New Report Provides Roadmap to Grow Oklahoma's Aerospace Industry

Published: Monday, September 28, 2009 7:00 am By: State News Service

The following information was released by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce:

Protecting and enhancing Oklahoma's current aerospace industry and providing new opportunities to increase competitiveness are the focus of a new strategic report recently released by Oklahoma Aerospace Industry Partners. The report identifies Oklahoma's strengths in the industry and areas where it has potential to expand and create new quality jobs for the future.

"This report provides the public and private sector a coordinated, complementary roadmap for maintaining and growing Oklahoma's aerospace industry," said Oklahoma Secretary of Commerce and Tourism Natalie Shirley.

The project objective was to produce a plan with broad support and immediate implementation, providing project sponsors and the State of Oklahoma with tools to sustain efforts related to the aerospace industry. Sponsors of the project include the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, Tulsa Metro Chamber, Ardmore Development Authority, and the Ponca City Development Authority.

The report catalogues the state's aerospace assets, including federal government installations such as Tinker Air Force Base and the FAA Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center; major private sector companies such as American Airlines, NORDAM, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and Spirit Aerosystems; university research capabilities; CareerTech training; testing and training facilities in a variety of aerospace applications; and progressive incentive packages designed for aerospace business expansion and attraction.

"With the aerospace/aviation industry sector being one of the largest employers in the Tulsa region and with its significant economic impact on the state of Oklahoma, it was critical to implement a statewide strategy for recruitment, retention and growth of this dynamic economic engine," said Tulsa Metro Chamber President and CEO Mike Neal.

Oklahoma's military sector is a strong focus of the report, with emphasis on maintaining Tinker Air Force Base as one of the primary centers for aerospace excellence and innovation and expanding the number and size of contractors and subcontractors that serve Tinker. Recent state legislation that offers incentives to prime contractors who subcontract work in Oklahoma is an important step in growing this segment of Oklahoma's economy.

"Aerospace and defense are essential industries in Oklahoma," said Roy Williams, president and CEO of the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. "Different parts of the state have had various strategies in this arena, but what we have really been missing is a statewide aerospace strategy that will take us to the next level. With the Federal Aviation Administration and Tinker Air Force Base both located here, along with so many other large and small aerospace and defense companies, we need to continuously be looking for opportunities to help them grow and be successful."

Recognizing the state's challenges that can prohibit growth and competitiveness, the plan calls for aggressive investment in industry research and commercialization as well as increased science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.

"Workforce is a driving factor for this industry," explains Robert Conner, executive director of the Oklahoma Aerospace Institute. "With an aging workforce, maintaining a healthy pipeline of qualified technicians and engineers for the future will be essential. This plan offers an aggressive action plan for growing jobs in the near term and developing the pipeline of knowledge-based workers to sustain the industry for decades to come."

Testing and training facilities in a variety of aerospace applications such as the Lawton unoccupied aerial systems testing facility, sensor testing and evaluation at Oklahoma State University's University Multispectral Laboratories in Ponca City and research and development of advanced systems at the University of Oklahoma offer Oklahoma significant opportunities to expand its reach in new aerospace initiatives beyond the existing strong maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) activities.

Ardmore Development Authority President Wes Stucky said a critical component of the plan calls for the creation of a statewide TeamAero Oklahoma to market and promote the state globally.

"It's not enough to take these progressive actions to ensure a robust aerospace industry for the state," said Stucky. "We have to make every Oklahoman, every potential business or customer, and the entire global aerospace industry aware of what Oklahoma has to offer."

Vic Bird, director of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, said the completion of the study is only a first step in taking the Oklahoma aerospace industry to the next level.

"The aerospace industry has been a cornerstone of Oklahoma's economy for decades," said Bird, noting that Oklahoma is recognized as one the seven centers in the world for the MRO of aircraft. "It accounts for more than 143,000 direct and indirect jobs with an average wage of nearly $55,000, almost double the state's average. It is incumbent upon the Oklahoma Aerospace Industry Partners to implement strategies today that will ensure the industry thrives for future generations."

The full report is available for download on the Oklahoma Department of Commerce website at

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