More than 100 people from Washington state attended this Paris Air Show, the largest group ever, trying to capture some of the aerospace work burgeoning globally as both Boeing and Airbus ramp up their production lines to rates never seen before.
“A tremendous amount of business was done,” said Alex Pietsch, director of Gov. Inslee’s Aerospace Office, as the trade portion of the show ended Thursday. “There’ll be deals that come out of this that we’ll realize in the years to come. It was really exciting.”
Pietsch said more than a dozen companies, mostly European, either approached the delegation or came to one of about 500 pre-arranged meetings “looking for access to the Boeing supply chain and the skilled workforce in the state of Washington.”
“We’ll be helping them try to match up with partners,” said Pietsch.
Several expansions or investments by foreign companies in Washington state that were in the works at various points over the past year were announced at the Air Show.
Airbus expanded an existing supply contract for aluminum plates and sheets with Kaiser Aluminum of Spokane.
Umbra Cuscinetti, the U.S. unit of the Umbra Group of Italy that provides motion and power technologies to aerospace markets, said it will open in July a newly renovated, 68,000 square foot facility in Everett, potentially employing 100 people.
Spanish company M. Torres, which makes aerospace tooling such as drilling machines, announced it will also be building a manufacturing plant in Everett and will add about 100 people by the end of the year. Torres acquired local aerospace company Pacifica Engineering of Bothell last year and will make Bothell its North American headquarters.
Carbures, another Spanish company, which makes composite structures and which earlier this year acquired Fiberdyne of Tukwila, will reorganize and expand that facility by early next year.
Pietsch said the fastest way such companies can bring new products to market is “to buy an existing company and build it up.”
“Green field sites in the Southeast are great, but these companies are not willing to wait for the new workforce to be trained,” said Pietsch. “They want to get going now.”
At a dinner for the delegation Wednesday evening in Paris, the guest speaker was Olivier Zarrouati, CEO of French aerospace conglomerate Zodiac Aerospace, which has acquired four companies in Washington: Heath Tecna of Bellingham, C&D Zodiac of Marysville, Monogram of Everett and IDD Aerospace of Redmond.
“We will hire as many qualified workers as you can produce in Washington,” Zarrouati told the delegation.
Pietsch and Rep. Rick Larsen of Everett, who led the delegation, also met Allan McArtor, chairman of Airbus Americas.
McArtor “made it very clear he wants to work with us on connecting with the supply chain and developing a skilled workforce,” Pietsch said.
One of the small companies in the delegation was Exotic Tool Welding of Everett, represented by its president Scott Lathrop. His trip was partly funded by a State Trade and Export Promotion (STEP) grant from the federal Small Business Administration agency.
it was the grant that “tipped us to make the decision to come,” said Lathrop.
At the opening reception in Paris on the eve of the Air Show, Lathrop said Exotic Tool does specialized welding jobs for aerospace companies and is certified by Boeing to do work for its suppliers. His mission in coming to Paris was to make contacts that would allow him to earn Airbus certification to work with the European jetmaker’s suppliers.
With an Airbus A320 final assembly line opening in Mobile, Ala., in 2015, Lathrop anticipates a growing demand for welding work from Airbus suppliers in the U.S. But on Sunday, he’d had no responses to e-mails sent in advance and no meetings set up. He didn’t know how to reach the right people at Airbus.
Lathrop said the best way in could be to connect with an existing Airbus supplier and get qualified at its request. But again, he’d not managed to make contact with any such suppliers in advance.
On Thursday, Lathrop reported success. He didn’t meet directly with Airbus in Paris but he did meet with a few Airbus suppliers that might need welding services.
On Wednesday, he said, a representative of a Belgian unit of French aerospace giant Safran visited the Washington state booth looking for him and left contact information.
“They have work on oil reservoir tanks and high pressure piping, which is what we do,” said Lathrop. “It’s a very good lead.”
Lathrop said he’s so pleased with the contact made he may come to Europe again next year for the 2014 Farnborough Air Show.
As Pietsch of the Governor’s office left Le Bourget to head back to Seattle he said the state has already booked a large booth for Farnoborough.