- By Bob Sechler American-Statesman Staff
Texas could be in line to land thousands of additional aerospace-related manufacturing and engineering jobs if companies in the fast-growing sector heed a new ranking of the most competitive places for them to operate.
The report by PricewaterhouseCoopers lists Texas behind only Washington state as a top location in the United States for “aerospace manufacturing attractiveness.”
The consulting firm views the aerospace and defense industry overall as “well-positioned to consider expansion opportunities” at a time when the sector is “poised to achieve new record (financial) results.”
One huge economic prize that could be up for grabs in 2019 is the site for development of Boeing Co.’s next commercial passenger jet. The Chicago-based company hasn’t formally announced plans yet to proceed with the new middle-market airliner — dubbed the 797 by industry observers — but it is widely expected to do so next year, likely setting up a scramble among states and municipalities hoping to win the project.
Scott Thompson, U.S. aerospace and defense leader for PricewaterhouseCoopers, declined to discuss any potential corporate projects specifically but noted that Texas moved up six spots — after tying for No. 8 in 2017 — in his firm’s latest annual ranking of the best places in the country for aerospace manufacturers to do business. The climb is partly the result of the strong Texas economy.
“The whole country is doing well (economically), but Texas seems to be leading the charge here in terms of economic growth,” Thompson said.
Texas also scored highly in the new report for its low taxes and for being something of an existing aerospace hub.
The aerospace, aviation and defense sector directly employs nearly 150,00 Texans, according to the state’s economic development office, with Texas already accounting for about 9 percent of all aerospace manufacturing jobs in the United States.
The bulk of the existing Texas aerospace and defense manufacturing jobs are in the Dallas-Fort Worth area — where Lockheed Martin has a large presence, for instance, and produces the F-35 fighter jet — as well as in other regions of North Texas.
The Austin area is home to a number of component makers, however, such as BAE Systems and AirBorn. The U.S. Army also recently selected Austin for its new high-tech center, called the Futures Command, which will oversee modernization efforts for weapons, combat vehicles and other top military priorities.
In addition, SpaceX has a rocket testing facility near Waco, and it also has started building a commercial spaceport near Brownsville on the Texas coast.
Thompson said many of the attributes that put Texas near the top of his company’s latest rankings — such as tax policies — are available statewide and wouldn’t necessarily provide one region an advantage over another in attracting aerospace manufacturing facilities. In addition, he and others noted, there likely would be opportunities to lure suppliers and related companies as well if a big aerospace manufacturer opted to expand in the state.
“It is often the case that when (a major manufacturer) sets up shop, that their supply base wants to be physically near them,” Thompson said.
Christopher Slijk, an assistant economist with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, said it’s no surprise that Texas ranked highly in the new report.
“There are already areas of Texas where (aerospace) is a pretty significant industry,” Slijk said. “Texas is a very business-friendly state. It really comes down to where do people want to live, and where can companies maximize profits.”