OKLAHOMA CITY, (Okla.) – Lawmakers and experts believe Oklahoma’s aerospace industry is flying high, but in just a few more years, they said it could be the top industry for Oklahoma over oil and gas.
“Aerospace, right now in the state of Oklahoma, is our number two industry and it’s growing,” said Rep. Kevin McDugle R-Broken Arrow.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if the Aerospace industry became the number one industry within the next five years,” said Philip Busey Jr., Executive Vice President of Deleware Resource Group (DRG) which trains people to operate aircrafts.
Busey, the second-cousin of actor Gary Busey, said Oklahoma is already a heavy-hitter in aerospace.
“You’ve got the largest MRO (maintenance, repair, and overhaul) facility at Tinker Air Force Base. You’ve got the largest commercial MRO facility in American Airlines in Tulsa. You’ve got the FAA Mike Monroney Center. Those three anchors themselves are a major catalyst for what’s given the state it’s foundation,” said Busey.
Busey said just over the past five years, people have started noticing the industry taking off.
“I would say it’s the most stable industry,” said Busey.
“It’s important to invest in industries like that, so we can have a better diversification in our tax base,” said Rep. McDugle.
McDugle said Oklahoma is attractive to people in aerospace, with the military personnel at all of the Air Force bases and the low costs that make the state business-friendly.
The representative from Broken Arrow also said he’s part of the Aerospace Caucus, which was formed last year. Their goal is plain and simple: bring new employees to the state and make them want to stay.
“One of the bills we ran last year was to make military retirement income tax free. And we got that bill across the House, the Senate, and the governor signed it,” said McDugle. “I’m looking at another bill [which will] give a $2,500 tax credit for anyone who moves to Oklahoma and has a top secret clearance already so they can go to work.”
He’ll also introduce a bill later this year for people who graduate with a college degree.
“If you go to work in the State of Oklahoma, let’s give you two years income tax free, so that you can get to work and not have to worry about paying state taxes,” said McDugle.
“We do have low taxes already. Really those dollars need to be invested into higher education and to k-12,” said Busey. “The biggest shortfall that the state has is the workforce.”
Busey said the problem is not a enough students want to go into engineering.
“Why not invest more if you really want to make an impact?” said Busey. “To encourage children and to give them the resources to learn about STEM, but also to learn about the arts.”
Until then, Busey has a message for businesses out there with an eye on Oklahoma that want to flourish.
“We’re based here. You can too,” he said.