In a push to reach new heights setting the stage for growing a thriving aerospace industry, the New River Gorge Region (Fayette, Nicholas, Raleigh, and Summers) and three more Southern West Virginia counties, including Wyoming, Mercer, and McDowell, have been awarded AEROready™ Certification. This certification involves a deep analysis of items to ensure that regions, site and communities certified reduce risks for potential aerospace companies. AEROready™ Certification programs are conducted by a joint venture of Tucson Atlantic Consulting and Common Sense Economic Development to validate properties as ready for an aerospace industry, that there is a supply of labor and opportunity, and that necessary infrastructure is in place.
In a recent press release, New River Gorge Regional Development Authority (NRGRDA) Executive Director Joe Brouse stated, “There were hundreds of site criteria items analyzed, but one of the most crucial was the availability of adequate infrastructure to support the aviation industry.”
NRGRDA Deputy Director Jina Belcher acknowledged the importance of the certification and how it can impact the region and surrounding areas. “The Raleigh County Airport Industrial Park has the most attractive potential for development and we’re thrilled to be working with Tom (Raleigh County Memorial Airport Manager) to highlight the Airport’s assets and growth potential.”
In 2020, NRGRDA plans to submit a request for funding through the Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER initiative that will help fund training of displaced coal miners and others to work in the aerospace industry. Appalachian Power (AEP) has recognized that the aerospace industry offers the opportunity for high-skill, high-wage employment that requires the work ethic, precision, and technical skills present in the mining industry and has sponsored AEROready™ Certification in Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia.
According to an analysis by Tucson Atlantic Consulting, Common Sense Economic Development, and data partner, the University of Southern Mississippi, the average wage for production workers is $20.85 per hour, or $43,368 annually and since aerospace jobs consistently pay at the highest range of maintenance jobs, aerospace industries become prime recruiting targets for states, regions, and communities. They are excellent career choices for those who wish to pursue a technical education and employment. The 11 primary aerospace skills necessary to directly support both aerospace parts manufacturing and assembly and related business services are identified as follows:
• Aerospace Engineers
• Aerospace Engineering and Operations Technicians
• Avionics Technicians
• Aircraft Mechanics and Service Technicians
• Aircraft Structure, Surfaces, Rigging, and Systems Assemblers
• Structural Metal Fabricators and Fitters
• Fiberglass Laminators and Fabricators
• Computer-Controlled Machine Tool Operators, Metal and Plastic
• Computer Numerically Controlled Machine Tool Programmers, Metal and Plastic
• Cutters, Braziers Welding, Soldering, and Brazing Machine Setters, Operators, and Tenders
Raleigh County Memorial Airport Manager Tom Cochran, NRGRDA, AEP, Mercer County Economic Development Authority, McDowell County Economic Development Authority, and Wyoming County Economic Development Authority have scheduled a public event at the Raleigh County Memorial Airport for Monday, November 4, at 3:00 p.m., to announce the AEROready™ Certification. To learn more about AEROready™ Certification and to view a list of currently certified AEROready™ communities, regions, and sites, visit aeroready.us.
This project was supported and sponsored by AEP.
By Charistin Clark