new and expanding investments in Oklahoma, and they are expected to add more than 1,550 jobs.
This year’s trip to the Paris Air Show already has resulted in the creation of new jobs for Oklahoma. Ferra Engineering, a leading global aerospace supplier based in Australia, announced it was expanding into Grove. That follows on the heels of 2012’s trip to the Farnborough International Air Show, where we announced Belgium-based ASCO was opening a $60 million facility in Stillwater that is expected to create at least 250 jobs. Additionally, Sikorsky Aerospace Services has announced it will open the Sikorsky Training Academy in Altus later this fall.
As you can see, Oklahoma is serious about aerospace. And that seriousness of purpose has translated into success in the industry. Whether it’s military contractors or civilian airlines, traditional aircraft or UAV’s, Oklahoma is a leading destination for aerospace.
GOV. MARY FALLIN may be reached via her website at www.ok.gov/governor/.