The region is well-positioned to attract thousands of jobs as it strives to become one of a handful of sites used to test and build remotely piloted aircraft over the coming months, said Jeff Hoagland, president of the Dayton Development Coalition.
Hoagland, speaking to members of the Springfield Rotary Club on Monday, said attaining that status would be a huge benefit for the region and could provide thousands of jobs throughout sites in the Miami Valley.
The Ohio/Indiana UAS Center and Test Complex is located in leased office space in the Nextedge Applied Research and Technology Park in Springfield. The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to select six sites nationwide where the unmanned aircraft will be tested to determine whether they can be flown safely while protecting the privacy of area residents.
“We look at this being a 15,000 job type of opportunity here and in Indiana,” Hoagland said.
In Clark County, companies like Avetec will help make the region more attractive to the FAA, Hoagland said. Avetec is a non-profit research facility that focuses on modeling and simulation in the aviation industry. Other sites, such as the Air Force Research Labs in Dayton, also make the region more marketable, Hoagland said.
States such as Oklahoma, Florida and North Dakota are also competing for the FAA designation, but Hoagland said Ohio is likely among the top competitors.
“If it’s based on merit, I think Ohio is a slam dunk,” Hoagland said.
The FAA is expected to make its decision by the end of the year, but with the recent federal government shutdown, it’s possible that decision could be delayed, he said.
Along with the research and testing that can be conducted locally, the area’s manufacturing base is well-positioned to supply advanced materials needed for the aircraft.
“The infrastructure is in place to allow this to take place very easily,” Hoagland said.
Overall, Hoagland said the state’s effort to regionalize economic development has helped state and local officials respond more quickly to area businesses. He also said regions are working more closely together so that if a project won’t work in one region of Ohio, it can still be pushed toward another part of the state to keep the jobs in Ohio.
The Dayton Development Coalition provides economic development support for 14 counties, including Clark and Champaign counties. Among other industries, Hoagland said the DDC has placed a special emphasis on attracting aerospace, advanced manufacturing, biosciences and data management companies to the area.
The region was hit hard during the recent recession, Hoagland said, but it is also beginning to recover faster than some other areas of the state.
“What we’re seeing is we got hit earlier, we’re recovering earlier,” he said.