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Coordination Cited As Key To Bolstering Aerospace Industry

In the eyes of Rep. Adam Holmes, the Ohio Aerospace & Aviation Technology Committee Track’s meeting Monday was historic.

The ad hoc panel was created in 2014 and has met off and on with the aim of coordinating a statewide strategy to enhance Ohio’s status as a leader in the aerospace sector.

But Monday’s session was the first time in the committee’s history that all Ohio’s major aerospace business development organizations appeared in the same place to discuss that joint effort, Rep. Holmes (R-Nashport) said.

“Today’s the day where in my mind we’ve got the most powerful aerospace and aviation organizations together in one room,” Rep. Holmes said. “And we’re going to need it because we see the competitive environment across the globe we have right now.”

The meeting featured several presenters, including a gubernatorial policy adviser, JobsOhio executives and the head of the Ohio Aerospace Institute – or in Rep. Holmes’ words “the smartest, biggest rock stars I know.”

“In my mind, this is so profound where we’re at today,” Rep. Holmes said. “We have so much capability, so many resources – unique, I think, in the United States. The biggest challenge has been in coordinating the resources.”

After more than a year without meetings amid the pandemic, the committee renewed its efforts in August with Rep. Holmes voicing his intent to build “tangible legislative support” for the industry. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, August 19, 2021)

That discussion continued Monday, with Rep. Holmes noting the recent House passage of a bill (HB 292 Tracked) to bolster electric vehicles. Other committee priorities, including measures on unmanned aerial vehicles (HB 485 Track) and navigable airspace (HB 490 Tracked) are pending, he said.

Joseph Zeis, senior policy adviser to Gov. Mike DeWine on aerospace and defense, outlined a “one voice” strategy focused on educating stakeholders that “we are the aerospace and research and development capital of the nation and that’s not overstating the fact.”

“The vision – really the collective vision in this case – is Ohio is a world recognized leader in aerospace and defense,” Mr. Zeis said.

Elaine Bryant, managing director of military and federal for JobsOhio, said an economic impact analysis attributed to the industry: $22.2 billion in direct spending, $39 billion in economic impact and $69 billion in gross output.

“These are really exciting numbers,” Ms. Bryant said. “We knew these numbers would be significant but now we have the basis as we move forward.”

She said the state needs to ensure its facilities and programs are “on the map” and highlighted the selection this summer of Mansfield-Lahm Air National Guard Base as the home of a new Air Force Cyber Warfare Wing as a recent highlight of those efforts. (See Gongwer Ohio Report, August 26, 2021)

Glenn Richardson, managing director for aerospace and advanced manufacturing for JobsOhio, spoke more specifically about the quasi-public agency’s role. He also announced a partnership with the Ohio Aerospace Institute that includes the establishment of international aerospace forum in the state.

“We are excited about this new partnership and collaboration with OAI,” Mr. Richardson said.

John Sankovic, CEO of the institute, echoed that sentiment and said the group’s focal points remain attracting international companies and increasing exports and supply-chain partnerships.

When asked about how policymakers could support those efforts, Mr. Sankovic stressed that the industry and its advocates must have the resources to compete.

“If you want to get politicians’ attention, ask them for something,” he said. “We’re not quite ready to ask you for something…but one of things I do want you to think about is we compete against the 49 other states, we’re competing against Canada and Mexico. If we’re competing globally, we have to compete at scale.”

Rep. Holmes said any requests should be brought to the committee, which has members representing both the legislative houses as well as the governor’s office.

Should any of those requests come in, the chair said, “the answer’s yes.”

The committee will next meet in January, at which time Chair Holmes said he plans to steer the discussion toward electric vehicles.

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