Local aviation leaders discuss Oklahoma City’s future as an aerospace hubPublished: Friday, December 18, 2020 By: Marcus Elwell Source: VeloCity
President of Kratos Unmanned Systems Divisions Steve Fendley echoed Coppedge’s sentiments.
“The reason we’ve been so successful here is the support and trusted relationships from the federal, state and city level. The focus on the state, at large, on aerospace growth has been huge in what we are doing,” said Fendley. “We don’t have to reach out. All of those that supported us coming to Oklahoma City reach out daily and see how they can help what we do. It was a fantastic decision to begin with and that has been reinforced daily.”
Like Coppedge, Fendley also pointed to the local talent pool and affordable cost structure as reasons they located in Oklahoma City.
Kratos manufactures high-performance, low-cost jet aerial systems and first expanded to Oklahoma City a couple of years back. In just a short time, the company has expanded its size by 50% and added a second production line. They build complete aircraft systems in their Oklahoma City operations and they plan to add more than 350 workers over the next five years.
One of Kratos’ initial reservations about locating in Oklahoma City has quickly been put to rest.
“Our home base is California and one of our main concerns was if we could get any of the key people to transition from California to Oklahoma,” said Fendley. “Let me tell you it has been easy. We have people daily asking us if they can transition (to Oklahoma City).”
Robert Miller, CEO of aviation startup Skydweller, emphasized how critical that support is for a company just beginning to get off the ground.
“Governor Stitt has continually reached out to ask how they can help,” said Miller. “That is so important for a startup. The Department of Commerce and Greater Oklahoma City Chamber have also been fantastic in helping us stand up our business here. It is that culture of the can do.”
Skydweller is a next-generation aerospace company that is developing a perpetual endurance unnamed aircraft. In June, they announced Oklahoma City as its U.S. corporate headquarters.
“We are trying to do things that nobody has ever done before and that is exciting,” said Miller. “We are bringing jobs but not just any kind of jobs. These are cutting edge and people will be working on an aviation first.”
Miller invoked Oklahoma’s historical connection to the aviation industry.
“Going back to Wiley Post, Oklahomans have been involved with aviation since the very beginning and we hope to continue that tradition,” said Miller.