August 13, 2013
By Dan Namowitz
A general aviation jobs rally in Albuquerque, N.M., brought out a "terrific crowd" that heard business leaders and elected officials describe the industry—as Gov. Susana Martinez put it—as “something worth celebrating, and worth building on.”
AOPA President Craig Fuller attended the event accompanied by Lorraine Howerton, AOPA vice president of legislative affairs, and Yasmina Platt, AOPA Central/Southwest regional manager. The jobs rally was hosted by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, and co-sponsored by AOPA and other aviation organizations. Approximately 350 people attended, according to a news report.
Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry represented the host city at the Aug. 12 event. Among aviation-industry companies represented were Aspen Avionics, Bendix/King by Honeywell, and Eclipse Aerospace.
"We had a terrific crowd at Cutter Aviation here in Albuquerque to hear Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Gov. Susana Martinez speak about the future and importance of GA to the state and the nation," wrote Fuller in an AOPA Now blog entry. "Here are two elected officials who really understand what general aviation is all about. They recognize that GA provides transportation, recreation, humanitarian relief, business opportunities, and so much more."
GAMA President Pete Bunce expressed the industry’s appreciation for three elected officials who "truly understand and appreciate the kind of high-quality jobs general aviation manufacturing brings to New Mexico. They are working hard, both here and in Washington, to support and promote policies that will encourage growth in New Mexico’s general aviation sector and aerospace industry as a whole," he said.
Martinez said aviation’s role in New Mexico’s economy was important and increasing.
"New Mexico is a natural fit for general aviation, with our wide open spaces, great weather and over 300 good flying days a year. Aviation in our state supports more than 48,000 jobs, generates $1.3 billion in payroll annually and contributes $3.1 billion to our economy. That’s something worth celebrating, and worth building on."
Udall pledged to ensure "that Congress works with the aviation industry and entrepreneurs so they have the support they need to create jobs in New Mexico."
Berry added that general aviation generates approximately $125 million annually for Albuquerque, "just at the Sunport and Double Eagle II" (the city’s airports).
Platt said the audience responded with frequent cheering and applause as industry representatives painted an upbeat portrait of aviation in New Mexico during the event, which was themed, “General Aviation Equals Jobs.”
John Uczekaj, president of Aspen Avionics, expressed optimism that the event would raise awareness of local employment opportunities in aerospace. Kevin Gould, president of New Mexico-based Bendix/King, said the state’s "very talented base of aerospace professionals" was key to his company’s growth. Eclipse Aerospace Senior Vice President of Business Operations Ed Lundeen agreed, adding that his company was nearing a major milestone this year.
"We have been very fortunate to find a highly qualified base of skilled aviation manufacturing technicians and professional staff in New Mexico to enable our business plan which involves the continued ramp-up of operations and production in anticipation of delivering the first new Eclipse 550 aircraft later this year," he said.
If the goal of the event was to match job seekers with career opportunities, Fuller noted that the consistently enthusiastic turnouts for aviation employment gatherings send a message to policymakers as well.
"I love being part of events like this because the elected officials who take part in similar gatherings nationwide are always impressed not only by the size of the audience, but by their understanding of the issues and their active engagement to preserve and promote our freedom to fly," he said.
Dan Namowitz is an aviation writer and flight instructor.
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