U.S. lawmakers, local officials, and industry officials underscored the growth opportunities and workforce needs ahead in the general aviation industry during GAMA’s latest jobs rally on Friday in Olathe, Kansas. The rally, GAMA’s 16th since 2009, drew a crowd of nearly 700 people to Garmin’s new warehouse and distribution center, as well as the participation of leaders from Bombardier, Garmin, Textron Aviation, and Yingling Aviation. Also participating were GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), Rep. Ron Estes (R-Kansas), Kansas Lt. Gov. Tracey Mann, and Olathe mayor Michael Copeland.
Bunce called the new Garmin center “a tremendous symbol of the vibrancy and excitement about general aviation” and told the audience, “The broad support we see today from our elected officials, who span federal, state, and local levels, along with the support from our industry leaders and our talented workforce, gives me great confidence about this industry’s future.”
Garmin president and CEO Cliff Pemble called general aviation part of the company’s DNA since it was founded 29 years ago and said the industry is “a growth driver as Garmin looks to the future.”
“Aviation is one of the largest and most important industries in our state,” Mann agreed. “The industry currently supports more than 90,000 jobs, and by working together we can ensure that Kansas remains the premier location for the design and manufacture of aircraft in the U.S.”
General aviation is Kansas’s largest industry, Moran added, calling the state a leader in aircraft manufacturing. While the participants celebrate general aviation, he said, “I am proud to reflect on the successes we have had in working together to protect and strengthen this industry, particularly in defeating proposals to privatize our nation’s air traffic control system. Such policies would have greatly diminished general aviation’s ability to create jobs and generate economic growth.”
But the participants on Friday also highlighted a concern about recruiting new talent into the industry. “General aviation is an industry full of innovation and opportunity with an impact that is far reaching. And as the industry continues to grow, the need for diverse talent—from mechanics to pilots to engineers—grows with it,” said Textron Aviation vice president Doug May.
“It is imperative that all of our efforts in talent search, employee retention, and expansion and workforce development are collaborative with a unified strategy among the private sector, the cities, the counties, and the state in order to have maximum impact and benefit,” said Yingling Aviation chairman and CEO Lynn Nichols.