CLEVELAND, Ohio – Ohio’s place in aviation and aerospace history is indisputable, from the Wright Brothers to the 25 astronauts who hail from the state.
Unknown to many, but perhaps just as significant, is how Ohio has used that history as a springboard to create viable aerospace and aviation industries that only a handful of states can rival.
Being on the short list of states with the largest aerospace and aviation industries is no longer good enough for Ohio. A new statewide push aims to improve Ohio’s ranking.
“There is no reason Ohio shouldn’t be at the front of that list,” said state Rep. Rick Perales, who came up with the idea for the committee spearheading this push.
The newly formed Ohio Aerospace and Aviation Technology Committee is part of the state legislature. The committee will consist of 21 members, including state senators and state representatives, but also 14 experts from the aerospace and aviation industries, academia and the military. The committee is believed to be the first-ever attempt to create a unified statewide strategy aimed at having these industries increase economic development and job growth. Until now, this had only been done at the local and regional level.
“When I got to the state house two years ago, I observed there wasn’t a state-focused effort for the aviation and aerospace industries,” said Perales, Republican of Beavercreek, near Dayton. “With our legacy and our resources: the universities, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, NASA Glenn Research Center and our extensive aerospace and aviation industries, I thought that we could do much better. We weren’t bringing our A game.” Much of Ohio’s aerospace and aviation sectors are clustered in two regions. One is here in Northeast Ohio, where NASA Glenn is a focal point. The other is in Southwest Ohio, including the Dayton area, where Wright-Patterson drives much of the activity.
In September, Perales gave an executive briefing about the committee, formed under House Bill 292, at the Ohio Aerospace Institute, located next to NASA Glenn and near Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. The OAI is a nonprofit research institute focused on growing the aerospace industry in Ohio.
Michael Heil, president and CEO of the nonprofit, believes the committee will create “a united front” that will enhance economic development and job creation.
“I have seen some measures showing that Ohio is the fifth or sixth biggest state in aerospace nationally,” he said. “I think there is a strong potential of us moving up to No. 3 or even to No. 2.
“When we hear about aerospace companies putting major investments and assembly plants in Alabama, South Carolina and other states, I think there is a real opportunity for us to get those kinds of facilities here in the State of Ohio,” Heil said.
Perales said there are two important points about the drive to make Ohio stronger in aerospace and aviation. The first is that these are growing industries. Because of steady – and often increasing demand — he believes Ohio will have little problem attracting more business, especially in the areas of wide-body jets, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and aerospace medicine, which focuses on preventing the negative impacts that air and space travel have on the body.
The second important point is the good-paying jobs aviation and aerospace can create in areas as wide-ranging as manufacturing and research and development, Perales said. Just as diverse is the range of educational requirements for the workforce needed to fill these jobs – from those holding advanced degrees to graduates of certificate programs, often requiring no more than a year of training beyond high school.
“You are going to have the aerospace engineers, but you are also going to need the welders and people on the manufacturing floor,” he said. “You are talking about the full-spectrum of jobs. Not just the $100,000-plus rocket scientists, but the $40,000 to $60,000 jobs that require certificates.”
Ohio already a leader
The aerospace and aviation industries in Ohio already employ more than 100,000 full-time workers, representing 17 percent of the total U.S. employment in those industries, Perales said.
He said on an annual basis Ohio’s aerospace and aviation industries:
•Invest $9 billion in research and development
•Do $5 billion in exports, ranking the state in the top 10 nationally
•Are a $14 billion supplier to Boeing and Airbus
“When you look at the civil aviation market alone for large-body transport jets, Ohio is the largest supplier (nationally) to Airbus and Boeing,” said Glenn Richardson, managing director of JobsOhio, the private, non-profit corporation focused on job creation.
He said the state should emphasis expanding its share of this market as well as that of Unmanned Aircraft Systems. Having the committee will help in these efforts, he said.
