Experts: Aerospace is booming in OklahomaPublished: Friday, December 11, 2020 By: Janice Francis-Smith Source: The Journal Record
This is the most exciting time in history for the aerospace industry in Oklahoma, according to a panel of experts who spoke during the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber’s State of the Aerospace Industry online event held Thursday.
Oklahoma City is home to two nationally prominent facilities where the technologies of tomorrow are being developed: Tinker Air Force Base and the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center.
“I think this is the most exciting time in the aerospace business in our history,” said FAA Administrator Steve Dickson. “I would say the sky’s the limit for opportunities, but that’s actually not true anymore – it’s actually outer space.”
A number of commercial aviation companies are developing the kind of suborbital and urban air mobility systems that just a short while ago were exclusively available to world governments, and they are developing that technology at the MMAC, Dickson said.
“We may have 40 licensed commercial FAA launches this year,” Dickson said. “I mean that’s just unbelievable. We’ve set two records this year for doing more than one launch in a single day – that had only happened twice in the first 35 years of the commercial space division’s history.”
The MMAC currently has $2 billion in assets and adds about $1.65 billion each year to the surrounding communities, Dickson said. With a workforce of 6,300, the MMAC is the state’s fourth-largest employer.
Demand for skilled workers continues to grow at a brisk pace, said Brig. Gen. Jeffrey R. King, commander of the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex at Tinker Air Force Base. With more than 10,000 employees on-site, the base is the state’s largest single-site employer. And more workers are actively being recruited to support the fulfillment of contacts underway.
“We’re really going to need a lot more engineering support,” King said. “As it is now, I think we actually could hire more engineers every year than our universities actually produce, and that workload is actually growing by potentially 1,000 or 1,500 over the next several years. We know with the B-21 alone we’re probably going to need another 250 engineers, primarily electrical and software engineers. We’re just a huge consumer of the STEM workforce. I can’t emphasize enough how important our vo-techs are for providing those skilled technicians to be able to come in.”
Tinker’s relationship with the surrounding community is the envy of the rest of the nation, King said.
“The gift of those the GM plant and the railyard really enabled thousands of permanent high-paying jobs here on the installation, and that’s good for the base, good for the community, and good for the state,”