Aerospace is taking off in Arizona

The United States and Arizona have seen significant growth in the aerospace and defense industry over the past few years.

With manufacturing coming back to the U.S. and Arizona having clear skies for most of the year, the state’s aerospace and defense industry is expected to continue major growth.

Arizona actually is ideal for aerospace,” Shauna Fantasia, president of Falcon Engineering, said. “The climate is perfect for parachute testing and there are several facilities here which we’re able to utilize to do our testing. Also, Arizona has entire infrastructure subcontractors who are able to do a lot of components that we’re not able to do in house.”

In its 2018 Aerospace Manufacturing Attractiveness report, PwC ranks the U.S. the most attractive country saying the U.S. is “again the dominant global player,” bringing $240 billion in sales in 2017.

The U.S.’s 2017 aerospace and defense market was the global leader in exports, with $143 billion and the country itself spends more on defense than any other country in the world.

The report also ranks Arizona as the fourth most attractive state.

“Arizona continues to be attractive for aerospace manufacturing, with an ideal climate for aircraft testing and space observation, good transportation infrastructure, and business-friendly tax policy,” the report said. “An example of Arizona’s appeal is the decision by AQST Space Systems to relocate its headquarters and operations hub to Mesa, Arizona, from Puerto Rico.”

AQST is not the only big named aerospace company operating out of Arizona, Boeing has set up shop in Mesa, where most of its locations come during to winter to test equipment.

The site is growing tremendously,” said Robert Beard, a manufacturing manager at Boeing’s Mesa location. “We can fly 365 days a year. Our Philadelphia group brings down their [equipment] to do some testing because of the weather they endure sometimes. Winter time is not the best time to be flying helicopters, but we don’t have that issue.”

The company has brought huge economic benefits to Arizona’s economy bringing in $1.2 billion in supplier spending alone, said Boeing’s Manager of Government Relations Mark Gaspers.

“We have a global mindset here in Arizona in terms of our operations and I think Arizona does as well since we have to compete globally,” he said.   

According to Beard, his location has a “2 x 2 x 22” vision, where the location will grow its capacity and bring in twice as much work by the year 2022.

Boeing is not the only company with plans to grow aerospace technology in Arizona over the next few years. In fact, Vector, a Tucson-based company, plans to test launch its orbital rocket in spring of 2019.  

“Vector is entering an extremely important phase of our journey, transitioning from a focus on research and development to flight operations and profitability. This Series B financing is a critical element in Vector’s mission to improve access to space and become a dominant launch provider to the small satellite industry,” CEO and co-founder Jim Cantrell said in a statement.

Arizona is currently home to more than 1,200 aerospace and defense companies, and that number will most likely keep growing.

Arizona is a very fast-growing hub for the aerospace and space industry. We’re seeing a lot of new companies pop up,” Sean Macdonald, Spirit Electronic outside sales and account representative, said. “[Everyone] is coming here.”  

Emily Richardson

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