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Oklahoma focused on boosting aerospace investments, Stitt says

By Daisy Creager

The Journal Record

OKLAHOMA CITY – During a visit to Boeing’s Oklahoma City office Tuesday, Gov. Kevin Stitt discussed efforts by the state and the company to increase aerospace investments.

Stitt met with Boeing leadership and toured the company’s Advanced Visualizations & Immersive Development Center, where he flew a 747 cockpit simulator.

He said the aerospace industry has 144,000 employees in Oklahoma and a $43 billion impact on the state.

“I am focused on ensuring that we are investing in this industry,” Stitt said. “We’re on the cutting edge of a lot of things happening in aerospace and we want to continue to grow and develop it.”

Stitt said that in ongoing budget negotiations he is pushing for state money to be appropriated to the industry to drive growth and jobs.

In a budget outline released Monday by Stitt and the state House of Representatives, $1 million is appropriated to the state Department of Commerce’s Aerospace Commerce Economic Services program for economic development in the automotive and aerospace industries.

Stitt said he is working with the Department of Commerce, U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and the state’s military bases to direct more federal money to the state’s aerospace industry.

“I believe Oklahoma is well positioned on a national level to help direct more federal dollars into this (industry),” he said.

Stitt also mentioned Boeing’s efforts to fund research at state universities.

Boeing OKC Site Director and Senior Counsel Mikeal Clayton said the company has master agreements with the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University to provide research and development funding.

The company’s agreement with OU will fund research projects conducted by the Gallogly College of Engineering, the first of which, involving design and development of embedded software, began in February.

“This agreement will help drive industry innovation and accelerate research, while elevating our future STEM workforce,” Clayton said in a press release.

“Boeing is proud to support organizations that provide high-quality, real-world learning opportunities that allow students to develop their skills, do what they dream and build something better,” he said.

Like other aerospace companies in Oklahoma, Boeing faces challenges in recruiting enough employees. Clayton said the company will not be able to sustain recruiting a rate of 50 new hires per month for long.

“Looking over the horizon we recognize that is a very difficult rate to sustain, and we think without some additional attention to workforce, we could quickly not be able to sustain the rate we need,” Clayton said.

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