Aerospace companies are following the lead of auto giants like Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, and Nissan by moving their manufacturing plants to states in the southern portion of the U.S. Some of the biggest names in aviation, including Boeing Co., Airbus, Gulfstream Aerospace Corp, and GE Aviation, have set up manufacturing processes in South Carolina, Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina, respectively.
As a result, four southern states are in the top 10 for aerospace job growth from 2007 to 2012. Amy Holloway, president of Avalanche Consulting, analyzed data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and found that South Carolina is leading the way among those states. Over that time period, the number of workers in the industry jumped by more than 600%, from 865 to 8,685, thanks largely to Boeing.
The staggering growth in S.C. may be attributed to the state’s extraordinary technical education system. The S.C. Technical College System features 16 colleges across the state that provide training for specific industries, like aerospace.
“Through its colleges and internationally renowned programs, the S.C. Technical College System provides access to quality higher education and advanced skills training for the majority of the state’s undergraduates and first-generation college students,” writes president of the S.C. Technical College System James Williamson, Ph.D. “The system opens doors and bridges gaps by working to ensure high-demand positions are filled with high-skilled employees.”
North Carolina ranks second in growth over that time with 34% expansion. Oklahoma ranked sixth on the list with 17% growth and Georgia was seventh at 16%.
Southern states are a target for major manufacturers for a number of reasons. From a financial perspective, the states generally have lower operating costs than their northern counterparts and states also have hefty incentive packages. Plus, right-to-work laws make it difficult for employees to unionize, which is attractive for manufacturers.
“These are crown jewel industries. States are not wrong to value them inordinately,” said Mark Muro, a senior fellow and policy director at the Brookings Institution.