Aviation and Aerospace, One of Oklahoma's Top Economic Engines

NORMAN, OK – The aviation and aerospace industry is the second largest economic engine in Oklahoma. Airports, off-airport aviation and aerospace businesses, and military aviation produce almost $44 billion in annual economic activity," according to Grayson Ardies, manager of the airport development division of the Oklahoma Aeronautics Commission. Ardies made these remarks in a presentation to the Norman Chamber of Commerce Aviation/Transportation Committee regarding an economic impact study of aviation and aerospace recently completed for the Aeronautics Commission.

Aviation and aerospace supports 206,000 jobs and an $11.7 billion payroll. Military aviation accounts for the largest part of the total economic activity, yielding $19.3 billion. The over 870 off-airport aviation and aerospace businesses are responsible for $13.9 billion. The 4 commercial airports, 105 general aviation airports, and almost 450 aviation businesses on these airports in the Oklahoma Airport System account for $10.6 billion of the total economic activity. These were all highlights in the study addressed by Ardies in his remarks.

The news was equally good for the OU Max Westheimer Airport in Norman. “We knew Westheimer had a sizeable impact on the Norman area, but were very glad to see that the total annual economic activity generated by the airport was north of $37 million with General Aviation visitor spending responsible for a big piece of that activity at $13.8 million annually,” said Walt Strong, Director for the Max Westheimer Airport. 

“We have a great aviation heritage to build upon in Oklahoma. Our pro-growth policies and actions have helped to ensure the growth and viability of aviation and aerospace. The tax credits provided to engineers that go to work in aerospace and to the businesses that hire them have had the very results we wanted when these were enacted. These credits have resulted in more engineers going to work in aerospace at Tinker, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and the FAA Monroney Center, and employers like Boeing moving engineering operations and the jobs that go with them here. Oklahoma is recognized as one of the seven centers in the world for the maintenance, repair and overhaul of aircraft. Exempting all aircraft repair work from the sales tax provided companies like AAR and hundreds of smaller businesses across the state a competitive advantage. These policies have worked and we must continue them to ensure the viability of this most important economic engine in our state," said Scott Martin, president of the Norman Chamber of Commerce. 

“We are fortunate to have Westheimer in our community.  The services it provides and the jobs it creates an important part of our economy.  In fact it is the continuation of our pro-growth aviation policies and a strong workforce in the Norman area that make us hopeful we can continue to attract aviation businesses to the large tracts of developable land at Westheimer,” Martin continued.  Highlighting the need for a strong workforce, Ardies was shadowed by two pre-engineering students from Francis Tuttle Technology Center as part of Governor Fallin’s Oklahoma Works Career Exposure Week.  These students were able to see Westheimer Airport during the event and get exposure to the various career opportunities in Oklahoma’s aviation and aerospace sector.  “We hope that these young students continue their engineering paths in their educational experiences and that they will join Oklahoma’s aviation and aerospace workforce upon graduation,” said Ardies.

(Cutline; pictured left to right, Walt Strong, pre-engineering students, Grayson Ardies)