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Aerospace industry vital here (Op-Ed)
February 11, 2011
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  • By Senator Sherrod Brown

    February 10, 2011

    From the Wright Brothers to John Glenn and Neil Armstrong, Ohioans have long propelled the American aerospace industry to great heights.

    Ohio’s storied aviation history and legacy of innovation form the launch pad for American aerospace engineering success (“Aerospace business is big for Ohio,” Jan. 30).

    In 1925, Lunken Airport in Cincinnati was the largest municipal airfield in the world. While commercial airlines no longer use this facility, many of Southwest Ohio’s leading businesses still do for general aviation needs.

    Ohio is the ninth largest state in terms of general aviation economic contribution – totaling more than $5.5 billion in communities like Cincinnati and around the state. The Ohio Aerospace Institute estimates that more than 1,200 Ohio companies support more than 120,000 Ohio jobs across the aerospace industry.

    We can build on Ohio’s strong legacy of creating partnerships that encourage innovation and economic growth. The tools are already here. But as The Enquirer reports, Ohio needs a coordinated strategy to bolster the industry and guard against international competition.

    How do we accomplish this?

    First, we must ensure competition in the industry. Every two seconds, a GE engine lifts a plane into the air. Manufacturers, like GE Aviation in Evendale, do more than build engines like the Joint Strike Fighter F136 competitive engine. The development of this new technology saves taxpayer dollars and bolsters national security. This kind of innovation is vital to our state and our nation’s economic health and competitiveness. That’s why I will continue to fight to ensure that GE Aviation’s F136 competitive engine remains in development.

    Second, we must bolster the breadth and reach of the domestic supply chain. By building a network of suppliers in Ohio, we can attract new investment in our state. Though it’s true that Ohio has always focused on large-scale manufacturing, many Ohio manufactures have prospered by producing the nuts and bolts necessary to build aircraft. Ohio is already home to companies that are part of the Boeing supply chain; employing more than 600 workers and creating more than $4.8 billion in revenue for our state.

    In order to build on this success and connect more Ohio suppliers with the aerospace industry, my office continues to help build Ohio’s aerospace supply chain by connecting manufacturers with aerospace contract opportunities. For example, Airbus was looking to do more business in Ohio, so my office hosted a series of procurement seminars connecting about 250 Ohio companies with resources on how they can do business with Airbus – and now our state ranks first in Airbus procurement spending in the country. Companies like Airbus and Boeing buy countless components from Ohio companies and export them around the world.

    Finally, we must ensure that our regional workforce has the specialized skill sets to attract more jobs and investment in the aerospace industry. I’ve introduced the bipartisan Strengthening Employment Clusters to Organize Regional Success (SECTORS Act), which would support the development of specialized workforce training programs at two-year colleges – like Cincinnati State – to meet the regional workforce needs of emerging industries. SECTORS would empower local communities to address the troubling disparity between high unemployment rates and a shortage of skilled workers for many emerging industries, including the aerospace industry. By partnering educational institutions with high-growth industries – like the recently-announced partnership between University of Dayton and General Electric that will result in The Electrical Power Integrated Systems Research and Development Center (EPISCENTER) – we can further southwest Ohio’s status as a hub for innovation in the aerospace industry. When I met with GE Aviation officials to advocate for the University of Dayton as a site for EPISCENTER, the case to create this collaboration was easy to make. Our educational institutions are poised to train critical thinkers and leaders needed to expand existing fields.

    However, we can do even more.

    American success has historically thrived on the energy, innovation, and hard work of Ohioans. Public-private partnerships, regional workforce development, and an aggressive strategy to build our supply chain and promote exports will help spur a new era of Ohio innovation. In the 20th century, we sent Ohioans from Cambridge and Wapakoneta to the moon. In the 21st century, we’re laying the groundwork to send a young person from Clifton or Woodlawn to the greatest heights and beyond.