‘No better time time to be in Dayton region:’ Collaboration touted by Joby and Sierra Nevada execs

Leaders say workforce is top priority during Dayton Development Coalition’s annual meeting.

Executives from Joby Aviation Inc. and Sierra Nevada Corp. praised the region and the state of Ohio for collaborating to drive economic development and both said getting a trained workforce in place is a critical priority as they ramp up operations.

Didier Papadapoulos, president of aircraft OEM at Joby, and Sierra Nevada Executive Vice President Jon Piatt spoke Wednesday at the Dayton Development Coalition’s annual meeting in front of 650 people at the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force.

The coalition’s meeting highlighted two aviation projects at the Dayton International Airport: Sierra Nevada’s Aviation Innovation and Technology Center, which is a maintenance and overhaul facility, and Joby Aviation’s plan to build its first scaled production facility for electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft for commercial passenger service, commonly known as “flying taxis.”

“All along the way there was this persistent commitment to solving anything,” Papadapoulos said about the company’s talks with local and state development officials while it was weighing where in the country to put its new plant.

Ohio Lt. Gov. Jon Husted said Joby’s announcement was validation that what the region and state are doing to attract and retain companies is working.

“At one time this was a place that wasn’t very good at collaboration. Now it is,” Husted said.

Sierra Nevada, which focuses on U.S. Defense Department aerospace and aviation work, and Joby were both attracted by the proximity to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which is the region’s largest employer and the state’s largest single-site employer.

“There’s no better time to be in the Dayton region,” said coalition President and CEO Jeff Hoagland in a news release. “What aerospace company or industry professional wouldn’t want to come to a community with Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, SNC, and now Joby Aviation? Whether they want to support our national defense, join the efforts to transform how we power our vehicles, or continue to innovate the future of flight, the Dayton region offers life-changing opportunities.”

Piatt said the company also was attracted by the Dayton region’s robust educational institutions and called for working with those institutions, even at the elementary school level, to prepare the workforce of the future.

“(Education must be) aligned with what business needs, so that it is relevant,” said Husted in comments to media. “The good news is when we get it right people have the skills, the job security and the opportunity for higher pay.”

In 2022, the region’s five-year Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy set workforce development and talent attraction and retention as a top priority for Auglaize, Butler, Champaign, Clark, Clinton, Darke, Greene, Mercer, Miami, Montgomery, Preble, Shelby and Warren counties.

Papadapoulos and Piatt said their companies are looking for workers with a range of skill sets and levels of education.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Joby plans to hire 2,000 people as production ramps up to 500 vehicles a year. It’s using existing buildings at the Dayton International Airport, including the former U.S. Postal Service office, and up to 140 acres of greenfield development for its production facility. Construction begins this year and it will be online next year.

A smaller operation is being established to machine parts, initially for Joby’s pilot production line in California, according to the company.

Joby will invest an estimated $477 million and have payroll of $140 million annually, said Julie Sullivan, the coalition’s executive vice president of regional development, as she gave Joby the coalition’s Project of the Year award.

Sierra Nevada, an aircraft missions systems integrator, has one hangar fully operational at the airport and construction of the second should be completed by this summer. The company has committed to creating 150 jobs, has 75 employees now and is hiring for positions including engineers, avionics and structural technicians, mechanics, logistics, security and management.

The company could add more than 500 people locally if it wins a bid that the U.S. government could award as soon as March.

Wednesday’s meeting also included discussion of the coalition’s achievements in 2023. The coalition is the west region partner of JobsOhio, the state’s privatized economic development arm.

Economic development efforts in the 12-county west region in 2023 netted 5,212 job commitments, 5,806 retained jobs, $383.28 million in new payroll and $1.07 billion in capital investment, according to DDC data.

The numbers are for companies that worked with the coalition and JobsOhio to expand or establish new operations in the region.

“Our region led the state of Ohio in 2023,” Hoagland said.

Also on Wednesday the coalition gave the Maureen Patterson Regional Award to Lucious Plant, who retired last year as the coalition’s talent acquisition director and previously was workforce development administrator for Montgomery County.

The Revitalization Project of the Year award went to Dine’ Development Corp.

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