Since 2013, Wisconsin exports in that sector are up 30%, and aviation and aerospace parts and supplies have jumped into our top 10 list of commodities for exports.
Wisconsin’s aviation and aerospace industry is soaring like never before.
The state’s exports in the sector hit an all-time high of $475 million in 2015, and so far this year we’re eclipsing that pace by 19% — at time when the national increase in aviation/aerospace exports is less than 1%.
This isn’t just a one-year anomaly. Since 2013, Wisconsin exports in that sector are up 30%, and aviation and aerospace parts and supplies have jumped into our top 10 list of commodities for exports.
That’s great news for the state’s economy because the industry provides highly paid jobs to more than 24,000 Wisconsinites who work for 200-plus companies with ties to the aerospace sector. As is the case with exporting, the number of jobs in aerospace parts and product manufacturing in Wisconsin also has seen dramatic growth — 57% from 2001 to 2011.
That type of success does not happen by accident. Rather, it’s achieved through the joint efforts of state government, the private sector, universities, industry associations and others to develop a cohesive and strategic approach to strengthening the aviation and aerospace industry in the Badger State.
Wisconsin was the epicenter of the aviation world as more than a half-million people descended upon Oshkosh for the annual EAA AirVenture 2016. More than 10,000 aircraft of every style imaginable — from homebuilt airplanes to vintage biplanes to fighter jets — flew into Wittman Regional Airport from all over the world.
Wisconsin’s position as a leader in the industry also was solidified as Milwaukee hosted the annual meeting of the Aerospace States Association, a national bipartisan group that supports state-based aerospace initiatives. Our three days of meetings were so successful that the organization decided to hold all future annual meetings in Wisconsin — in conjunction with the EAA.
The state took another big step in that direction when the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation unveiled plans for an aviation-aerospace Center of Excellence in Milwaukee that will bring together industry and academic researchers, engineers and programmers in one location to develop and test new aerospace and cybersecurity systems. There is currently no other independent facility of this kind in the nation. That facility, expected to open within one year, is the latest demonstration of the state’s strong commitment to positioning Wisconsin as a leader in aviation and aerospace, and it’s not the first collaborative effort between the state, the private sector and our universities.
We’re also moving to institutionalize all this activity with one central hub called Wisconsin Aerospace Partners to support organizations engaged with the aerospace industry in Wisconsin. By establishing a strong network between companies, scientists and government, we can further the economic vitality of the state and its aerospace industry.
Another way in which Wisconsin’s industry leadership is demonstrated is through AeroInnovate, a nearly decade-old coalition started by the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh and the Wisconsin Entrepreneurs Network that provides assistance to innovators who are starting and growing aero-related businesses and bringing related new technologies to the marketplace. AeroInnovate, Wisconsin Aerospace Partners, and the new Center of Excellence all are part of a comprehensive strategy that will help ensure our continued success in a sector that still has so much potential in Wisconsin.
Those unique efforts to spur more innovation in aerospace and aviation, coupled with the state’s outstanding business climate, world-class university system, excellent workforce and strength in manufacturing, signal a bright future in an industry in which the sky is truly the limit.
Rebecca Kleefisch is the lieutenant governor of Wisconsin.