Aerospace sector stands out among Georgia’s economic success stories
By David Pendered
Of all the “gee whiz, Georgia’s great” economic stories, the aerospace and defense sector stands out – The United States ranks No. 1 in the world and Georgia ranks No. 2 in the nation, and Georgia’s education system has the capacity to help workers into transition the jobs of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, two recent reports show.
Georgia trailed only Washington, home of Boeing Commercial Airlines, and was ahead of California, Michigan and Illinois on a Top 5 list of state’s ranked by “aerospace competitiveness.”
The ranking comes from PwC’s just-released 2019 edition of the annual Aerospace manufacturing attractiveness rankings. The report that doesn’t factor in Boeing’s troubles related to deadly crashes of its 737 MAX planes.
The fastest growing jobs in the aerospace sector are in categories including scientists; artificial intelligence and machine learning; and software and applications, according to workforce trend projections cited in The Future of Jobs Report 2018, released last autumn by The World Economic Forum.
These are the sorts of skills PwC’s report indicates Georgia’s education system is well positioned to provide because of the related categories of education attainment of the state’s residents, plus the research and design programs at Georgia’s colleges and universities and, in particular, at Georgia Tech.
The state evidently ranked well in two heavily weighted education categories – Skilled Education, the percent of residents over age 25 years who have completed an bachelors degree; and Advanced Education, the percent of residents age 25 and over who have completed an advanced degree, according to an appendix in the report.
PwC cited the presence of Georgia’s universities and their research programs:
- “Georgia’s universities and colleges spend more than $2 billion annually in R&D. In October 2018, Airbus collaborated with the Georgia Institute of Technology.
For its part, Airbus talked up the ability of Tech’s professors and doctoral students in its Oct. 30, 2018 announcement about the opening of the Airbus / Georgia Tech Center for Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE)- enabled Overall Aircraft Design (OAD).
The company’s statement described the technical aspects of the program and ended with a simple declaration:
- “This Center is further demonstration of the value our American education institutions contribute to our entire global enterprise,” said Amanda Simpson, vice president of research and technology for Airbus Americas.
Georgia’s posture in the nation’s aerospace and defense sectors didn’t happen overnight. Consequently, these sectors are among the highlights routinely touted by Georgia’s Department of Economic Development. The department pays particular attention to the sectors’ requirements for a highly educated workforce:
- “The current workforce consists of more than 100,000 aerospace employees, with new engineering graduates entering the field each year. Included in this alumni group are students from Georgia Tech – all of their engineering doctorate programs are ranked in the Top 5 according to U.S. News & World Report….
- “Enriching this constant stream of new graduates is a number of veterans who are discharged from our military bases each year. All are well-trained and highly disciplined, and companies like Pratt & Whitney and Gulfstream are proud to have a contingency of veterans as part of their workforce.”
All this said, low labor costs and other cost factors are key drivers of Georgia’s relative competitiveness. Georgia ranked No. 8 in cost and No. 5 in tax policy, according to PwC’s report. By comparison, Washington, the No. 1 state in PwC’s report, ranked No. 35 for cost and No. 26 for tax policy; Washington ranked No. 1 for the size and maturity of the industry and No. 1 for infrastructure, including roads, railroads, Internet usage and quality of electrical supply.
The report included this elaboration on Georgia in an appendix:
- “Companies are attracted to the state’s relatively low costs (notably, electricity and hourly wages) and a corporate tax rate of 5.7 percent.”