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AADA Article BobEastPerhaps still unknown to many current residents, the aviation/aerospace industry is rapidly becoming Arkansas’ largest, and most valuable, export. With nearly 180 major companies serving the industry, Arkansas’ competitive airspace environment is backed by its numerous runway-accessible sites and its highly skilled labor force. 

But the rapidly expanding aerospace industry was not always as coordinated and connected as it is today, thus creating the need for the Arkansas Aerospace and Defense Alliance (AADA). When so many businesses rely on airspace for their goods/services, it seemed an expert idea to form a coalition that could strive to connect members to each other, provide benefits and solutions where none previously existed, and coordinate educational efforts.

Bob East, founder of East Harding and current managing partner of Advanced Cabling Systems, said, “When looking into the industry at the Little Rock airport, through research we found a lot of companies and groups wanted to talk and educate people on the aerospace industry, but there was no coordination.” After taking the need for education to then Gov. Beebe, the charge for an alliance was commissioned. In part, it was a necessity; when Gov. Beebe was traveling and talked to prospective businesses, he could directly speak of the AADA: an alliance that supports the aerospace industry and deals with issues affecting their business.

“Getting companies (manufactures and users) to realize and become advocates for aerospace growth as users, and seeing the power we have together, and to educate young people that there’s a great career in engineering and manufacturing here in AR, keeps people from leaving the state,” said East, when discussing the work force in Arkansas.

The goal was simple: Create a community that strives to provide education about the aerospace industry, and the job opportunities that come with it.

“It has so much potential.” East remarked, “These are good jobs! They have a great starting wage, and they’ll have skills that they can take elsewhere if they want.” In a market where skilled jobs abound, this provides significant opportunities as we face a society still working on making an economic resurgence.

The AADA still has a way to go. While new training opportunities are becoming available, and legislative benefits are consistently being reviewed, the AADA is also eagerly pursuing new member opportunities. The larger the member base, the more attractive Arkansas becomes for out-of-state prospects. Who wouldn’t want to invest in a state that boasts an expanding aerospace/aviation economy, highly qualified staff/technicians, and a wave of eager, educated young workers approaching on the horizon?