Growing the Aerospace and Defense Industry in Arkansas

June 15, 2023

Thousands of companies will be flying into Paris, France later this week for the 2023 Paris Air Show, the biggest aerospace industry event in the world, for a week of product demonstrations, meetings, and networking.

From June 19 to 25, Team Arkansas will be on the ground at the air show, championing the strength of our state’s aerospace and defense industry. Team Arkansas is made up of economic development partners, industry executives, and state officials from across the state, including Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The organizations represented include AirReady MRO ServicesArkansas Aerospace & Defense AllianceArkansas State Chamber of Commerce/Associated Industries of ArkansasAviation Repair TechnologiesBlue Gold by Modern ChemicalClinton National AirportGalley Support Innovations, the Little Rock Regional ChamberMundo-TechORC ProductsWorld Trade Center Arkansas, and the Arkansas Economic Development Commission.

Members of this group will be manning the Team Arkansas booth throughout the event, holding meetings with companies, and making valuable contacts that will help advance the aerospace and defense industry in Arkansas.

Team Arkansas Booth at Paris Air Show

There’s plenty to highlight about Arkansas’ aerospace and defense industry while we’re in Paris.

Arkansas maintains a strong and growing aerospace and defense industry. The Highland Industrial Park in Camden, an 18,780-acre industrial park, has more than 5.4 million-square-feet of facilities dedicated to the aerospace and defense, technology, and telecommunications sectors.

Recent announcements also highlight the industry’s strength in Arkansas. In March 2023, the U.S. Air Force officially announced that Ebbing Air National Guard Base in Fort Smith will host a new Foreign Military Sales Pilot Training Center, which will provide F-16 and F-35 training for participants. The new mission will bring approximately 900 military members and their families to the greater Fort Smith region and is expected to have a $1 billion annual economic impact on the State of Arkansas. In 2022, Lockheed Martin opened a new All-Up Round III facility in Camden to increase production capacity of its PAC-3 Missile Segment Enhancement, the world’s most advanced air defense missile. Lockheed Martin also announced in 2022 that it would be partnering with Airbus on a new aerial refueling boom system for the LMXT strategic tanker aircraft; this system is set to be manufactured by Airbus in western Arkansas.

Companies looking to grow in Arkansas will find an experienced aerospace and defense industry workforce. There are more than 8,800 employees working at aerospace and defense industry operations throughout Arkansas.

The talent pipeline in Arkansas is being steadily maintained and replenished by the state’s educational system. There are 15 four-year universities and 22 two-year colleges throughout Arkansas that offer programs and classes in a wide range of disciplines related to aerospace and defense. From aviation airframe and powerplant maintenance to network engineering, there are courses currently offered that provide training for the future workforce of the aerospace industry.

In Arkansas, our greatest strength is collaboration. It’s been said before, but it’s worth repeating: economic development is a team sport. We work together at all levels – from our state’s CEO, Gov. Sanders, to our state agencies and beyond – to ensure that companies have all the resources and support they need. We are making economic development happen every day, and we are committed to working with companies to help them achieve their goals and create economic opportunities for Arkansans.

Team Arkansas is a case study in how economic development happens in Arkansas. It’s the public sector and the private sector, building bridges and working hand in hand to strengthen our aerospace and defense industry.

Companies considering an expansion in Arkansas will find a thriving aerospace and defense industry that is poised for continued growth.

Big things are happening in Arkansas, and our aerospace and defense industry is taking off.

If you’re interested in learning more about Arkansas’ aerospace and defense industry, please download AEDC’s exclusive Aerospace & Defense Industry Report and reach out to our team.

Clint O’Neal
Executive Director
Arkansas Economic Development Commission

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