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Kansas poised to become national leader in aerospace industry


A visit from the CEO of Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin indicates a promising future for the already booming Kansas aerospace industry.

Blue Origin CEO Dr. Bob Smith recently made a stop in Wichita, touring aviation businesses and extending invitations to work with local companies.

Started in 2000 by Bezos, Amazon’s founder and executive chairman, the aerospace manufacturer and sub-orbital spaceflight services company wants to make access to space cheaper and more reliable through reusable launch vehicles.

Bob Brock, director of aviation at Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT), told The Center Square that Blue Origin and companies like it are interested in Kansas largely because of the infrastructure, logistics and skilled workforce that exist there.

“Blue Origin joins an industry of major manufacturers that are either already working with Kansas or are moving resources and corporate activities to Kansas for the purpose of creating more return on investment by using a more seasoned and established supply chain,” Brock said.

Brock said Kansas currently produces 73% of all general aviation aircraft in the world. They also build the fuselage for the 737 and 787, resulting in a little more than 600 major aircraft construction efforts every single year. In addition, KDOT manages 138 airports in Kansas, and those airports support small businesses and corporate use on a daily basis with roughly 3- to 5,000 flights through the year plus commercial activity. Brock reports the total aggregate economic development in Kansas is currently $20.6 billion, and the space sector of the aviation industry is expected to add to that impact.

Kansas is routinely referred to as the air capital of the world. Brock said three factors come together to position the state as the nation’s aerospace leader.

“We maintain a skilled workforce of a little bit more than 20,000 people in Kansas that build aircraft every day,” Brock said. “That seasoned workforce has been building airplanes under the FAA guidelines and standards for decades. That becomes a unique leverage area for corporate aerospace manufacturers and contributors to the industry because the training and people able to establish the depth of expertise is very hard to create spontaneously in another location.”

Second is the distribution of supply chain channels including raw materials for manufacturing and the ability to distribute aircraft parts and components globally on a daily basis. Those looking for a place to grow their companies don’t need to recreate this situation in Kansas because it is already established.

The last thing that makes it easier for these companies to do well in Kansas is the level of investment in their peer organizations. Brock said these peer organizations create “a culture and environment of subject matter expertise that make it far more readily accessible when it’s time to scale from a 100-person engineering laboratory to a 4,000-person manufacturing plant and the peers and expertise are all in one place and able to be leveraged immediately through established communication networks.”

“Our activities here in Kansas are very heavily oriented around promoting the entire aviation industry and all different sectors of the aviation industry,” Brock said.

This article was originally posted on Kansas poised to become national leader in aerospace industry

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