When people think of Michigan, they think of our beautiful Great Lakes and our rich automotive history. But little do they know about our aerospace industry, which has been a leader in the nation for the nearly 80 years.

Michigan’s aerospace industry really is our best kept secret and the gold standard of reports — the PricewaterhouseCooper’s “Aerospace Manufacturing Attractiveness” — agrees.

PwC has consistently ranked Michigan as a top 10 state for Aerospace Manufacturing Attractiveness. In 2018, we were ranked eighth in the nation. This year, the Aerospace Industry Association of Michigan worked hand-in-glove with PwC to ensure Michigan’s aerospace assets were fully evaluated as part of the ranking process. This hard work paid off. PwC’s 2019 report ranks Michigan fourth in the nation and the best in the Midwest.

Michigan has over 800 companies from Jackson to Calumet in the Upper Peninsula conducting business in the global aerospace industry. In the past 18 months, companies have made an additional $750 million in capital investments in existing facilities to expand in our state which indicates their continued confidence in Michigan’s aerospace industry.

Our excitement for this industry is reflected around the world as the global aerospace industry has a forecast demand for 40,000 commercial aircraft valued at nearly $7 trillion over the next 20 years, which is apparent in the current eight-year backlog on aircraft orders, with 65% spent in the supply chain. This is a significant opportunity for Michigan.

Branding Michigan as a hub for the aerospace industry will not only yield more investment, it will also serve as an attraction mechanism for the talent pipeline. Michigan is an incubator for talent, with 18 academic institutions providing aerospace and/or aviation-related curriculum and degrees.

If we continue to attain new investments, coupled with these top-tier institutions, we can retain the talent in Michigan rather than witnessing them go to other states. As the PwC report recognizes, these institutions are necessary assets for the growth of Michigan’s aerospace industry as they will produce the talent needed to maintain our position as well as grow it.

The rise in rankings is also attributed to Michigan’s No. 1 rating for tax policy and No. 3 in the overall state economy creating the necessary optimism and confidence for businesses to increase their capital investment in our state. Maintaining a sound tax structure and thriving economy will enable Michigan to hold its position as a leader in the aerospace industry — not only in our country, but around the world.

AIAM has worked with its members to ensure Michigan not only climbed the ranks in 2019, but will continue to be a leader in future reports; and there’s reason for that optimism based in the 2019 report.

The PWC report makes clear that the future of Michigan’s aerospace industry is now. We have the right tax structure and economic environment for continued growth. Additionally, Michigan has some of the finest academic institutions in the nation. Most importantly, we have the hardest working people. This is an international industry with the potential to pay substantial dividends for our state if we diversity our state’s economic portfolio.

I believe with the great work of AIAM and its partners, Michigan will not only achieve this but will only continue to climb and demonstrate to the rest of the world how much we have to offer in the aerospace industry. 

Jeff Simek is general manager of RCO Aerospace and RCO Engineering and is a board member of the Aerospace Industry Association of Michigan.

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