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Market Report: Federal R&D Funding Fuels Aerospace Growth

Mark Crawford (November 2011)
(page 2 of 2)
South/Southeast Region
With exports totaling more than $585 million in 2010, the aircraft/aerospace industry represents Arkansas's top value-added export. More than 9,000 people are employed in aerospace occupations including aircraft parts and components, rocketry, air transportation services, aircraft repair and maintenance, and aircraft refurbishing. In January 2011, Aviation Repair Technologies (ART), an aircraft and component repair company, announced it would expand its facility at the Arkansas Aeroplex in Blytheville. The company will invest more than $10 million and create 300 new jobs. The Arkansas Aerospace Alliance is dedicated to growing the infrastructure in Arkansas to recruit, train, and retrain a qualified aerospace work force and to assist in recruiting, retaining and expanding aerospace companies in the state.

Alabama, home to over 280 aerospace companies, received more than $8 billion in Department of Defense prime contracts for FY 2010. Aerospace equipment and parts exports were valued at more than $423 million in 2010. The state's aerospace cluster is centered on Huntsville, where major companies include Aegis Technologies, Boeing, COLSA Corporation, Lockheed Martin, and PPG Aerospace.

Huntsville is known as "Rocket City" because of its long association with missile defense, space, as well as military aerospace programs. Prominent research centers are NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the U.S. Army's Redstone Arsenal. Huntsville is also anchored by Cummings Research Park, one of the largest research parks in the country.

During the last two decades Mobile, Alabama, has also evolved into a highly sophisticated aerospace cluster. Star Aviation, Crestview Aerospace, and Teledyne Continental maintain facilities in the area; EADS North America and Northrop Grumman both have operations in Brookley Aeroplex, a large industrial park in Mobile.

Mississippi is also well known for its R&D capabilities. A number of aerospace parks are located along the Gulf Coast. One of the most prominent is GTR Global Industrial Aerospace Park, located beside Golden Triangle Regional Airport in Columbus. It was designed to support the area's aerospace specialties, such as composites, unmanned aerial systems, and geospatial technologies.

The Columbus cluster continues to grow, thanks to Mississippi State University's aerospace engineering department, known for its advanced composite materials expertise. GE Aviation is also collaborating with the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg to develop high-performance materials.

Jackson, Mississippi's aerospace cluster has been supported by billions of dollars of federal money, especially at Stennis Space Center, NASA's testing ground for rocket propulsion. The Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS) at Mississippi State University also conducts cutting-edge research for aerospace clients. "Having these resources nearby positively impacts any business looking to do aerospace R&D in the area," indicated Roger King, director of CAVS.

Georgia's 500-plus aerospace companies participate in all aspects of aerospace. Among Georgia's major aerospace companies are Boeing, Cessna, Gulfstream, Northrop Grumman, Pratt & Whitney, Tiger, and Thrush.

Recent Georgia expansions have been undertaken by Triumph Aerostructures ($17 million) and Gulfstream, which will expand its Savannah facilities through a $500 million, seven-year plan. "In the third quarter of 2010, we booked more orders than we had in any quarter since mid-2008," said Joe Lombardo, president of Gulfstream Aerospace. "This expansion is necessary to meet the projected increase for new business-jet aircraft and related maintenance."

Additionally, through a partnership with the USAF Warner Robins Air Logistics Center, a number of Georgia companies and researchers are carrying out over $5 billion in contracted work to sustain and repair military aircraft, including the U-2, Global Hawk, and Predator.

Further south, Florida's aerospace leadership is anchored by its legacy of space launch at NASA's Kennedy Space Center and the Cape Canaveral Spaceport; today nearly 2,000 aviation and aerospace companies employ about 85,000 workers in this top-ranked sector.

The busiest cluster is in Orlando, which provides modern aerospace infrastructure, aviation-related facilities, and simulation and training centers. Lockheed Martin, the largest company in the region, works with the Department of Defense on a variety of projects. A large group of second- and third-tier suppliers supports Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Harris Corporation, and other large companies.

Lockheed Martin employs about 7,500 workers at its Orlando operations, which develop advanced combat systems and space systems, electro-optic and smart munitions systems, simulation technology, and high-performance rocketry, and also engage in global training and logistics.

And Boeing's decision to locate its new Dreamliner facility in North Charleston put South Carolina on the aerospace map in a hurry. About 4,000 employees will be hired to operate the $1.5 billion facility. Annual direct, indirect, and induced benefits from the plant have been estimated at $6 billion - a huge economic win for the state. The first 787 Dreamliner was delivered to All Nippon Airways in September 2011.

Boeing isn't the only game in town, however; other international aerospace companies include Eaton Corporation, Parker Hannifin, and TIGHITCO. In September 2011 TIGHITCO, which manufactures engineered components and integrated systems, announced it would construct a $30 million manufacturing facility in Charleston County. "The Southeast is becoming a major hub for the aerospace industry, and this new facility will give us the ability to provide better service to our customers," stated Jonathan Zucker, president of The InterTech Group, the parent company.
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