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The Arkansas Aerospace & Defense Alliance recently held the Mid-America Aerospace and Defense Summit in Fort Smith, Arkansas, on April 23rd-25th. This was our most well-attended summit with over 250 attendees from Arkansas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Attendees included representatives from alliance members such as Dassault Falcon Jet, Lockheed Martin, and Aerojet Rocketdyne.

This was AADA’s first summit with a regional focus, as our past annual Arkansas Aerospace Summit is focused on the local aerospace industry. Arkansas’s number one export is aerospace, which emphasizes why the regional aerospace summit was needed to help build out-of-state connections for Arkansas companies. The event highlighted our region’s strong presence and our potential for growth in the global aerospace and defense markets. The aim of this new regional trade show was to provide a forum and opportunities for aerospace and defense companies in mid-America to come together. These companies were able to exchange everything from business cards to innovative ideas on workforce and education, with the goal of growing opportunities for aerospace and defense in our region of the country.

The summit had a great lineup and featured speakers such as Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin, Congressman Steve Womack, and Governor Asa Hutchinson, who was the keynote speaker. The summit also included trade show exhibitions, presentations, and learning sessions. Topics for the summit included Economic Development Opportunities in Mid-America; Canada-Arkansas Trade Relations-Aerospace and Defense Opportunities; Airport as Economic Engines; Legal Issue within the Aerospace Industry; and Cybersecurity Issues in Aerospace and Defense, among others.

The summit also included the Bob East Accelerator Award, which went to Robin Pelton of National Park College. Robin exemplifies the award through her stellar career working for and with the aerospace and defense industry here in Arkansas. The Accelerator Award is given to someone who has made a significant contribution to the growth of aerospace and defense in Arkansas. The award is named for Bob East, a business owner and former member of the Little Rock Municipal Airport Commission, who was instrumental in establishing the AADA.