Q&A: Dayton Development Coalition's Colleen Ryan on Ohio's aerospace hub
Why is the aerospace industry so vital to the Dayton region?
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
is the largest single site employer in the state of Ohio, and it happens to be located in the Dayton region. As far as the Air Force goes, it's the acquisition center for aerospace systems. It's also the home of the Air Force Research Laboratory
, which is research and development all centered and focused around aerospace, whether it's propulsion or the air frames themselves or advanced materials. The Dayton region has built an aerospace systems industry around the work that gets done at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. So many of the defense contractors who do business with the Air Force are in place outside of Wright-Patterson and in the Dayton region and a lot of the universities, so the base is kind of the shining jewel and then we build industry out from that.A couple of years ago Dayton was designated the state's aerospace hub. What's been the result?
The most concrete thing is that GE (Aviation)
put their new research and development EPISCENTER (Electrical Power Integrated Systems Research and Development Center) in the hub, and they're specifically looking at propulsion systems there. And if you speak to people at GE Aviation they will tell you one of the reasons they chose that location was because it was in this aerospace hub. The naming itself is of great importance to us. We have a long-term strategic vision for the Dayton region to be seen as the national center for aeronautics and aerospace systems. We certainly can't be the national center for aeronautics and aerospace systems if we're not Ohio's center. One of the core areas of focus for the Aerospace & Business Advisory Council was unmanned vehicles. Can you describe what's going on with UAVs in the Dayton region?
It's hard to pick up a paper or look on the Internet or watch the news without hearing about unmanned systems in one way, shape or form. And a lot of that certainly is the military use of unmanned systems, whether it's the large Global Hawk, or Predator or hand-launched systems that soldiers are using in Afghanistan. But there's a huge potential for the commercial side of unmanned systems. And we think because of the aerospace expertise that we have in this region, a lot of it centering around what goes on at Wright-Patterson, that that is a market where the Dayton region really could grab a good portion of that market, whether it's currently in existence or a market that's going to grow as the proliferation of these systems grows. If you want to test your platform, Wright-Patt has the center of excellence for Air Force sensors. We have lot of people doing work around sensors here in the community, so we've got a technology cluster around sensors. I understand there are efforts under way to secure controlled air space for testing. Can you fill us in?
You need to test your vehicle, you need to test your sensors, and in order to do that you need to have air space. Currently, the Federal Aviation Administration requires you to fly in restricted air space. There's not very much of that that exists around the United States. So we've been working with our congressional delegation to get language into the FAA Reauthorization Act that talks about some test beds across the state and get some language in there about some of the assets that we have that would lead you to conclude that one of the test beds should be in Dayton. The other piece is we host what we call unmanned aerial system round tables where we bring some people in the region together to talk about the opportunities around unmanned vehicles. We're building what we like to call a playbook that talks about the value proposition that not just the Dayton region but the state of Ohio has around unmanned vehicles. Part of our hope with that play book is to be able to offer that to elected officials, whether local or state or federal to have them help advocate for us to get ultimately that air space.
There is an area of air space that the Springfield Air Guard currently uses, or was using for their fighter training, called the Brush Creek military operating area. At one time, as early as 1994-1995 that air space used to be restricted. It was downgraded when a mission left Wright-Patt and it was deemed they no longer needed the classification of restricted air space. Our contention is that that air space ought to be re-restricted and then would become this test bed area that we're hoping to do around unmanned vehicles. That air space is close to Wilmington, which is a town that has been devastated and decimated by the loss of DHL. The Advisory Council also emphasized the continued need to focus on advanced materials research and mfg and R&D and testing and those are areas in which Dayton is already strong. Are there any other industry segments that have a stake in the future of Ohio's aerospace industry?
Obviously we've talked about unmanned systems -- you think about the platform, we talked about sensors, advanced materials, composites -- unmanned vehicles almost captures everything you can think of. Another thing I would add that Dayton also has a strength in is the data analytics IT piece. If you're flying a Predator or a Global Hawk, it's the information you're getting from it that's the important thing. So the ability to gather the information that you're looking for, the ability to analyze that information -- we also have a strength in that area. And funny enough, the National Air and Space Intelligence Center is located on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. We have industry that has built up in this area because of the work that is done at Wright-Patt because of the national air and space intelligence center. And the data analysis piece of this fits in nicely.Are you seeing any promising trends that might strengthen the regionsl position in aerospace in the coming years?
We just recently announced SAIC (Science Applications International Corporation
, an aerospace defense company that is growing and is moving some of their unmanned vehicle operations from Virginia to Springfield. We are also seeing some smaller companies either growing or starting up in the region, a lot of that around unmanned vehicles. From a policy standpoint, are there some things Ohio should be doing differently?
I think the new governor is taking a hard look at some of the things that I think have perhaps hindered Ohio's growth in business, and that's to take a look at how we become a more business-friendly state. The previous governor worked toward that, but on many lists we're still not in the top 25 of the states, so we still have a lot more work to do, whether it's taxes, tax credits -- I know there are some aerospace companies that have moved into other states because they are right-to-work states, so that is something I think is deserving to look at. The other thing that we've been kind of recommending that the state of Ohio needs to do is, if we say we're an aerospace state and we're a competitor to the Alabamas, the Californias, the Floridas the North Carolinas, we need to have a presence at the large international air shows, like Paris Le Bourget this summer. And so we are actually going to the Paris air show with an exhibit.