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Where Are the New Aerospace & Defense Manufacturing Hotspots in the US?

  • 24 January 2018
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In August, Price Waterhouse Cooper (PwC) released its 2017 Aerospace Manufacturing Attractiveness Rankings. These rankings are based on a qualitative weighted score that combines individual rankings on labor, infrastructure, industry, economy, cost, tax policies, and geopolitical risk garnered from ten unique data sources.

The United States as a whole finished first once again in the country-by-country rankings due to its relatively strong economy, active defense posture, and strong infrastructure that has generated $212 billion in annual revenue. Needless to say, aerospace and defense (A&D) manufacturing is a bright spot in the United States right now — not only do we see business booming, but this industry has also been an early adopter of digital advancements that can take operations to a whole new level.

The nation’s glowing grade in A&D manufacturing can be highlighted by diving into a few select states and regions.

The Southeast

As a strong region for American manufacturing due to infrastructure and low relative labor costs, the Southeast continues to rise collectively on the PwC rankings through a variety of initiatives and developments.

Georgia

Georgia led the way on the PwC rankings, despite middling individual rankings for labor and tax policy.

The state’s strengths lie in its local economy, gross state product and growth, and levels of government subsidies. Home to 500-plus aerospace companies — including Lockheed Martin Aeronautics in Marietta, the developer of the only United States military cargo aircraft currently in production — Georgia produces more than $8 billion in global aerospace exports each year.

Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. has large manufacturing facilities in Savannah and Brunswick, while Pratt & Whitney announced a $386 million investment in its Columbus facility, bolstering the state’s focus on new and existing engine programs.

Florida

Florida ranked sixth overall this year (sharing the spot with Ohio). This strong manufacturing base is home to over 2,000 aerospace and aviation companies that bring in more than $5 billion to the state and employ upwards of 80,000 people.

Though the outlook is bright for the Sunshine State, the report notes that Florida-based manufacturers must continue to identify talent to meet rising demands for efficient and sustainable aircraft, while satisfying the existing backlog.

North Carolina

North Carolina fared well for its deep-water seaports, low electricity rates, and extensive railways, all of which support a network of the largest manufacturing workforce in the Southeast. This ensured that the state featured at number four in PwC’s 2017 rankings.

The Southwest

Though not quite the chart-toppers of the Southeast, the deserts and coasts of the American Southwest also appeal to A&D manufacturers and provide valuable case studies.

Arizona

Arizona finished third in 2017, and still maintains one of the best locales for aircraft testing and space observation.

Their tax policy is one of the most attractive in the country for business purposes, and their transportation infrastructure is the envy of many. Recent acquisitions of Able Aerospace in Mesa (by Textron) and Parker Hannifin in Tolleson (by TriMas) underscore the primacy of competition in Arizona; additionally, investments from non-A&D companies like Intel similarly highlight the great appetite for manufacturing in the Valley of the Sun.

California

California has a long and storied history of aerospace manufacturing, from the 300,000 planes built for World War II military efforts to the development of the nation’s first intercontinental ballistic missile system.

Though the A&D industry declined in California during the 1990s and early 2000s, industry experts are excited by a comeback for the Golden State. Thanks to private space companies like SpaceX and Virgin Galactic, as well as forthcoming defense projects like the B-21 long-range strike bomber, manufacturing jobs are returning. Other A&D headquarters in the Los Angeles and San Diego Counties include AeroVironment, Aerojet Rocketdyne, ViaSat, General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, and Northrop Grumman.

The rise of the drone industry has also aided Southern California’s manufacturing recovery, and so have innovative concepts like micro-satellite launches and private space travel. The new requirements they bring complement existing facilities that manufacture critical parts for fighter jets, bombers, and unmanned undersea vehicles.

The State of Michigan

Michigan had a resurgent 2017, moving up from last year’s eighth place to second place in PwC’s 2017 rankings.

Michigan is noted for having one of the finest research and development sectors in the aerospace supply chain. The state has boosted its labor productivity and the quality of its electricity supply, while reducing its cost of materials. Not only that, but it has introduced a policy that has phased out personal property tax for most businesses. Michigan has also proactively developed additive manufacturing technology and battery logistics projects, which is helping to attract even more investment.

No matter what region of the United States you’re in, A&D manufacturing is growing in leaps and bounds across the country, making it all the more imperative to stay ahead of the curve. Visit CTND’s A&D industry page to learn more about how we help companies stay competitive in this dynamic field.

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