Aviation in the Wiregrass Part I

By: Erica Proffer Email
By: Erica Proffer Email

The job market here in the Wiregrass area is about to reach new heights, giving you entry level positions with higher wages.

Many state and local leaders are projecting a boom in aerospace aviation and maintenance and they need your help filling the open positions.

Eighty-seven-year-old retired Lt. Colonel William Howell flew a helicopter for President Dwight D. Eisenhower, which was before the days of Air Force One.

Amazing to think, he was also here when the first set helicopters were put to use.

"Helicopters weren't here to stay in my opinion, but it turned out they did,” Howell says. “It turned out they became my main vehicle that I retired flying. I was the one that took them to the White House. It was the making of my career, really. So, the helicopter is one of the best machines ever built."

And now, many others are sharing that same opinion.

State and local officials are calling aviation training and maintenance a booming industry for southeast Alabama.

Just last year, Bell-Aero announced its expansion, creating 150 jobs immediately.

That’s on top of the city breaking ground on another phase in its airport expansion project, which is expected to draw in more aviation-type businesses.

"This project is about a $6 million dollar job. And approximately 75% of that will remain in the Wiregrass area," says Mike Wolfe with Glenn Construction.

The airport expansion has already brought Dynalantic, a company that trains pilots on aircraft that are built in Ozark.

However, it's not just Ozark, or Dale County, but according to state leaders, this is a trend that's happening all around Alabama, concentrated in the southeast

"Alabama is going to be leading in this next frontier when we talk about building aviation products," says Governor Bob Riley.

So what's the cause of all this growth? According to state leaders, the answer is closer than you may think.

"We're located well with Ft. Rucker; we're located with Dannelly Field of Montgomery. Those kinds of jobs grow the same kind of jobs," says Rick Spears of Sikorsky, Inc. in Troy.

And, these jobs are paying good money for entry level, giving more money to the area.

"Anytime you bring good paying jobs with good benefits and those things into play, it helps our citizens. We know that some of our jobs will have to be filled with people moving into Troy. So, it builds up our population base. It helps retail and really everyone in the community," says Troy Mayor, Jimmy Lunsford.

However, there is still one challenge. "We are going to have to step up our training. We are going to have to make sure that we do everything that we can possibly do to make sure we have the high quality, high skilled workers to do these jobs," says Riley.

And, that education challenge is what one southeast college says they are ready to meet.

Friday, we will take a look at the southeast college and some of its students who are what leaders call the ‘epitome’ of the shift in manufacturing.


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