The South Can Build Airplanes
April 13, 2015
  • Share
  • Are Republicans and their leaders actually trying to make the movement of a World War II tank an issue in the Kokomo mayoral campaign? That is ridiculous, grasping at straws, and almost as contemptuous as information from reliable sources.

    Back to important issues. Manufacturing jobs in the United States are enjoying a renaissance of major proportions. But not every state in the U.S. is as fortunate as a certain sector of the country. Do you remember when a member of the U.S. Senate from Washington state said South Carolina could not build Boeing aircraft because there was no skilled labor pool sufficient for the task? How wrong was she? The senator’s name was Sen. Patty Murray, Washington state’s senior senator.

    Not only have South Carolinians been successful in building Boeing airplane structures, but the aerospace industry in general seems to have found a skilled workforce in many Southern states. An article in Business Aviation by William Garvey, Editor-in-Chief, pointed out the many investments the international aviation industry has recently made in the South. In 2003, Eurocopter, now Airbus Helicopters, chose Columbus, Miss., for light final assembly work for the AS350 AStar helicopter. The site selection shocked the aviation industry.

    How could the state of Mississippi possibly have enough educated people to assemble helicopters? After all, everybody knows how ignorant Mississippians are. But wait, not only did Airbus locate helicopter assembly in the state of Mississippi, they expanded the plant and are now in the process of full assembly of the UH-72 Lakota, a twin-engine aircraft at a production level of 60 per year. The plant employs about 320 with about half of them military veterans. Mississippians assembling helicopters! Sen. Patty Murray would say it is impossible.

    Airbus is located at the Golden Triangle Regional Airport and had the airport all to itself until Stark Aerospace, a division of Israel Aerospace, and Aurora Flight Sciences started operations that assemble unmanned drones. Other international aircraft industry companies are involved in recent manufacture of aircraft products. Again, according to Sen. Murray, an impossibility.

    William Garvey further pointed out that Honda Aircraft has built a beautiful facility for production of the Honda Jet, Honda’s introductory aircraft to the private jet industry. Honda’s new facility includes research, training, production, and service facilities in Greensboro, NC. Honda and General Electric have opened a joint venture jet engine plant in nearby Burlington, NC.

    Embraer, a South American jet builder, has opened a facility in Melbourne, Fla., to assemble the Phenom, a small commuter jet. Embraer has a research facility which is now enjoying a $76 million expansion to accommodate the new Legacy executive jet.

    Dassault Falcon Jet, a French jet manufacturer, is adding to an already existing facility in Little Rock, Ark. Dassault is investing $60 million to add 250,000 square feet to its completion center. The Little Rock operation is already the largest facility operated by the French manufacturer.

    The South is already home to aviation giants such as Bell Helicopters, Gulfstream Aviation, Piper, and Continental engines. But other international companies are opening or expanding facilities in the South. Hankook Rubber Company of South Korea and Continental Tire of Germany are bringing new plants on-line. Companies like Toyoda Gosei are expanding here. And all new or expanded operations are located in the Southern part of the country and these companies are basically employing Southerners.

    Many U.S. manufacturing jobs are located in the automotive industry. Ford Motor Co. has now called back all laid-off workers from the dark days of the early 2000’s. Ford employs more workers than General Motors. Ford employs around 50,700 workers and General Motors 50,300 as of Feb. 2 of this year. This is the first time Ford has more employees than General Motors since the 1930s. Chrysler is a distant third with 36,000 employees.

    Regardless of political harangues to the contrary, manufacturing is getting stronger and more competitive every day. Some have said American manufacturing employees should have a raise, and I agree. But it all comes down to what the markets will bear. If the product is priced too high, people will simply not buy. Then we start another death spiral. C’est la vie.