KEARNEY COLUMN: Deliveries, education and conferences point to region’s bright aerospace future
Itís almost cliche at this point to call the Charleston area or the state of South Carolina a burgeoning aerospace center, but the hits just keep coming.
Everybody knows about Boeing, the Lowcountry anchor of the industry, which delivered its first locally made 787 Dreamliner this month.
But evidence of a region on the rise mounted last week, with more on tap this week.
First, there was the week-long Society for the Advancement of Material and Process Engineering conference collocated at the Charleston Area Convention Center with two other composites conferences.
Carbon fibers, which form the fuselage of each Dreamliner, and other composites are the cutting-edge materials in airplanes, turbines and many other fields. The director of Boeing South Carolinaís midbody factory was the keynote speaker Tuesday, and the vice president and general manager of GE Aviationís commercial engines operation spoke Wednesday.
Then on Thursday, the president of the University of South Carolina announced a $5 million gift from Charleston businesswoman and philanthropist Anita Zucker to boost USCís newly established McNair Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research. Zuckerís grant will sponsor an endowed professorship, to be filled by composites expert Zafer GŁrdal, who also will serve as director of the center and help develop four new aerospace-related degrees at the stateís flagship university.
This week, the Aerospace Industries Association picks up the conference baton, holding its fall product support conference at the Francis Marion Hotel. The trade group hosted another conference in the same place last year, with Gov. Nikki Haley as the keynote speaker.
And today, Penton Mediaís SpeedNews, an aviation industry publication, will announce plans to hold its inaugural Aerospace Manufacturing Conference at Charleston Place in April.
The sixth in SpeedNewsí line of conferences, the two-day event in downtown Charleston will focus on design and engineering, advanced materials, and tooling and machining, according to organizers.
Add to all that the widely held expectation that Boeing and its suppliers will continue to expand here and hints from Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt about upcoming announcements, and itís hard to think of the future of aerospace in the region as anything but blue skies.
Reach Brendan Kearney at 937-5906 and follow him on Twitter at @kearney_brendan.