LAYTON — Utah recognized achievements in aviation and the aerospace industry’s impact to the country with National Aerospace Week.
When asked by leaders from other states why Utah has the second fastest growing economy in the United States, the fourth most diverse economy as well as the second lowest unemployment, Gov. Gary Herbert said in part he credits the state’s military installations.
“A big part of our success historically has been Hill Air Force Base,” Herbert said. “Utah without Hill Air Force Base would be like Stockton without Malone, fries without fry sauce.”
Not only has the base brought billions of dollars in wages and infrastructure to the state, but it has boosted a strong aerospace industry, helping bring companies such as ATK, Boeing and Northrop Grumman to Utah.
The governor said it is part of a healthy overall economy that Hill Air Force Base offers.
“The economic impact shouldn’t be lost to anyone in this room and it shouldn’t be lost on the rest of the state,” Herbert said.
In recognition of the accomplishments in aviation and to recognize the impact of the aerospace industry in America, the state joined the nation in celebrating National Aerospace Week Sept. 14 to Sept. 20.
As a part of Aerospace Week, Herbert addressed Utah aerospace and defense executives at the Air Force Association’s quarterly Industrial Associates luncheon on Sept. 15 at the Davis Conference Center in Layton.
AFA officials said the purpose of the Industrial Associates chapter is to foster relationships between Hill Air Force Base and the Ogden Air Logistics Complex and the aerospace industry. The group supports local military and education, such as ROTC programs.
AFA Industrial Associates Secretary Mickey McPortland said promoting education, especially science, technology, engineering and mathematics, is important to the military and the aerospace industry.
By addressing these issues, McPortland said the state creates or brings in top talent to aerospace jobs, which will ripple out into the community.
“If we get to the college levels, we already missed it,” McPortland said. “We need to help them at the lower levels.”
In addition to speaking at the luncheon, Herbert issued a declaration making Sept. 15 as Young Women in Aviation Day to recognize the achievements of females in the aviation industry and to encourage young women in Utah to seek the appropriate education to contribute to future aerospace achievements.
At the Sept. 15 luncheon, the governor gave a short prepared statement about the importance of the military to the state, not just as an economic driver, but to protect the American way of life.
“It’s not just an economic development issue for Utah,” Herbert said, “it is about the security of America.”
The governor followed his statement by opening up a question and answer period to the audience.
During the Q&A period, he addressed issues such as the need for support of Hill through the threat of base closures, the importance of clean air, and the work in Utah’s education system to provide a capable labor force skilled in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, education.
“I don’t know what is going to happen to base reduction with BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure), but the threat of that keeps us on our toes,” Herbert said.
He said Hill has hung on so far, and will stay relevant by being efficient and effective, “by staying lean and mean.”
It will be up to local delegations to share those attributes to those in Washington.
“I think it’s the matter of having a good story to tell that’s true,” Herbert said. “It can’t be a matter of spin … I think we have a good message that we need to get out to the decision makers.”
Hebco DESP3 program manager Joel Ward said he is glad Herbert showed his support for Hill and the industry in Utah.
Ward said the state is used not only as a training ground for the U.S. military, but its NATO allies.
“We need to make sure we stay viable,” Ward said. “We want to see the money and the focus and the investment by the state.”
There is also a need for an educated populace. Herbert said there is a gap between what the marketplace needs and what is being produced.
“We are not going to force people to be engineers,” Herbert said, “but if they have an aptitude for it, we want them to know there is an open field for it.”
With the dearth of students focusing on STEM education, aerospace industry leaders said training and recruitment can not be limited to young males.
By declaring Sept. 15 as Young Women in Aviation Day, state and industry officials hope to encourage and inspire women to seek the necessary education to become women aviators, astronauts and aerospace engineers. The governor’s office said it also encourages government, industry, organizations and individuals to inspire and prepare females through quality aerospace STEM curriculum.
The Aerospace Industries Association and U.S. Congress officially designated the third week of September as National Aerospace Week in 2010. Officials said the week is meant to recognize the contribution of the aerospace and defense industry to the American economy and national security. For more information on National Aerospace Week, visit www.nationalaerospaceweek.org.