BY SHARON HILLSTROM
Manatee County’s aviation, aerospace and defense industry is relatively small in number of jobs – about 1,000 at last count – but those jobs are high-value. In the aviation niche alone, annual earnings per job average $57,000, compared to around $40,000 for all industries in Manatee County.
It’s also a growing sector locally and globally. Between 2016 and 2017, the sector experienced almost 15 percent job growth in Manatee County.
That’s why having an industry “anchor” like Sarasota Bradenton International Airport (SRQ) is so important. SRQ is more than an increasingly convenient transportation asset that is adding airlines and flights. It’s a hub that helps us attract more aviation-related businesses and is a valued partner in our global recruitment to bring jobs to Manatee County.
The airport has experienced substantial growth with the addition of Allegiant Air, which started service in April offering nonstop service to Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Pittsburgh, bringing ultra-low-cost fares to SRQ. Allegiant recently announced nine additional routes for its SRQ schedule beginning in 2019.
I was surprised to learn that while many tourism-related businesses suffered losses in September with red tide on our shores, SRQ’s traffic was up 35 percent for the month, compared to September 2017. That was the airport’s fifth straight month of double-digit increases in passenger traffic.
The airport is looking forward to a busy winter season with the addition of a second ultra-low-cost carrier, Frontier Airlines, which will begin nonstop service to Atlanta, Cleveland and Philadelphia on December 10. American Airlines will add three destinations, including Dallas and Chicago on December 19, and Philadelphia on January 12. Delta will provide seasonal flights to Boston, Detroit and New York.
SRQ also has expanded opportunities for aviation-related businesses to locate adjacent to the airport. We’re helping the airport market approximately 92 acres of undeveloped land for businesses within the Airside North Quad Commercial Park.
Earlier this year, SRQ’s president and CEO Rick Piccolo joined us on a mission to Farnborough, U.K., one of the world’s preeminent trade shows for aviation. We talked with scores of business executives during exhibiting hours and conducted scheduled meetings with targeted prospects whose businesses are a good fit to expand to Manatee County.
Since returning from the airshow, a prospect visited us to learn more about the Bradenton area and the potential to locate an aviation-related company here.
We were proud to recognize SRQ’s partnership with the Bradenton Area Economic Development Corp. (EDC) at our recent Annual Update Luncheon where Piccolo was awarded the Rick Fawley Economic Development Award of Distinction.
Manatee County’s aviation sector also boasts innovative companies that develop and manufacture electronics, electrical components and other equipment used in and around aircraft.
An example is Radiant Power Corp./Dukane Seacom, subsidiaries of HEICO Corp. The companies design and manufacture products for the aerospace, aviation and defense industries. Radiant Power Corp. located in Manatee County in 1999, and has continued to expand through HEICO’s acquisition of Dukane Seacom. In 2018 the companies acquired and moved two new product lines to Manatee County from California and Canada.
At the Bradenton Area EDC, we know the organization well, as we have worked with company President Anish Patel and his team on multiple facility expansions, workforce recruitment and training, and more.
We also featured the companies in a short video to showcase the aviation/aerospace/defense sector in Manatee County. You can view the video online at www.BradentonAreaEDC.com/videos.
While Manatee County’s aviation sector is relatively small, it is growing. With partners like the Sarasota Bradenton International Airport and innovative businesses like Radiant Power Corp./Dukane Seacom, I can confidently say, “the sky’s the limit!”