“Having a means to collect opinion, put together a statewide coalition to address these issues, and address them up and down the chain — from the local level all the way up to the federal level — adds an exciting aspect to what we’re trying to do.”
Focusing on a statewide strategy based on collaboration can only be a winner, say those who have seen the effectiveness of collaborative efforts on a much smaller level.
Patrick Golembiewski, founder and CEO of V2 Technology, an IT consulting firm in Northfield Center, said joining with two other companies was key to winning a five-year, $110 million contract from NASA Glenn. For the contract, V2 Technology partnered with Peerless Technologies Corp in Fairborn, Ohio and DB Consulting in Silver Spring, Maryland.
When Golembiewski heard Perales give a presentation earlier this year about the committee, and the need for Ohio to engage in a statewide push to increase the chances of winning business, he approached the state legislator after his talk.
“I went up to him, and said, ‘We did exactly that. We’re your poster child,'” he said.
Golembiewski is hoping his company will be part of the committee.
“My feeling is that you need small business representation,” he said. “From my perspective, the small businesses are more of the idea generators.”
V2 Technology now has more than 30 employees, and Golembiewski is hoping to grow the company to 300 employees in five to seven years. He said his company, as well as Ohio’s aerospace and aviation industries, can grow by embracing similar principles.
“You’re always stronger when you’re teamed-up, as opposed to having all these individual silos,” he said.
Roderick Munn, managing partner of Aerospace Enterprises, Inc. in Westlake, agrees collaboration is key to winning business. Like Golembiewski, he attended Perales’ Cleveland area briefing in September.
Munn believes the committee is an idea whose time has come. He said among the reasons companies are now more open to abandoning a separate silos philosophy to adopting one focused on joint efforts, is that technological advancements have accelerated in recent years, increasing the potential for economic opportunity. Munn said in aviation this has included the move to digital technologies and satellite-based systems.
Evolving technologies have also blurred the lines between the scientific and technical disciplines that are a basis of the aerospace and aviation industries making more people open to collaboration, Munn said.
“What we had known as physics was one thing,” he said. “Electronics was something else. Mechanics was another. Electricity was something else, etc.
The truth of the matter now is there is integration. There is consolidation going on across those heretofore silos; so that mechanics, electronics, electricity physics, etc. are becoming sides of the same thing rather than different things.
“That means we don’t have experts,” Munn said. “We don’t have individuals, who have developed great expertise in these new technologies and new approaches, because we are on the leading edge, or beginning, of new designs and development of a variety of disciplines that will impact these industries. In the end, Ohio has as much – or a better opportunity – to help lead that way, as opposed to following.”
He offered one of his father’s favorite sayings to help the committee in reaching its goals.
“There is only one way to lead, and that is to do it,”
Perales, who is chairman of the committee, is ready to get the committee started on its mission. Most of the state legislators have been named, including state Rep. Nan Baker, Republican of Westlake. He hopes to have the rest of the committee named by November.
Industry reaction to the committee has been good, so far, Perales said. For example, NASA Glenn Director James Free said his organization intends to help the committee in carrying out its mission.
“We at NASA Glenn Research Center look forward to contributing to the committee’s strategic planning efforts, and the expanded opportunities for collaborative R&D and technology transfer partnerships that will result from the committee’s emphasis on greater statewide communication and resource sharing,” Free said in an email. “The committee’s diverse membership will provide an excellent forum for developing a cohesive, statewide strategy to grow the aerospace and aviation industry and the number of new high-tech, high-wage jobs in the state.
“I congratulate Rep. Perales on his efforts to stand up this new committee,” he wrote.
Perales said, even when the committee was but an idea, he got positive feedback about it when mentioning what he wanted to do to those in the industry.
“As I went around the state, and talked to firms and organizations, like NASA, NetJets, Parker Hannifin and GE, everybody was on board,” he said.
“They felt like this type of committee was long overdue — a no brainer.”