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Highlighting aerospace, state’s fastest-growing sector

Last week, the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber hosted the annual State of the Aerospace Industry highlighting the important role of aerospace and aviation in our regional economy. Leaders from Tinker Air Force Base, private firm Pratt & Whitney and the Oklahoma Legislature shared their perspective on what makes Oklahoma City a great place for aerospace growth.

The chamber’s impact report noted Tinker Air Force Base is the largest single-site employer in the state of Oklahoma, with a workforce of more than 26,000. Lt. Gen. Stacey T. Hawkins, commander of the U.S. Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker, shared the impact of the center both here in Oklahoma and globally. The center manages and repairs U.S. Air Force engines and is the primary maintenance center for bombers and tankers. It is key to supporting and preserving the readiness and long-range strike capabilities of our U.S. Air Force. The base contributes more than $3 billion to the local economy annually and is the cornerstone of the local industry.

Oklahoma City is also home to 290 private sector firms and 43,250 workers. In the past five years, that number has seen a 23% increase. Top private sector employers include Boeing, Pratt & Whitney, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.

Andre McMillan, of Pratt & Whitney, praised the strength of Oklahoma City’s public private partnerships. He noted this was especially evident during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Pratt & Whitney was able to maintain production continuity here far beyond what they saw in other locations. Our city leaders are dedicated to ensuring that Oklahoma City is an attractive and supportive environment for the aerospace industry.

Without a well-trained workforce, this continued growth wouldn’t be possible. Educational programs supporting the aerospace industry are located across the metro. Our state’s two research institutions offer programs in aviation, aerospace and engineering fields at every level. Several technology centers in OKC have career training programs. Rose State College’s Oklahoma Center for Workforce Excellence for Aerospace and Cybersecurity’s proximity to Tinker is an important asset.

As the fastest-growing sector in Oklahoma City, aerospace is a top employer and economic driver in our community. I am thankful for our municipal leaders and higher education institutions who ensure an environment that is conducive to doing business and a strong talent pipeline to sustain and buoy the industry.

Kenton Tsoodle is the president of The Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City.


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