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Air show yields hope for new jobs
by David Chapman, Staff Writer
Leads from the Farnborough International Airshow earlier this month could generate “hundreds of jobs over the next couple of years” and spark an educational summit, said Jacksonville Aviation Authority Executive and CEO Director Steve Grossman.The summit would bring together aviation businesses with local colleges and universities.
Grossman was part of the Northeast Florida contingent that attended the biennial trade exhibition and show July 9-15 in the United Kingdom.
He told the authority’s board of directors Monday that discussions with leadership from nine companies went well.
Grossman said he met with executives from Alenia, Unison, Embraer, Boeing, Spirit, Airbus, Lockheed, L3 and Kaman. He said several indicated they were “looking to add new business units in Jacksonville.”
He said some of the companies would require air-field access, while others would not.
JAXUSA Partnership, the economic development division of the JAX Chamber, will follow up with the interested companies, he said.
“I was amazed at the response,” Grossman said after the Monday authority meeting.
“When you walk into a meeting and the first thing the president says is ‘I really want to locate an engineering and R and D unit in Jacksonville,’ that’s a success,” he said.
He said the leads would likely generate hundreds of jobs in the next couple of years.
During those same meetings, a common theme also emerged — the desire of the companies to work with local colleges and universities on research and development and hire a skilled workforce, mainly engineers.
In response, Grossman said Monday that the authority would like to establish and host an educational summit to partner those companies with local colleges and universities like the University of North Florida, Jacksonville University and Florida State College at Jacksonville.
The University of Florida and Florida State University, although outside the area, would also likely attend, he said.
Grossman said he has yet to discuss the idea with universities, but the event would allow the companies to describe their needs and could work with schools that provide services and a potential workforce.
He compared the event to the Cecil Spaceport Development Summit the authority hosted in March that brought commercial space industry to the area.
Industry participants talked about the benefits of conducting their business in Northeast Florida.
Grossman said that ideally, the event would be hosted at Cecil to show off its possibilities and availability.
“What is becoming very clear, not only with the workforce but the educational community, is that these companies do a lot of research and development work. They want to partner and hire engineers who do work that these companies need,” he said.