Despite what you may read on a North Carolina license plate, Ohio is the original Aerospace State. Our innovative scientists and engineers, manufacturing muscle, and talented workforce have driven our success over the last century.
From the days of the Wright Brothers designing and building the first powered aircraft in their Dayton workshop, to the first man to orbit the Earth and the first man to walk on the moon, Ohio has changed and still is changing the way the world travels in air and in space.
But the fate of aerospace has been tied to the fate of manufacturing, and manufacturing has been hit hard in recent years. As a country, we lost more than five million manufacturing jobs between 2000 and 2010. But thanks in part to the decision to restructure the auto industry, things are turning around – we’ve added half a million manufacturing jobs since 2010. And now, thanks to that bold action, our auto industry is back. All four auto companies with a major presence in Ohio are making multi-million dollar investments in our state. Our auto supply chain manufacturers are on the rebound, too.
But Ohio isn’t just an auto supply state; it’s also one of the most important aerospace supply states in the country. Ohio is an aerospace leader because we know how to design and build exceptional machinery. More than 1,200 companies support more than 120,000 jobs in Ohio’s aerospace industry.
From Dayton to Columbus to Cleveland, hundreds of Ohio suppliers provide parts and components to cutting edge aerospace machinery. There is more we can do to bolster the breadth and reach of this supply chain. That’s why I partnered with Airbus Americas to formalize a partnership between this company and Ohio suppliers, aimed at growing our state’s aerospace industry. In 2009 and 2010, I worked with the Ohio Edison Technology Centers and the Ohio Aerospace Institute to organize three procurement conferences – in Cleveland, Kettering, and Columbus — that connected more than 800 Ohio businesses and participants with opportunities to break into the Airbus supply chain. The summits were unique because they directly connected suppliers to potential contracting opportunities.
As a result of this partnership, I joined Airbus and the National Composite Center (NCC) this past January to announce the establishment of a new Ohio’s Materials Consortium for next-generation aircraft. The five-year agreement is aimed at strengthening Ohio’s aerospace industry and boosting economic development throughout the state. Airbus is working through the NCC with a consortium of Ohio aerospace suppliers, incubators, and universities to develop next-generation products for use in Airbus’ new fleet. Operating under a $1 million investment, seven Ohio businesses will receive technical and financial support for developing and demonstrating new technologies to produce high-tech component parts for Airbus. Already, our state leads the country in Airbus investments, with the company spending $4.9 billion of its $12 billion national investments right here in Ohio.
Last week, I was thrilled to bring Airbus and the NCC together again to announce a partnership that has the potential to grow these numbers even further – potentially up to 50 times that in funding – so that dozens and dozens of Ohio aerospace companies can be involved.
This investment in our state – the creation of a centralized Ohio Materials Manufacturing Technology Hub – will further strengthen the Ohio manufacturing and material supply chain for Airbus. By focusing on state-of-the art materials processing, supply chain growth, and workforce training and development, we can out-innovate and out-compete the rest of the world – and attract new investment in our state. Though it’s true that Ohio has always focused on large-scale manufacturing, many Ohio manufacturers have prospered, and will continue to enjoy success, by producing the nuts and bolts necessary to build aircraft.
Ohio’s storied aerospace history must be part of our nation’s aerospace future. In the 20th century, we sent Ohioans from Cambridge and Wapakoneta to the distant reaches of the universe. In the 21st century, we can go even farther.
Sherrod Brown is a United States Senator from Ohio.