Oklahoma City recently celebrated one of the largest real estate transactions in the city’s history.
In January, the Boeing Oklahoma City campus was purchased by California investment group OKC Aerospace 1, LLC, for $124,735,000. The 33.25-acre (13.5-hectare) campus consists of three office buildings which were developed by Gardner Tanenbaum Holdings (GTH) specifically for Boeing in 2007, 2011 and 2012. The campus is located just west of Tinker Air Force Base, just southeast of downtown Oklahoma City’s central business district.
“GTH has developed more than 1 million square feet of aerospace real estate in Oklahoma,” said Richard Tanenbaum, CEO of GTH. “I continue to anticipate a bright horizon for the Oklahoma aerospace industry. Substantial investments from the West Coast, such as this transaction, show that the nation is taking notice of the aerospace industry’s dynamic growth in our state.”
More than 3,155 Boeing employees and contractors work on the campus with Tinker Air Force Base personnel performing support and modernization programs for U.S. defense aircraft. While Boeing is headquartered in Chicago, the Oklahoma City campus is the company’s fastest growing site in the United States and has been for the past five years. In May, Boeing was awarded a $14.3 billion contract to modify, modernize and test weapons systems on B-1 and B-52 bombers. Much of the work involved in the contract will take place in Oklahoma City.
The city’s already robust aerospace sector boasts 36,600 aerospace workers and more than 230 aerospace firms in the region. Large aerospace companies with operations in Oklahoma City include Lockheed Martin Aircraft, Northrop Grumman, General Electric Aviation and more.
Recent investments in the city include:
Pratt & Whitney announced it would make a multimillion-dollar investment to upgrade its operations at the Air Logistics Center based at Tinker Air Force Base. The investment will create more than 100 new jobs across the company’s six OKC metro locations.
SkyWest Airlines opened a new 135,000-sq.-ft. (12,542-sq.-m.) maintenance hangar at Will Rogers World Airport and will create approximately 100 new, high-paying jobs. The facility will accommodate up to nine regional aircraft and support maintenance for the company’s major airline partners including Delta Airlines, United Airlines, American Airlines and Alaska Airlines.
Valkyrie Systems Aerospace was awarded a 21st Century Quality Jobs Program Incentive that will help the company create 352 new high-paying jobs within five years.
Louisiana: Helicopters Take Off
In 2019, Louisiana secured more than 80 projects representing more than $8 billion in new capital investment, according to Louisiana Economic Development’s 2019 LED Annual Report. The report indicates more than 12,300 new jobs were created as a result, with 15,500 jobs retained. Several of these projects and investments were made in the state’s aerospace sector.
Advanced Aero Services (AAS) announced in January it would launch an aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility at the Shreveport Regional Airport. The facility will serve commercial airline customers at an existing hangar on the airport property. By 2021, AAS will create 60 new direct jobs with an average annual salary of $49,600, plus benefits. Louisiana Economic Development estimates the project’s initial phase will result in 77 new indirect jobs, for a total of 137 new jobs in Northwest Louisiana.
“Aerospace represents one of Louisiana’s key industries today, and an important sector for growing Louisiana’s economy in the future,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said. “In Shreveport, we have substantial assets that include the Entrepreneurial Accelerator Program and its assistance to AAS in finance and capacity building, and Southern University at Shreveport’s Airframe and Powerplant Maintenance Program to provide workforce talent. Here at the intersection of one of Louisiana’s greatest aerospace assets — Barksdale Air Force Base — and our emerging I-20 Cyber Corridor, we welcome AAS and its vision to create a center of excellence in aviation service.”
After establishing operations over the next two years, AAS plans to secure financing for a narrow-body MRO hangar that will open the path to further growth. With that facility in place and business objectives met, AAS would grow to as many as 500 jobs by 2024 and 1,000 jobs later in the decade. At 1,000 jobs, the Advanced Aero Services operations would support an additional 1,280 new indirect jobs, for a total of 2,280 new jobs in Northwest Louisiana.
Swiss helicopter manufacturer Kopter Group AG selected Lafayette for an assembly site for its SH09 helicopters. Kopter says its SH09 helicopter will be among the most competitive helicopters in its class with technological innovation including composite airframe parts, state-of-the-art avionics, enhanced safety features and the ability to carry up to eight passengers and a payload of 6,600 pounds. The helicopters were designed to suit a variety of missions including medical evacuations; surveillance and law enforcement; passenger transport and sightseeing; aerial work; and utility missions.
The company will create 120 new direct jobs with an annual salary of more than $55,000 at the manufacturing site located at the Lafayette Regional Airport. The company’s $4.2 million capital investment will modify an 84,700-sq.-ft. (7,870-sq.-m.) helicopter assembly building.
“Kopter Group chose the Lafayette site for several reasons,” said Andreas Löwenstein, CEO of Kopter Group AG. “First, because of Louisiana, which is a rapidly growing and attractive region, already hosting several key helicopter operators and many industrial players. Second, for the easy access to a qualified workforce and a high-quality educational environment. And third, for the facility itself, which meets the highest standards and allows almost instant operations. Its location on the airport provides an ideal operational environment, with quick and easy logistics and commercial access.”
LED estimates the project will result in an additional 157 new indirect jobs for a total of more than 275 new jobs in Acadiana and surrounding regions. Kopter expects formal helicopter assembly activity and deliveries to begin in 2021 with an annual production volume of 100 helicopters by 2025.
Arkansas and Texas: Longtime Companies Reaching New Heights
Aerojet Rocketdyne has had a presence in Arkansas since 1979. This spring, the company will open its latest expansion in Camden.
The 17,000 sq.-ft. (1,580-sq.-m.) Engineering, Manufacturing and Development (EMD) facility will expand the company’s rocket motor production capability and was specifically designed to serve as the developmental gateway to future Aerojet Rocketdyne large solid rocket motor product opportunities. The company’s 800 employees manufacture 75,000 solid rocket motors annually for programs that include tactical missiles and missile defense. Over the next few years the company expects to increase its workforce to 900.
Another longtime Arkansas aerospace company, Radius Aerospace, has recently expanded in Hot Springs. The company, formerly a Triumph Group Division, has roots in Hot Springs dating back to the 1960s.
The Hot Springs facility is a technology leader in super plastic forming of titanium and has experienced a significant increase in demand from the commercial and military aerospace industry. Radius Aerospace produces complex fabricated metallic assemblies and components used in the military, commercial, business jet, regional jet, general aviation and helicopter markets. The facility currently employs 385 people, and Radius plans to hire 65 new employees to support the expansion.
Just across the state line in North Texas, Raytheon is expanding its Space and Airborne Systems headquarters. The McKinney, Texas, facility will support 500 new high-tech jobs. Construction of the 200,000-sq.-ft. (18,580-sq.-m.) facility will be completed in 2020.
The announcement comes on the heels of research from the University of North Texas Economic Research Group, which found Raytheon’s business operations in North Texas contribute $4.8 billion to the Texas economy. In 2018, Raytheon directly employed more than 8,000 Texans. Supply chain activity and employee spending supported an additional 10,000 jobs throughout the state.
Savannah King is managing editor of custom content for Conway Inc. She is an award-winning journalist and previously wrote for The Times in Gainesville, Ga. She graduated from the University of West Florida with a degree in Broadcast Journalism and lives near Atlanta.