By Bill May Three key elements in Oklahoma City's bid to lure
a major airline maintenance center are not a part of the financial
incentives package, according to economic development officials.
The elements, which are exclusive to Oklahoma, are the
"outstanding environmental team" of federal, state and local
regulators plus the state's vocational-technical education system.
The third element is productivity of the local workforce.
"A lot of this deal, one major reason why companies from all
over are looking here, is the productivity of the labor force," said
William P. Bowden, who heads aerospace marketing efforts of the
Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce. "That and the environmental
management aspects of this area make us particularly attractive.
"We have an outstanding environmental team which has a can-do
attitude. They insist on companies doing the right thing, but they
work with industry to help them achieve what is right and they work
to process permit requests as quickly as possible."
Another major element of the local bid is the Aviation Career
Center operated by MetroTech, Oklahoma City's vo-tech district, at
Will Rogers World Airport.
Even though other states offer employee training assistance
through the vo-tech systems, Oklahoma's system is more receptive to
industry, Bowden said.
The Aviation Career Center is a vo-tech school which teaches
basic aviation maintenance technology leading to federal
certification of airframe and powerplant mechanics. The school also
offers advanced courses on non-destructive testing, avionics and
composite repair and industry-specific training to help new and
expanding aviation companies.
But the key element of that school, Bowden said, is the proposal
to build a $10 million addition to offer continuing education on the
avionics systems and inspecting and maintaining transport category
Although the instruction in this so-called Phase III proposal
would deal only with heavy or transport category aircraft, the
emphasis would be on older airplanes. The aging commercial airfleet
is becoming a major issue to the airline industry, forcing air
carriers to make more frequent and more detailed inspections of
airplanes more than 20 years old.
"This school could become very important for the airlines," said
Bowden. "I know from experience the problems with the aging
airframes. We used to spend a lot of money just training people to
make the proper inspections on those older airplanes, then be able
to interpret the results.
"That was a major investment for us, just in training people how
to do the work, plus buying the latest technology test equipment. …