Oklahoma, USA’s economy and business-friendly policies set stage for composite sector growth

Leishia Pearson, the head of Oklahoma Aerospace Commerce Economic Services, a division of the Oklahoma Department of Commerce, welcomes the opportunity to meet with you briefly at JEC World, March 3-5, 2020, to discuss the business opportunities that can be found in the State of Oklahoma, USA for composite companies producing material for aerospace, automotive and energy companies.

Given that Oklahoma today is a major centre for the Aerospace industry in the United States, home to more than 1,100 aerospace entities, notably involved in commercial, defence and general aviation, Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO),  and UAS, it’s no big surprise that a concentration of composite material companies can be found in the State to supply the needs of aerospace manufacturers, both for commercial and defence applications. NORDAM, Vertical Aerospace, Spirit, Kratos Defence Systems and Tinker AFB are examples of OK-based companies presently servicing this industry.

Here are a couple of reasons why Oklahoma should be on the radar of composite company executives:

Oklahoma offers a pipeline of composites talent

A growing pipeline of workers with expertise in Material Sciences can be found in the State. The School of Materials Science and Engineering, for example, located in the Helmerich Research Center on Oklahoma State University-Tulsa’s campus, , is today educating over 500 students in the newest advances in materials science and biotechnology. Historically aligned with the petroleum and petrochemicals industry, the school is also conducting world-class education, research and technology development and transfer on advanced materials used for new energy technologies, but also bio-materials for medical technologies, materials for electronics and control technologies and composites for aerospace and defence.

Tulsa-based manufacturing company Infinite Composites Technologies (ICT), in collaboration with Oklahoma State University-Tulsa, for example, was selected by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to develop new materials used for space exploration. NASA is looking to test ICT’s materials for cryogenic tanks outside the International Space Station (ISS) against the harsh environment of space. NASA seeks to evaluate the performance, stability, and long-term survivability of materials and components planned for long-duration space missions. ICT has partnered with Dr. Eric Benton and Dr. Ranji Vaidyanathan from Oklahoma State University to model the material response to radiation and to test them before and after exposure to galactic cosmic radiation or GCR.

Oklahoma’s CareerTech System and Training for Industry Program (TIP) has received national recognition and helped more than 1,700 companies to date in Oklahoma

CareerTech trains workers across 30 high-demand areas like machining, composite manufacturing and repair, database administration, digital video production, cloud and virtual network administration, cyber defense, web design and more. In 2018, more than 550,000 students enrolled in career tech classes across the State, including more than 86,000 middle and high school students as well as thousands of workers taking customized training classes developed jointly with local industries. AvPro, a Norman, OK service company that provides software, training and installation of sensors used in the manufacture of composite materials for the aviation industry, collaborated with CareerTech to develop a training program focused on composite materials development and testing.

A growing need for automotive composites

Composite companies should take note that the need for new materials and composites  in Oklahoma is soon about to expand now that automotive companies are also eligible to benefit from the State’s widely successful Engineering Workforce Tax Credit. The program, initially intended for aerospace companies, provides a USD 5000 per year tax credit to engineers hired into the aerospace industry as well as gives the companies that hire them a 10 percent tax credit for hiring in-state graduates and a five percent tax credit for hiring from other states, plus 50 % tax credit for reimbursement of tuition costs.

Updating the tax incentive was one of the ways Oklahoma is gearing itself up to meet the needs of automotive companies, that are increasingly looking westward within the continental U.S. to find suitable locations for new manufacturing plants;  whether it be by establishing new workforce training programs, rolling out business friendly policies and tax incentives and/or upgrading its infrastructure (roads, rail) to facilitate access to existing manufacturing plants and/or customers.

Leishia Pearson will be located in P38a U.S. Pavilion, Hall 6 At JEC World.