Friday, June 19, 2015
By: Dale Denwalt The Journal Record
OKLAHOMA CITY – Gov. Mary Fallin, along with a delegation of Commerce Department and business executives, is wrapping up a European fishing trip to snag new aerospace business.
Fallin and the delegation spent several days at the Paris Air Show, which offered them a chance to sit down with industry executives from the world’s largest aviation companies. Officials were tight-lipped about which commitments the delegation secured or lost. Vince Howie, director of aerospace and defense at the state Commerce Department, said some announcements will be made next week.
“We’ve already had some wins for the state,” Howie said. “It’s been a great show for us.”
The biennial air show at Le Bourget airfield in Paris was the first stop of the governor’s European tour. Later in the week she planned to meet aerospace and energy executives in Germany and Italy.
According to figures from Commerce, the second leg has the potential to generate $1.6 billion in potential leads. An estimate for the air show was not available.
“We’re talking big business and big investments, and lots of potential jobs,” said Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz, who did not travel with the governor.
Fallin has attended the Paris Air Show twice and the Farnborough Air Show once. While at the show, Fallin sat down several times per day with executives.
“What Gov. Fallin is doing is going from one boardroom to another from sunrise to well past sunset and pitching the state as the best location for aerospace business in the world,” Weintz said.
The hope is that they expand operations into Oklahoma.
“This is the only place in the world you can see all these people in one or two days,” Howie said. “It’s an incredible opportunity for us.”
By the second day of the air show, he said, the delegation had met with about 40 companies. On Tuesday, Weintz said Fallin had more than a dozen meetings, which did not include time spent at Oklahoma’s booth on the trade show floor.
“We’re not alone here,” Howie said. “In the U.S. pavilion alone I’ve seen Connecticut, Rhode Island, Arkansas, Illinois, Virginia, Florida, South Carolina. There’s probably at least seven or eight other states that I missed.”
With that competition, though, Howie said he didn’t compare Oklahoma with other states.
“I never go in and say, ‘Texas has this and we have that,’” he said. “We know all those things, but I want to put the state in a positive light.”
Oklahoma, Howie said, is a mecca of the aerospace workforce. There are two major Air Force bases here, along with large commercial maintenance operations. Almost more than anything, Howie said, aviation companies are interested in the workforce potential.
“You couple that with the CareerTech system we have that will do tailored training just for the aerospace industry, we don’t feel we have to compete with other states – even though it is a competition,” he said.
Governor Mary Fallin, second from right, and Tulsa Mayor Dewey Bartlett, right, meet with executives of Lufthansa Technik at a facility in Hamburg, Germany.