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The Oklahoma Aerospace Alliance will host the 11th Oklahoma Aerospace & Defense Summit & Expo June 4-6 at Embassy Suites in Norman. The focus has been expanded this year to include Oklahoma’s defense industry.
Mary Smith, director of the alliance, says the event has grown by leaps and bounds each year in both attendance and offerings.
“It started as a way to connect Tinker Air Force Base to a pipeline of qualified, certified and credentialed workers,” she says. “When Mary Fallin was lieutenant governor, she expanded the summit to include business development opportunities for Oklahoma companies to do business with Tinker, but also with each other and large original equipment manufacturers in the state and around the globe.”
From a small crowd in the beginning, Smith says, in recent years, it has not been uncommon to attract up to 900 people. Its target audience is the aerospace supplier network in the state. In addition to local suppliers, the event regularly draws participants from Arkansas, Colorado and Texas, and some from as far as Illinois and Connecticut.
“It seeks to connect companies for the purpose of doing business, solving workforce challenges, understanding opportunities and just plain getting to know each other and the amazing capabilities contained in the Oklahoma aerospace industry,” she says.
The 2012 event will kick off June 4 with a golf tournament at Rose Creek Golf Club in Edmond, followed that evening by the annual AeroBash at the hotel in Norman – an informal gathering with music, food and beverages, giving participants an opportunity to mingle and network.
Highlights this year will include an industry matchmaking session to offer one-on-one appointments between original equipment manufacturers and companies looking to do business with them. Smith says it’s not always easy to get an appointment with corporate or military decision-makers. Companies such as Spirit AeroSystems, FlightSafety, Nordam and Tinker plan to send procurement and purchasing agents to meet with companies individually. The Center for Aerospace Supplier Quality and Oklahoma Bid Assistance Network will host a session on preparing to do business with the government.
“It’s a great way to make an introduction and hope for an extended appointment at the potential customer’s facility in the future,” Smith says. “That is a challenge for many small- to medium-sized companies. The process is complicated and onerous and often causes small companies to steer clear of some very lucrative business prospects.”
Fallin has been a supporter of the event in past years, and, as governor, has added her endorsement to this year’s summit. She says Oklahoma has more than 500 aerospace-related companies, but there is still room for growth.
“My administration is working with the Oklahoma Aerospace Alliance to identify strategies to meet the workforce needs of today and tomorrow,” Fallin says.
–Photos by Shannon Cornman