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August 16, 2017

Study Finds Twin Ports Aviation Industry Booming

Business North

The Duluth-Superior aviation industry is strong and continues to grow, according to a new study.

Conducted by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED), it was unveiled at a Wednesday news conference at the Lake Superior College Center for Advanced Aviation. During the past 10 years it found:

●      39 percent growth in direct jobs

●      19 percent growth in total jobs

●      129 percent growth in value added to the local economy

●      48 percent growth in personal income

When looking at the economic impact of all aviation in our region, the results showed:

●      3,451 direct jobs were created

●      Including indirect employment, the jobs total was 5,669

●      $646,500 million was infused into the Duluth-Superior economy

●      $325.2 million in personal income was generated

“These are employers that stand behind what they do. They provide economic activity,” said Duluth Mayor Emily Larson. “Today, we celebrate all of this. It’s just tremendously exciting.”

Representatives from APEX, the Northern Aero Alliance, Cirrus, AAR, Lake Superior College and the Duluth International Airport addressed the crowd.

Cirrus was among the first companies to bring aviation to the Duluth, selecting the city for its airplane manufacturing facility more than a decade ago. It now employs 883 people.

“We have got a workforce that is second to none,” said Cirrus Executive Director of Business Development Bill King, who also credited vendors such as SCS Interiors, which provides upholstery services for Cirrus. “It’s that quality that comes together that makes the aircraft industry so powerful in this region. We see this as a path ramping through to even more significant production.”

Just five years ago, the former Northwest Airlines maintenance base was empty. Now it houses AAR Aircraft Services, said Mark Ketterer, vice president of Duluth operations. He noted 400 highly skilled persons work at the company’s plant, which provides major maintenance services to Air Canada.

“You can have a really great job and stay right here,” he said.

Through the Northern Aero Alliance, a local trade group, the Lake Superior College Center for Advanced Aviation and local public school educators are working together to enhance the pool of eligible job candidates, which has prevented the industry from growing at a faster rate. For instance, Cirrus has hired 142 people since January but still needs 130 more this year and 100 more next year as production of its personal jet ramps up. Ketterer said AAR recruits aircraft mechanics nationwide and still needs more of them.

“We are training and AAR is hiring,” said LSC President Patrick Johns.

Employers also are working with groups including Northforce, a collaboration between the Northspan Group and APEX, to find enough workers.

“Northforce is here for this industry. We have figured out how to grow this industry. It’s a shining star for all of us,” said APEX Chief Executive Brian Hanson.

When higher education and employers work together, it leads to success, said Tom Warner, executive director of Duluth International Airport.

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