The Jacksonville Region: America's Growing Aviation Hub


Global aviation companies have strong presence. As the gateway to Florida and the Southeastern United States, the Jacksonville region is becoming known as an aviation center of excellence due to the area’s skilled workforce, business-friendly climate, quality of life and available land. More than $117 million in capital investment and 880 new jobs have been added to the region this year from top global aviation companies, including Boeing, Northrop Grumman, Embraer and Kaman Aerospace.

Jacksonville is the center of the developing aviation corridor that runs for North Carolina to Cape Canaveral. Also known as the “America’s Logistics Center,” Northeast Florida is one of the only centrally located East Coast regions offering all four pillars of logistics: rail, air, maritime and highway.

Aviation companies value Jacksonville’s location because it is accessible to the world and offers cost-effective assets for profitable company margins. Aviation industry wages in the region are well below those of the U.S. overall. Expansion Management magazine ranked Jacksonville as one of the “Top 10 Hottest Cities” for business relocation and expansion in the U.S.

Cecil Airport and Cecil Commerce Center, the 17,000+ acre former Naval Air Station and largest industrial park in the Southeast, are located in the region and help drive the area’s increased aviation presence. Cecil Airport is well suited for a mixture of aviation and aeronautical uses including maintenance, repair and overhaul. It is the only privately owned, certified spaceport on the East Coast and has the third longest runway in Florida. Aviation companies have access to competitive rates and direct flight and ramp line access.

The region produces a steady stream of skilled, disciplined workers. More than 9,000 workers are employed in the aviation industry and 100+ aviation-related defense contractors operate in the region, offering a diverse talent pool of skilled technicians and laborers.

There are also four major military installations in the region, tow with significant aviation and MRO operations. More than 3,000 retired military workers return to private work in the area each year, largely within the aviation industry sector.

One of the largest aviation employers in the region, the Fleet Readiness Center Southeast, has more than 4,600 employees working on a variety of Department of Defense aircraft and avionics systems. Other leading aviation companies in the area include Unison Industries, LSI, Parker Hannifin and Flightstar.

Major aviation projects have recently been announced in the region. Brazilian company Embraer and Sierra Nevada Corporation won a $427 million U.S. Department of Defense contract to build the Super Tucano military aircraft in Jacksonville than will be utilized worldwide. 

In addition, Northrop Grumman Corporation designated its St. Augustine plant as an Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence by investing $80 million in capital investment and adding 400 new jobs. The company’s E2 Hawkeye tactical airborne early warning aircraft, which is used by the U.S. Navy and several allied international forces, is manufactured in St. Augustine.

The aerospace sector in Jacksonville is growing at an impressive rate. Combining a mixture of trained and readily available talent, global logistics support, industrial building and ready to build sites and a quality of life envied around the world, Jacksonville is the prime location site for aerospace www.jaxusa.org.

by Aaron Bowman

See article in Aeromag on page 21 at http://www.aeromag.in/sites/default/files/AM%20NOV%202013-%20dplow.pdf