Commentary: Washington a world leader in aviation, aerospace

That’s the message a delegation is taking to the Paris Air Show; and it’s an easy case to make.

  • Sunday, June 16, 2019 1:30am
  • Opinion

By Rick Larsen and Lisa Brown

For The Herald

The aviation and aerospace industries are economic engines in the Pacific Northwest. As these industries grow and evolve, Washington state will continue to lead in innovation and development.

Washington state’s aerospace and aviation workforce develop and build world-class aircraft, unmanned systems and commercial space vehicles. According to the state Department of Commerce, the state’s 136,100 highly-skilled workers produce 1,400 aircraft and unmanned aerial systems annually, manufacturing nearly 90 percent of all commercial aircraft in the United States. The 2019 update to the independent Teal Group Aerospace Competitive Economics Study state-by-state rankings again places Washington head and shoulders above all for manufacturing.

This week, Washington state officials will lead a delegation of Washington aviation and aerospace companies at the Paris Air Show with a simple message for attendees: Choose Washington!

Here’s why:

Washington state is home to two world-class universities, a national research laboratory and groundbreaking research and development teams who drive pioneering aviation and aerospace innovations in the state.

Washington has a robust aerospace workforce that leads the world in aerospace manufacturing. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Washington employs aerospace engineers at 5.7 times the national average and has the highest density of aerospace engineers in the country.

Washington’s aviation and aerospace industry has been supported by industry pioneers and a growing supply chain for over a century. For instance, the hardworking women and men at Boeing have produced tens of thousands of aircraft from its state factories. In addition, Washington is home to global leaders in traditional aviation and the dynamic commercial space industry.

More than three-dozen space-related companies are part of Washington’s evolving space cluster, including Blue Origin, SpaceX, Spaceflight Industries and many others. These companies and others in the commercial space transportation industry are creating new markets in the space industry for satellite services, space research — and one day — personal spaceflight.

Further, Washington’s leaders understand the importance of aerospace industry, and champion state and federal funding for programs that support and enhance the aviation and aerospace industry.

One major federal investment Rep. Larsen helped author was the bipartisan Federal Aviation Administration authorization. In addition to raising the bar on aviation safety, the legislation helps prepare and diversify the aviation workforce, increase the global competitiveness of U.S. aerospace manufacturers and pave the way for advanced drone operations in U.S. airspace.

The state Department of Commerce continues to aggressively seek out and support opportunities to strengthen and grow the aerospace sector through local and international business and investment attraction. The first half of this year yielded 17 successful recruitment and expansion projects, representing more than $148 million in capital expenditures and more than 1,000 new jobs, with another 66 projects in the pipeline.

Washington has also invested in the next generation of skilled aviation employees through its workforce development programs. Community colleges across the state are working with industry leaders to offer dedicated aerospace programs, like Everett Community College’s Advanced Manufacturing Training and Education Center. This initiative creates an important pipeline from training to employment, ensuring employers have access to a highly-skilled manufacturing workforce.

As public officials, we will continue to lead state and federal efforts to invest in the aviation and aerospace industries to support Washington’s employers and workers. Without this talented workforce, the technological advances happening in Washington would not be possible.

Aviation and aerospace are woven into the fabric of Washington state. At the Paris Air Show, we will share a simple message with manufacturers, suppliers and service providers: There is no better place in the world to build the future of aviation and aerospace.

U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, Democrat, represents Washington’s 2nd Congressional District. Lisa Brown is the Washington state Commerce director.

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