Lawmaker pushing for panel to build local aerospace ties

An aerospace panel would target boosting the aerospace and technology industries in Ohio under a local state lawmaker’s bill.

The aerospace and defense industry is big business in Ohio with more than 130,000 workers and 1,200 suppliers, but Rep. Rick Perales, said the state can and should do more. He sponsored the legislation introduced this week.

“This industry, this opportunity deserves so much more … given where the technology is in the state of Ohio,” said Perales, R-Beavercreek. The bill also would call on the panel to strategize how best to prepare for a possible round of military base realignment and closures.

The 13-member Aerospace and Technology Study Committee would have six legislators, three from the House and three from the Senate, and seven members from industry, academia and the military to represent each geographic region of Ohio.

Michael L. Heil, president and CEO of the Ohio Aerospace Institute, said the emphasis on aerospace would benefit the industry’s outlook in the state.

“People know we know how to make things, but I think we have stiff competition, particularly from the southeast states,” he said.

Ohio needs aircraft and satellite assembly factories to add to a strong base of suppliers, he said. “There’s a perception out there that we have to overcome to show that we are pro-development, pro-business,” he said.

Maurice “Mo” McDonald, Dayton Development Coalition executive vice president for aerospace and defense, said the panel could “rally the entire state” to focus on aerospace and technology.

The Dayton-Cincinnati region has ranked at the top of aerospace product and aviation parts producers in the nation, and Ohio companies were the No. 1 U.S. suppliers to Airbus and Boeing, the Ohio Aerospace and Aviation Council reported.

The Dayton area has more than 15,000 workers in the aerospace industry and supplier ranks, according to Dayton Development Coalition figures, which separately counted about 27,300 federal and 12,800 defense contractor employees.

More than $9 billion a year is invested in aerospace research and development in Ohio. GE Aviation, the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and NASA’s Glenn Research Center were the major players, the council reported.

Communities and the state need to start sooner and more aggressively to deal with BRAC, Perales said. The Pentagon has asked for a round of base closures in 2015 and 2017, but Congress, thus far, hasn’t agreed.

In the 2005 BRAC round, Wright-Patterson gained about 1,200 jobs and new missions with the Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, the 711th Human Performance Wing, and sensors work. “In 2005, we had the BRAC and quite frankly everyone was thrilled because we won 1,200 jobs,” said Perales, a retired Air Force officer who was stationed at the base. “I wasn’t. I thought we could do better.”