The Aerospace Industry in Northwest Florida
Northwest Florida is a vibrant region that may surprise you with its diverse industry sectors. It stretches from Pensacola on its western edge, along the beautiful emerald coast to St Marks, reaching north beyond Interstate 10 to border Alabama and part of Georgia, with a population of over 1.1 million residents.
The region has six aviation-focused military bases that employ more than 56,000 individuals. These bases specialize in aviation activities such as unmanned aerial systems, weapons testing, pilot training, and aerospace systems research and development.
The military presence in the area has led to the development of an aerospace and defense cluster, comprising nearly 132 companies. The cluster includes aerospace parts manufacturers, aviation maintenance and repair firms, as well as research institutions that transfer military aerospace technology to the private sector.
Leading aviation companies such as ST Engineering and Premier Aviation have started to develop new facilities in Northwest Florida, attracted by the region’s outstanding aviation workforce, welcoming business climate, exceptional quality of life, and unprecedented financial resources.
Northwest Florida’s military installations not only offer direct economic benefits, but they also provide a hidden talent supply of exiting military members with aviation experience and skillsets in areas such as avionics, aircraft maintenance, and engineering. These veterans are ready for new civilian careers within Northwest Florida, and they possess soft skills such as commitment, punctuality, and determination that are hard to teach. On average, over 3,000 active duty military personnel separate from these six installations each year, while 130,000 veterans call Northwest Florida home. Furthermore, Veterans Florida offers significant financial incentives for every veteran hired.
The nearest aerospace OEM to the Northwest Florida region is the Airbus US Manufacturing facility in Mobile. Airbus recently announced the construction of a third assembly line to build A320 Family aircraft and hire 1,000 new employees. Suppliers for the Airbus facility will be able to leverage the synergies with the existing aerospace cluster’s workforce talent and supply chain. In addition, suppliers will have access to unprecedented financial resources to offset startup costs. Triumph Gulf Coast, a $1.5 billion economic development fund established after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, provides significant financial support. The City of Pensacola has partnered with ST Engineering to develop an MRO campus, which received a $66 million grant award from Triumph Gulf Coast.