In Our View: The Skies Are Full of Jobs

Aviation technology is gaining momentum in Clark County

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The easy, lazy, pessimistic approach is to look around Clark County and sigh resignedly: We’re not Seattle or Everett. We’re not like that epicenter of the aviation manufacturing industry, which employs 83,700 people statewide. We don’t have huge buildings like the ones found at Boeing, which somehow must find ways to produce 33,000 commercial airplanes in the next 20 years.As it turns out, Leadership Clark County class members aren’t very good at sighing. But they’ve got a knack for designing team projects that yield big dividends for Clark County. Seven LCC members this year took on aviation education as their team project, only to discover enough wind beneath their wings to lift their project to staggering heights. Providing that lift is a network of stakeholders from the most obscure local dreamers to U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell.

Clark County might not be Seattle or Everett, but we’ve got 18 aerospace or aerospace-related companies employing more than 1,000 workers. Not a lot, maybe, but enough to matter. And the LCC team correctly deduced this is enough to position our community for a big role in the burgeoning aerospace industry. The timing is right: Many of those 83,700 aerospace workers are nearing retirement age.

Between the LCC team and Sen. Cantwell is a team of seemingly unaffiliated but still well-orchestrated players. At the Clark County Skills Center, the LCC team found Executive Director Dennis Kampe, who coincidentally was envisioning an aviation technology program within the next couple of years.

At Fort Vancouver National Trust, the team found President Elson Strahan, who says the trust is “ecstatic” about Pearson Air Museum partnering with the skills center to host the class.

In local school districts, the LCC team found a growing emphasis on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs that bolster aviation technology education.

In the community, the team is finding volunteers for an advisory committee that can help shape a two-year program at the skills center.

We’re still not Seattle or Everett, but dozens of Clark County visionaries have decided aviation technology is more than a spectator sport. It’s an activity bursting with opportunities for communities that prepare to play.

This not the first time or this year’s only contribution that LCC team projects have made to Southwest Washington. They all illustrate how can-do spirits and organizational skills can boost the educational and economic hopes of a community.

The 10-week aviation class, described as an exploratory program, at Pearson Air Museum starts June 25 with instruction in flight history, fundamentals of airplane design, and introductions to aero-maintenance and aircraft manufacturing techniques. Registration will start May 18. Contact the skills center for more information.

After the summer class, the horizon is even brighter for the skills center, which is planning a new state-funded building on its campus, likely to open by 2015.

Congratulations to all participants from throughout the community who rejected the easy, lazy, pessimistic approach. Instead, they devoted countless hours to planning new adventures for Clark County in aviation technology. Creating jobs and bolstering public education are the community’s top two priorities. Pursuing both simultaneously is highly commendable.