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Joint Ohio Aerospace and Technology Committee to form soon

A new Ohio General Assembly Aerospace and Technology Committee will be a reality soon, perhaps by November or December, State Rep. Rick Perales told a Dayton Development Coalition forum in Beavercreek Friday.

The Beavercreek Republican said he has approval from Gov. John Kasich’s office, Senate President Keith Faber, R-Celina, and others for forming the committee.

“We have nothing like that, believe it or not,” Perales told a full room at SAIC offices. “We have every other kind of committee. But we don’t have anything that touches on aerospace and technology. We have a caucus, but it was informal, and it wasn’t recognized by the state at all.”

A few months ago, Perales was appointed co-chairman of the Ohio Aerospace Caucus for the 130th General Assembly.

After the forum, Perales said he envisions having the new committee seat three representatives and three senators. Even after the committee is formed, though, more work will need to be done, he said.

Perales said also he is working to get Kasich and other state leaders to attend “CORONA week,” the periodic event that draws top Air Force leaders to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the region. The event is on the calendar for the governor and others, he told listeners.

He said he has heard of a similar event at Hanscom Air Force Base, Bedford, Mass., where state leaders do attend. He wants to achieve that same kind of participation in the Dayton area.

“What I wanted to pick up was to get the state more involved,” said Perales, a former Greene County commissioner and mayor of Beavercreek.

Standing united is crucial to protecting the region’s resources, Perales said. He praised the coalition for providing that unity in approaching state and federal leaders.

The region is eyeing several issues that touch on defense and Wright-Patterson, the state’s largest single-site employer with roughly 29,000 employees.

Ohio and Indiana have submitted a 6,000-page proposal to become a Federal Aviation Administration-approved test site for unmanned aerial vehicles or unmanned aerial systems (UAS). A decision by the FAA could come before the end of the year on becoming an official site for testing the airspace compatibility of UAS and piloted flight, and that designation could mean jobs and investment for the Dayton region, advocates say.

And while no federal BRAC (Base Realignment and Closure) process is expected in 2015, one is possible in 2017, said Maurice “Mo” McDonald, the coalition’s executive vice president, aerospace and defense.

“Every time we go to (U.S. Rep. Mike) Turner’s office, he tells us that everyone is jealous of what we do here,” Perales said.

“The Dayton region is known for speaking with one voice, ” said Jeff Hoagland, the coalition’s president and chief executive.

Also Friday, State Sen. Chris Widener, R-Springfield, said $21 million was secured in the most recent state budget to help “BRAC-proof” the Dayton region and unify the state’s military and aerospace resources.

That means a total of $42 million has been set aside in the past two state budgets for that priority, as well as workforce training, Widener said.

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