Aerospace Industry Soars in Michigan

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Michigan’s “Sleeping Giant” – the aerospace industry — is on the move, gaining in size, strength and reputation.

By any measure, the state’s high-flying industry is a powerhouse of world-class companies with talent nurtured in a Michigan business ecosystem of engineering, supply chain logistics, manufacturing, research, technology, education, design and materials.

Once in the shadow of the automobile community, the aerospace sector increasingly is recognized for know-how, ingenuity, quality, dependability and growth. Consider these findings from the Aerospace Industry Association of Michigan (AIAM).

  • Michigan has more than 800 companies in the aerospace business.
  • The state’s aerospace industry attracted more than $750 million in capital investment in an 18-month period through mid-2019.
  • Michigan is an incubator for talent, with 18 academic institutions providing aerospace and aviation curriculum and degrees.
  • PricewaterhouseCoopers ranked Michigan as the best state in the Midwest for aerospace manufacturing attractiveness, and No. 4 nationwide.
  • The report ranked Michigan No. 1 in the nation for tax policy and third for the overall economy.

“These rankings are a significant achievement (that) recognizes Michigan’s history in aerospace, its sustainability and growth,” said Tony Vernaci, president and founder of the AIAM. “Aerospace manufacturers are seeing what Michigan has to offer and are excited about the future of the industry in the state.”

Added Dr. Anthony Waas, Department Chair of Aerospace Engineering at the University of Michigan: “Michigan is a leader in technology, especially as it relates to the aerospace industry.’”

Writing in “Crain’s Detroit Business,” the chief executive of a West Michigan engineering company described the aerospace industry as Michigan’s “sleeping giant” and cited Michigan companies earning AS9100 certifications. To be certified, a company must meet globally recognized quality standards expected by Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

“Michigan ranked 11th in the country for the number of AS9100 certified aerospace companies and No. 1 for percentage growth in the first and second half 2019,” wrote Stacy Paul, CEO of Array of Engineers.

To serve and manage complex needs, Michigan’s aerospace industry relies on suppliers and specialists with sophisticated operations and international experience. Among those is ICAT Logistics DTW, a leading logistics and freight forwarding company in Taylor, near Detroit-Metropolitan Airport.

“We specialize in handling unique challenges, including oversize and sensitive cargo,” said Dan Cser, who founded the company a quarter-century ago. “Our operations professionals have skilled partners and contacts around the world to deliver customized solutions for secure, on-budget, on-time delivery.”

Michigan is well-position for continued growth and success in aerospace, state officials said. Since the start of 2020, Michigan has reported:

  • Record passenger traffic of 36.8 million last year at Detroit Metropolitan Airport (and construction nearly completed on a $21 million overhaul of the North Terminal).
  • The Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport, near Alpena, has emerged as a potential site to host a horizontal spaceport and launch site.
  • A trade mission was dispatched to Mexico to stimulate additional international aerospace business and commerce.

“The state that revolutionized the automotive industry has taken to the skies to become one of the top places in the country for aerospace,” the Michigan Economic Development Commission said in its online mission statement.

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