OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma --
The 14th Annual Tinker and the Primes Conference kicked off Tuesday at Midwest City’s Reed Center with a keynote address by Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt on how Oklahoma is “open for business” and the significant impact that the aerospace industry contributes to the state’s economy.
This year’s conference theme, “Enterprise Collaboration to Increase Readiness,” was echoed in Stitt’s opening remarks as he cited the ways in which Tinker Air Force Base and its operations have been a driving factor in bringing more than 100 companies such as Boeing, Pratt & Whitney and Northrup-Grumman into the state.
“Aerospace is such an important part of our state, we’re so proud of what Tinker does and everything they do that contributes to our economy,” Stitt said. “Aviation is just a huge cluster in our state, with 100 companies almost all based around Tinker.”
With the goal of running the state much like a business, Stitt said the work that his administration has done has been geared towards not only elevating Oklahoma to a top 10 state but also in bringing in more out-of-state businesses in areas such as aerospace and other growing fields.
More than 38 new companies ranging from aerospace to retail have already moved to Oklahoma within the last eight months, which Stitt said has brought in 3,100 new jobs and $1.3 million in new investments.
A further impact on aerospace Stitt discussed is his administration’s investment of an additional $18 million in career tech jobs. By funding career tech opportunities and further increasing education funding, Stitt said this fuels the jobs of tomorrow and helps Oklahoma become a powerhouse for aerospace opportunities both in-state and nationally.
“We have the right people, we have the right location, we have the most inland port in the country,” Stitt said. “We have tremendous assets in our state and the thing that I’m going to leave you with is that Oklahoma is open for business.”
Stitt’s opening remarks were followed up by a presentation by Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment, Robert McMahon, who stressed the role that sustainment operations and advances play in helping to sustain the national defense strategy of enhancing readiness, building partnerships and enhancing significant reform.
In regards to partnerships, McMahon said that some of the most important collaboration is fostered through events like Tinker and the Primes that bring together private and public sector leaders to discuss and collaborate.
“How do I partner to achieve the readiness and lethality we need with the programs that we are going to put out there for the nation?” McMahon said. “Instead of trying to figure out how we beat each other, between the private and the public sector, the question should be how do we better collaborate to accomplish the things we need to do.”
An ideal future partnership setup within the next 10 years is something that McMahon described as 80% public and 20% private collaboration on issues of aerospace, as opposed to the current opposite distribution of collaborative efforts. Support from Stitt and other state leaders is something McMahon said is exciting to see in building opportunities in this regard, especially in the way that state government has supported the state’s military installations and military families.
“If we can bring folks to the state that are interested, excited and talented, all this does is help this great state’s opportunity to do even better,” McMahon said.
A production between the Midwest City Chamber of Commerce, Rose State College and other community leaders, Tinker and the Primes has developed a reputation for attracting hundreds of aerospace, defense and government contracting businesses and organizations for a forum on expanding aerospace opportunities in the state.
This year’s key sponsors included major aerospace companies such as Boeing, Lockheed-Martin and Northrup-Grumman, who were among the more than 50 organizations participating in the conference’s booth exhibit.
“This provides a venue for us to get to know [community partners] better and also pulls the suppliers in, so that some of the major defense contractors such as Northrup-Grumman can help smaller supplies get more involved,” said Greg Smith, Northrup-Grumman’s site director of Military Aircraft Systems in Oklahoma City.
Smith also discussed the possibility of a future partnership between Rose State College and Northrup-Grumman to sponsor aerospace programming at the college that would help drive workforce growth in the aerospace industry that would help both the private sector and military installations such as Tinker.
“Here we have a lot of engineering support, software and IT, all growth things here that try to raise the level as the industry grows here to expand the workforce,” Smith said. “Growing the workforce to meet the needs of the state’s expanding aerospace industry is a challenge, and Tinker is very needy in some of those same things.”
The conference will continue through Thursday, with Tuesday’s presentations continuing with topics such as strengthening supply readiness through collaboration, the importance of aircraft maintenance in supporting defense and building collaborations between small businesse