GRAND FORKS, N.D. – U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp, a member of the Congressional General Aviation Caucus, spoke with local business leaders, educators, and students about how general aviation in North Dakota has helped enable much of the economic and population growth in the state, created good jobs, boosted economic development in communities, and led to innovative research and development.
Speaking at the General Aviation Manufacturers Association Jobs Rally, Heitkamp specifically highlighted the need for North Dakota to focus on and invest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education. She reinforced that such investments will help North Dakota students build strong, innovative careers and the state’s growing general aviation industry. According to a 2010 North Dakota Aeronautics Commission study, the state’s general aviation industry produces nearly $132 million annually in total economic output.
“We can see the aviation growth in North Dakota across the state – from the expansion of our airports to the research and development at UND and the Grand Forks Air Force Base to the economic growth in our communities. But there’s still more work to do,” said Heitkamp. “We need to keep up investments in math, science, and technology education so our students are the ones to harness many of these good jobs. By working together, we can help our students get involved in fields that will help them grow, innovate, and succeed, and help enable North Dakota’s economy and aviation industry to continue to expand.”
In April, Heitkamp brought the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration Michael Huerta to North Dakota to see firsthand the aviation infrastructure challenges facing the state. After announcing that the Grand Forks-based Northern Plains Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Test Site was the first in the nation to be up and running, Heitkamp brought Huerta to Williston to see firsthand these infrastructure challenges – including the immense airport infrastructure needs as a result of the drastic rise in passenger enplanements in western North Dakota and throughout the state.
Since Huerta’s visit, Heitkamp has announced approximately $35 million in federal funding to make needed improvements and upgrades at airports throughout North Dakota, including nearly $5 million for Grand Forks International Airport.