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Aerospace leaders highlight industry's impact on state

At an event Friday, aerospace industry officials discussed how Oklahoma is preparing for sequestration, the cutback in funding by automatic, across-the-board budget cuts mandated by government in January.
BY JENNIFER PALMER Published: September 22, 2012

Oklahoma has many assets that give the aerospace industry steady footing here, which is especially important as sequestration threatens to slash billions of dollars from the Department of Defense budget, industry leaders said Friday.

Gathered at Tinker Air Force Base, aerospace officials highlighted the economic impact of the aerospace and defense industry in Oklahoma to mark National Aerospace Week. Employing one in 11 workers, the aerospace industry is responsible for 73,000 jobs in the state, officials said.

Dave Wagie, director of aerospace and defense economic development for the state Commerce Department, pointed out three reasons why Oklahoma is poised to weather sequestration, which will automatically occur Jan. 2 with across the board cutbacks unless Congress acts. First, the recent addition of the Air Force Sustainment Center at Tinker, because if the military can't afford to buy new aircraft, the focus will be on repairing the old ones, Wagie said.

Also positioning Oklahoma well is its ability to secure more international business that diversifies the industry, Wagie said. He pointed to ASCO Industries, a Belgium-based aerospace supplier that is opening a production facility in Stillwater.

It helps that the state has emphasized the unmanned aerial systems industry, one area of the Defense Department's budget that will not be cut, he said.

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