Local aviation leaders discuss Oklahoma City’s future as an aerospace hub

Published: Friday, December 18, 2020 By: Marcus Elwell Source: VeloCity

Top executives from the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, Kratos and Skydweller recently participated in a webinar to discuss why Oklahoma City has been successful as an aerospace hub. The webinar was put on by the UAS Cluster Initiative to further their goal of strengthening the UAS (unmanned aircraft systems) industry in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma City is home to 236 aerospace companies that employ 36,600 workers and creates nearly $5 billion in goods and services.

According to Jeff Seymour, executive vice president of economic development for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, about 66% of work done in the region centers around maintenance, repair and overhaul operations but that is changing.

“We are very proud of the growth we’ve seen in the aerospace sector,” said Seymour. “Traditional most of our strength has been centered on maintenance, repair and overhaul but that is diversifying as more companies are bringing manufacturing capabilities to our region.”

Michelle Coppedge, executive director of the Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, was also quick to point on how rapidly the aerospace industry is changing.

“We are at a pivotal point with change in aerospace,” said Coppedge. “It is rapidly evolving before our eyes. The very definition of aerospace is being challenged right now.”

Coppedge used the FAA’s approval of Amazon delivery drones, NASA’s recent announcement of research into flying taxis and the creation of the new Space Task Force to highlight just how much the industry is evolving.

The role of the FAA is to integrate all those future users seamlessly into the national air space system. It is a massive undertaking and a lot of that works happens in Oklahoma City.

The Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center is the largest FAA center in the country outside of Washington D.C. Even some residents might not truly understand the center’s scope and impact on the local economy.

The center encompasses 138 buildings spread across 110 acres and 3.3-million-square feet of industrial, lab, classroom and administrative space. It is the second-largest employer in Oklahoma City with around 6,300 employees and an operating budget of more than $1 billion annually.

How did the center’s presence grow to be so big in Oklahoma City?

“We have a very strong talent pool in the state and there are excellent resource pipelines through multiple universities to grow more talent,” said Coppedge. “We also have had great community support.”

Coppedge also said the affordable cost structure in Oklahoma is a huge

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