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.
“I think we're well postured to see less of an impact than others,” he said.
Tax credit, development discussed
Other items highlighted during Friday's event include:
• The Aerospace Engineer Workforce Tax Credit, which was reinstated July 1. The credit gives aerospace companies hiring engineers a credit of up to 10 percent of the employee's salary. Harve Allen, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission, said in 2009, the first year of the program, 348 engineers claimed the credit. It cost the state $3.5 million in uncollected income tax but produced an economic impact of $270 million.
• Ongoing development on the east side of Will Rogers World Airport. Work is under way to relocate Portland Avenue and the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber is talking with large aerospace companies interested in relocating to the area, said Gary Pence, senior business development manager for the chamber.