Taking Oklahoma City aviation global
Every two years, Hampshire, United Kingdom is the epicenter of the aviation world as host of the Farnborough International Airshow. The biennial event attracts a who’s who of aviation giants and, rest assured, Oklahoma City is right in the middle of it all.
Held in late July, Farnborough is the second-largest airshow in the world and routinely attracts more than 100,000 visitors from more than 100 countries. Economic development officials from the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber have been attending the show for more than a decade as part of a delegation organized by the Oklahoma Department of Commerce.
“The Farnborough Air Show, which attracts more than 150,000 aerospace executives and companies, is an excellent venue to share the Oklahoma story with an international audience that includes leaders in the aerospace, defense and unmanned aircraft systems,” said Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin.
As part of the Oklahoma delegation, Jeff Seymour, director of business development for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber, works to promote general awareness of the region’s aerospace sector and also meets with companies to pitch them on potential projects.
With more than 230 aerospace firms and a workforce of 36,600 in Oklahoma City alone, Seymour has plenty of good news to spread.
“It is kind of funny because while some in our own community might not realize just how big our local aerospace economy is, we have no problem getting recognized overseas,” said Seymour. “Especially with Tinker Air Force Base, people around the world know who we are and the exciting things happening in Oklahoma City when it comes to aerospace.”
It is more than just talk, however. In January of this year, Kratos Defense and Security Solutions Inc. announced they would be building a production facility for their drones in Oklahoma City. The project will eventually employ 350 workers. Several rounds of the initial discussions with Kratos began at Farnborough and it is just the latest in a handful of projects to materialize from the air show over the years.
Oklahoma’s efforts also include the Governor’s Breakfast attended by representatives from companies who already have a presence in Oklahoma. The breakfast features a keynote speech from U.S. Senator Jim Inhofe (OK-R).
“Farnborough allows us to get so much important work done in a short amount of time,” said Seymour. “We get to touch base with representatives from the highest level of our existing companies, we get to pitch companies we know should have a presence in Oklahoma City and we get to raise awareness of our market to an international audience. You can’t get all that done in a week anywhere else.”
When asked about this year’s show, which recently wrapped up, Seymour said the overall feeling was incredibly positive.
“We saw that, for a variety of reasons, international companies are really eager to up their investments in the U.S.,” said Seymour. “I think we have a real opportunity to not just grow our aviation sector but to diversify into some areas where we are a little smaller at the moment. Good things are on the horizon.”