Ga. aerospace firms soar

Moderated by Rick Badie

Aircraft and aerospace parts and productsAnsulNewsArt97k are one reason Georgia’s export sales are soaring. Today, the head of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Aerospace writes about exports, job growth and the state’s international standing in the industry. Elsewhere, a financial executive notes the importance of educating young people about the economy, enterprise and free market.

Ga. aerospace firms thrive

By R. Steve Justice

Last month, Gov. Nathan Deal announced Georgia’s record year in international trade for the fourth time, both in exports and imports. The state exported $37.6 billion in goods, the highest annual total in its history. And for the second year in a row, aerospace-related products led the way as Georgia’s largest international export.

Aircraft, aircraft parts and aircraft engine exports grew to $7.85 billion in 2013, up from $6.71 billion in 2012. Georgia now ranks third in the U.S. for aircraft engines and parts, exporting $1.29 billion in 2013. Aircraft and aircraft parts totaled $6.56 billion in exports, ranking Georgia fourth among states in the U.S.

Overall, 2013 marked seven straight years of aerospace export gains in Georgia, with an increase of 75 percent over the last five years. That outpaces the total U.S. growth in aerospace exports of 35 percent over the same period.

Our state’s aerospace companies are competing around the world, with major exports to Singapore, China, the United Kingdom, Japan, Poland and Germany. Savannah-based Gulfstream Aerospace increased deliveries of business jets from 94 aircraft in 2012 to 144 in 2013, driven by strong sales of the new G650 to international customers. The future is looking just as bright: Orders of the G650 are stretching 45 months at current production rates.

Georgia’s aerostructures and parts manufacturers also contributed heavily to growth in exports. Triumph Aerostructures in Milledgeville is pursuing a business opportunity in Brazil. PCC Airfoils of Douglas, a manufacturer of precision aircraft turbine engine parts, reports most of its work is for Asia and European customers. Georgia is also poised to make gains in the new, “hot” aerospace global markets — namely, unmanned aircraft systems and the commercial space arena.

Three elements feeding this growth in aerospace are a strong university research base, an experienced and well-trained workforce, and our large aerospace community.

Overall, Georgia universities conduct approximately $500 million annually in engineering research, with about 10 percent focused in aerospace. More than 86,000 Georgians are employed directly in aerospace, with education and training available from five university engineering programs, a comprehensive aviation college and six technical colleges with focused aviation training programs.

Our community of more than 700 aerospace companies is building national and international networks to supply aerospace products in the global market. These factors, combined with Georgia’s business-friendly environment, make our state a perfect place for aerospace companies to connect, compete and grow.

R. Steve Justice is director of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Aerospace.

Investing in future leaders vital to growth

By Reggie Walker

In a city where fewer than 60 percent of public school students graduate, there is a clear opportunity for the Atlanta business community to take a role in preparing youth for the future. If Atlanta is to continue to thrive, it must invest in tomorrow’s leaders.

Corporate philanthropy has an important part to play, yet writing a check is simply not enough. We must take a comprehensive approach — leveraging our unique talents, resources and ideas to drive real impact.

Organizations such as the Metro Atlanta Chamber’s Partners for Education and the Georgia Council on Economic Education help companies do just that. Georgia also recognizes this mission, as our high school students are required to take and pass a course on the principles of economics, business and free enterprise. And as a firm of audit, tax and consulting professionals, PwC is able to leverage our strengths and resources to improve the financial literacy of youth.

Despite the statewide requirement, less than 20 percent of educators feel prepared to teach personal finance. To address this need, we collaborated with organizations to develop “Earn Your Future,” a financial literacy curriculum available to teachers, nonprofits and anyone interested in improving our youths’ financial knowledge. Our partners and staff volunteer with organizations, including Junior Achievement of Georgia and the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta, to help students learn about saving, investing, paying for college, establishing credit and making financially responsible decisions.

Our outreach also includes one-on-one mentoring. Through our “Life Skills” program, now in its 21st year, we help Sutton Middle School students prepare for the working world. We have worked with 3,500 students through these and other programs.

Yet perhaps the most valuable impact stems from relationships students develop with our people. Through lunchtime conversations and casual meetings, students learn how the business world works and how to build relationships. They receive guidance that helps them identify what they enjoy, what they are good at, and possible career options. During these interactions, we see eyes brighten and confidence levels rise.

By aligning corporate responsibility with an organization’s strategy and capabilities, companies can help volunteers make the most of their skills, which contributes to deeper personal satisfaction, stronger company loyalty and higher work performance. It can also address the talent gap, one of the biggest challenges companies face today, by helping youth build skills to succeed in the future.

When it comes to youth education, we’re in this together. Parents and teachers are on the front lines, but the business community shares responsibility.

Every business has resources, skills and ideas. We owe it to Atlanta to leverage them to provide our youth with the tools they need to succeed and build a stronger, more productive community.

Reggie Walker is managing partner for the Atlanta office of PwC, a firm that specializes in audit and assurances, tax and consulting services.

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