Mark Pryor, Blanche Lincoln Tout Arkansas' Aviation Industry

by John Henry  on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2009 11:23 am  

The General Aviation Jobs for Arkansas Forum was a praise session Wednesday for Dassault Falcon Jet Corp. and Hawker Beechcraft Corp. and the importance of Arkansas's general aviation industry.

Organized by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, the session included some 100 community leaders and 500 Dassault and Hawker Beechcraft workers to hear Gov. Mike Beebe, Sens. Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, both D-Ark., as well as company officials extol what the industry means in Arkansas.

And that is a lot.

Aviation is the state's No. 1 export, totaling more than $1.1 billion a year, said Peter Bunce, president and CEO of GAMA. General aviation employs 3,500 workers in the state and some 800 businesses supply the needs of the industry.

Jeff Habib, Dassault's senior vice president of sales for the U.S. and Canada, said airplane manufacturers has seen "difficult headwinds" during the past year with slowed business and cancellation of orders, but noted that his company has spent $45 million in support of Arkansas businesses last year.

Hawker Beechcraft currently has 600 workers at its completion center and service center at Little Rock National Airport with a payroll of $43 million, said Shawn Vick, executive vice president of the company. It spent more than $14 million last year with suppliers in the state, he said.

Beebe said he always uses Hawker Beechcraft and Dassault as examples of Arkansas' ability to train highly-skilled workers when he recruits high-tech industry.

Lincoln called aviation a "star in our crown in Arkansas" as she and Pryor have worked closely in the Senate to help grow general aviation in the state.

Despite all the media attention about corporate jets, Pryor said, they are how business gets done today, citing his trip on Tuesday to Rogers Municipal Airport where he saw business planes with every brand of company one might think of coming in to visit with Wal-Mart Stores Inc.



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