Projections show South Carolina’s aerospace industry is poised for rapid growth over the next 10 years, said Steve Townes, former chairman of SC Aerospace.
Total economic impact of the state’s aerospace cluster should nearly double to $35 billion in the next decade, Townes said Wednesday during an afternoon session of the fourth annual S.C. Aerospace Conference & Expo, which wraps up today.
Meanwhile, the number of private sector companies also is expected to double to 800 firms from the current 400. Also, the number of jobs directly tied to aviation should double to 200,000, said Townes, president and CEO of Greenville-based Ranger Aerospace and chairman of ACL AirShop, an air cargo services and leasing company with operations at 40 of the world’s largest cargo hub airports.
Currently, the aerospace cluster’s economic impact on the state totals $19 billion and accounts for 100,000 jobs, according to the S.C. Council on Competitiveness. Meanwhile, the number of aviation workers — both civilian and military — has grown by 11.4% since 2010, eight times higher than the 1.4% average for the state overall, the council added.
The council reported in a 2016 study that for every 10 jobs created in the state’s aerospace private sector an additional 13 jobs are created elsewhere in the S.C. economy.
“If you learn how to work on or around airplanes, it’s likely you’ll have a well-paid job for life,” Townes said.
A 2014 economic impact study by the University of South Carolina Darla Moore School of Business found that the average job in the state’s aerospace cluster paid $70,749. That’s about 72% higher than the average total compensation in South Carolina, which is $41,206, and 46% higher than the average total compensation of manufacturing jobs, currently $48,453.
One reason for the higher wages for jobs in the aviation business is that a large focus of aircraft manufacturing is on advanced composite materials, precision metal parts and systems integration. Jobs in the aerospace cluster require expertise in specialized fields related to science and engineering, which typically are high-paying jobs, according to the USC study.
SC Aerospace is a collaborative to advance and market South Carolina’s aerospace industry cluster worldwide.