Forward Oklahoma City focus: The growth of aerospace in OKC
Maximizing opportunities in Oklahoma City’s aerospace industry has been a primary focus of the Forward Oklahoma City efforts since Chamber leaders started developing the program in 1993. Forward Oklahoma City targeted aerospace growth through economic development programs and through legislative support, especially focusing on the success of Tinker Air Force Base.
While leaders were fundraising for the Chamber’s first Forward Oklahoma City program, they banded together to remove from the Department of Defense’s Base Closure and Realignment (BRAC) list in 1993 and 1995. Tinker was the largest single-site employer in the state and played a critical role in Oklahoma City’s economy. The Chamber knew that bolstering the aerospace sector in Oklahoma City would be a critical step in protecting Tinker from a base closure in the future.
The Chamber targeted aerospace companies to locate operations in Oklahoma City, knowing that private companies working on Department of Defense contracts in Oklahoma City would boost the productivity and efficiency of the work at the base. In 1999, the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center partnered with Lockheed Martin to manage and repair of all of the aircraft engines in the U.S. Air Force. The partnership was the first of its kind for the Air Force. In 2005, the partnerships developed at the OC-ALC set Tinker apart from other bases and allowed it to avoid being placed on the BRAC list.
In addition to encouraging public-private partnerships, funds raised by the Forward Oklahoma City program have been used to pass bond issues that have benefited the base. In 2002, the Chamber campaigned for a bond issue valued at $50 million to increase base security by clearing houses from encroachment. The Chamber also led the charge to pass the 2008 bond issue that allowed Oklahoma County to acquire the former GM manufacturing facility and lease it to Tinker. Tinker used the facility to create the Tinker Aerospace Complex, which hosted the 76th Maintenance Wing operations and other DOD workloads.
In more recent years, the Chamber has led efforts to market Oklahoma’s aerospace industry on a global level by attending the Farnsborough and Paris international airshows. The aggressive work done through Forward Oklahoma City’s economic development and legislative action laid the foundation that allowed Oklahoma City’s aerospace industry and Tinker Air Force Base to flourish.
Major companies that have increased their investment in the Oklahoma aerospace industry due to the Forward Oklahoma City economic development efforts include Boeing, ARINC, AAR Oklahoma, Pro-Fab, Northrop Grumman, Southwest Airlines, L-3, DynPar, Pratt & Whitney and General Dynamics. Since 1996, the aerospace industry in Oklahoma City has added 13,362 jobs and more than $875 million in capital investment to Oklahoma City’s economy.
What is Forward Oklahoma City?
After experiencing the difficulties of a national economic downturn during the late 1980s and 1990s, Chamber leaders recognized the need to give Oklahoma City a new direction and purpose. In 1993, the Chamber devised a five-year economic development strategy to position Oklahoma City as one of the nation’s premier locations for economic growth. Forward Oklahoma City became operational in 1996, and since that time the investments made by Forward Oklahoma City and its three predecessors have played a major role in the successes of Oklahoma City.