From inside the belly of the Air Force’s largest aircraft, economic development leaders celebrated the news Thursday that the aerospace industry in San Antonio continues to be a powerhouse in the local economy.

The San Antonio Chamber of Commerce and the City’s Economic Development Department hosted industry leaders and City officials in a GDC Technics hangar at Port San Antonio to release its 2018 Aerospace Industry Economic Impact Study. That was followed by a reception inside a C-5 transport aircraft.

Prepared by data consultants Emsi and HWA Analytics, the report includes job and salary information, how San Antonio’s aerospace industry stacks up against other areas, and economic opportunities on the horizon.

The aerospace industry contributed $3.4 billion last year to the regional economy, according to the report. In 2017, the industry provided 32,050 jobs in the region, and 10,009 in San Antonio, at an average wage of $78,850. The average median income in San Antonio was $49,711 last year.

The study found that Joint Base San Antonio employs the most aerospace workers at 4,006. The next largest number of aerospace workers, at 3,074, are employed across the city in the maintenance, repair, and overhaul field. But more are coming.

At least 1,000 new aerospace jobs have been announced within the next two years for the industrial and commercial facility known as Port San Antonio. Aerospace employers at the Port include Boeing, Lockheed Martin, GDC Technics, StandardAero, and Chromalloy. StandardAero performs more than 70 percent of the maintenance work on two types of engines, contracts valued at half a billion dollars annually. In April, Rolls-Royce awarded StandardAero a $600 million, 20-year maintenance contract.

The report states that because the aerospace maintenance, repair, and overhaul industry generates $156 billion in annual sales in the United States, employing 425,300 engineers, technicians, and mechanics in 2018, that sector could be a major source of aerospace growth in San Antonio. In fact, Boeing has estimated the aircraft services market will grow to $8.8 trillion over the next 20 years.

Brent Fessler, Hallmark University president.
Brent Fessler, Hallmark University president Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

“Aviation is all about going fast. It’s the whole reason airplanes exist,” said Brent Fessler, president of Hallmark University, a sponsor of the economic impact study. Hallmark has operated aviation maintenance degree programs in San Antonio since 1969.

“When somebody is going to build a new [maintenance] facility, they want to do it fast, because when they open their doors, they can fill it with business. I think that’s one of the most important things coming out of this [study] is, as a community, being more prepared and coordinated for growth.”

The report also states the economic impact of the aerospace industry in the region includes $172 million paid in taxes on production and imports.

In 2010, a study by Trinity professors Mary Stefl and Richard Butler found the economic impact of the aerospace industry in the region was $5.4 billion and paid $678 million in wages.

“It’s gone down some and that’s for a variety of reasons,” said Richard Perez, San Antonio Chamber president and CEO. “The world has changed immensely, jobs have migrated away, there’s automation, and the nature of the work has changed.

“The economic impact has gone down but this is a chance to build it back up there given the asset – that is our ace in the hole – of our workforce. We have a trainable workforce doing other things not in the industry now but that could migrate back into it if we grow more jobs.”

Perez also noted the efforts of Alamo Academies in training more workers for the aerospace industry. “They are doing a masterful job at training the young and the old,” he said.

The San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, one sponsor of the study, claims that the industry here has grown 400 percent in the last 25 years. Jenna Saucedo-Herrera, president and CEO of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation, moderated a discussion about the study Thursday between Jay Galloway, site leader for Boeing San Antonio; Mark Buongiorno, Standard Aero San Antonio’s vice president and general manager; and Fessler of Hallmark.

Fessler said he’s confident the industry will continue to grow. “Every indication is that it’s changing and righting up quickly,” he said, adding that Hallmark is responding by working to recruit students into the aerospace pipeline.

“We need to be much more creative in recruiting young people, and we have to do a better job of inspiring them to think of this as a career,” Fessler said. “This report is also encouraging us to double down on bringing in more adult students.

“I had a conversation with an employer this week and when I told him how many graduates we’ll have, he said, ‘I’ll take all of them.’”

Perez said the study gives the industry a roadmap for building up the industry in San Antonio. “Right now, we have an excellent story to tell, and time will tell if we will get it right and continue along the trajectory and grow it,” he said.

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Shari Biediger

Shari Biediger is the development beat reporter for the San Antonio Report.