Oklahoma was the best location.” So proclaimed Christian Boas, CEO of Belgian supply chain integrator and component-maker Asco, as he announced plans at last month's Farnborough air show to build a $100 million facility in Stillwater.

Asco's investment in the U.S. heartland is the latest example of the aerospace industry's role in the resurgence of U.S. manufacturing. Airbus announced early last month that it will invest $600 million to open an A320 final assembly plant in Mobile, Ala., and has a long-term plan to double its purchases from U.S. suppliers to $24 billion a year. And Embraer, which is based in Brazil, is now assembling Phenom business jets at a new factory in Melbourne, Fla.

Results from Aviation Week's 2012 Workforce Study show that companies across the A&D industry are hiring machinists, operators and skilled craftsmen for U.S. facilities. And that could accelerate as soaring wages and high employee turnover diminish the attractiveness of low-cost meccas such as Mexico, China and India. Another bonus: Energy costs in the U.S. have flatlined, driven in large part by new technology that is allowing energy companies to access huge reserves of natural gas. Add that all up and you get a much more competitive environment for manufacturing in the U.S., says Jack McDougle, senior vice president at the Council on Competitiveness.

The Aviation Week study finds that over the next three years A&D companies are planning to hire more than 12,000 technicians, operators, machinists and skilled craftsmen. Many of those jobs will be in an emerging air transport manufacturing cluster in the Southeast U.S., a region that appeals to employers due to its lack of labor unions and abundance of state incentives—including extended workforce training packages and assistance in establishing advanced innovation centers and incubators to drive the major manufacturing operations.

One of the industry's key worries is finding enough qualified employees. