South Carolina, Florida groups among aerospace conference sponsors

The Herald
Jim Davis
February 12, 2015

LYNNWOOD — For the first time, economic development groups from South Carolina and Florida were among the sponsors for the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference.

Charleston Regional Development Alliance played a 2 minute, 40 second video for the 450 attendees on Wednesday touting the strengths of South Carolina.

A group representing 16 counties in the panhandle of Florida set up a booth to talk about the strengths of northwest Florida and its proximity to both Boeing in South Carolina and the new Airbus plant opening in Mobile, Alabama.

Both groups got a chance to give a few comments to attendees before sessions at the conference that wraps up Thursday.

“We wanted to share our story about the aerospace industry in the Southeastern United States and about how it’s growing tremendously,” said Jennifer Conoley, economic development representative for Gulf Power, which supplies power to most of those Florida counties.

Becky Ford, director of business development programs for the Charleston group, said that she came with a group of companies from Charleston to the conference. It’s a chance for her to reconnect with several businesses that she’s already connected with over the past couple of years.

“It’s really a matter of being here and using the resources for a function like this where I can see 20 to 30 companies at once,” she said.

Both Conoley and Ford said they’re hoping to convince companies that need to locate a satellite office in the Southeast to consider their regions.

“We’re not into coming up here and stealing companies from Washington,” Conoley said. “We’re just trying to talk about our aerospace story and celebrate with the cluster that’s already been formed here.”

She said it makes sense for suppliers to be located near the Boeing plants in Everett and Renton. It also make sense for suppliers to be located near aircraft manufacturers in the Southeast.

Other sponsors included Choose Washington, which aims to attract businesses to the state, and Canada Starts Here, which has been a sponsor in past years.

JC Hall, chairman of the PNAA’s board of directors, said there was no concern on the board about allowing the economic groups from South Carolina and Florida to sponsor the conference.

“We’ve never specifically excluded them, but this is the first time they reached out and wanted to take an active role,” Hall said.
He said that growth in the industry will help all of the aerospace clusters.

“We need to figure out how we work with these areas and exploit these opportunities,” Hall said. “There’s a lot going on in places other than just Everett and Renton.”

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