With roots dating back to World War II, the aerospace industry has become a mainstay of the Southeast economy. Staff writer Charles Davidson explores some of the challenges and opportunities facing the industry in the first-quarter issue of EconSouth. Since its beginnings, the industry has grown to employ tens of thousands of workers and accounts for roughly $13 billion in U.S. exports in 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Despite its large size, the industry is not immune to cyclical pressures. For one, it relies heavily on contracts from the U.S. Department of Defense, NASA, and commercial airlines, Davidson explained. The industry has weathered previous down cycles and could face another one. Already, the industry is feeling the effect of federal spending cuts.
The outlook for defense and space contractors is uncertain due to federal budget issues, but the market for airlines and high-end corporate jets is benefiting from stronger corporate profits and rising demand. The commercial space industry—still in its infancy—also holds promise for the region.
The Southeast is home to several smaller, yet important, manufacturing clusters in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. Several foreign aircraft manufacturers, including the Brazilian firm Embraer, have already set up shop in the region. More are on the way, including Airbus, which recently announced a plan to build jets in Mobile, Alabama.
To read more about the Southeast's aerospace industry, check out the full version of Davidson's article in the first-quarter issue of EconSouth.