Aerospace and Technology: Reaching New Heights
Arizona is one of the nation’s largest and fastest growing aerospace centers. Aerospace and defense comprises Arizona’s premiere industry cluster, employing over 93,800 people statewide in over 500 companies and bringing revenue of $8.8 billion in gross state product to the economy.
Arizona is home to 17 military installations, including Fort Huachuca (home of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center), Luke and Davis-Monthan Air Force Bases, Yuma Marine Corps Air Station, and the Air National Guard’s premier F-16 fighter pilot training unit. The Barry M. Goldwater Complex and Yuma Proving Ground together offer over two million acres of testing facilities for cutting-edge aircraft, artillery, and vehicular performance. These facilities employ almost 40,000 personnel. Arizona also boasts 81 airports, some shared with the U.S military and private companies for testing and training operations. Arizona’s aviation industry contributes $38.5 billion to the economy and more than 470,000 jobs, according to the Arizona Department of Transportation.
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Shared facilities help Arizona companies develop optimal products for military and civilian use. NASA and the Department of Defense commonly test the latest innovations in aerospace technology and communications. In fact, Arizona is ranked among the top ten for Department of Defense contracts, with defense contracts awarded to Arizona companies increasing from $4.1 billion to $12.1 billion between 2000 and 2009. The state leads the industry in the production of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), aircraft, missiles, battlefield communications and guidance systems.
Closely related to these cutting edge innovations, Arizona is also a leader in space technologies—making life-support suits for extreme environments, developing systems used in manned space programs, designing the first new space suit in more than 30 years, building satellite-deploying rockets that are launched beneath airplanes, and more.
The state is also a leading producer of additional high technology products such as microchips and biomedical goods. Semiconductors, a component of the world’s most exciting technologies, comprise 40% of the state’s exports! Progress in the high technology industries of semiconductors, optics, electronics, and other nanotechnologies can help the aerospace cluster stay strong.
Three major factors contribute to our status as a major global center for the technology, aerospace and defense industry. First, operating and cost-of-living expenses stay well below our competitors. Second, our climate, with over 340 days of flying weather every year, allows year-round testing opportunities. Third is our extensive system of inter-industry cooperation. Arizona leadership is committed to building synergy across the state with a vibrant consortium of technical research, academics, industry, test ranges and policy makers.
Like the biotechnical consortium, the unique collaborations between the various organizations, businesses, universities, community colleges, public schools, and military installations have bolstered Arizona’s success. Incubators like the Arizona Innovation Accelerator and dedicated funding programs such as the Arizona Innovation Challenge foster technology-based start-up companies. Employers like Boeing and Intel have invested billions of dollars in STEM initiatives that awaken curiosity in the sciences at a young age. Focused educational programs and strategic crossovers between the aviation, defense, and space technology sectors help keep this industry soaring upward.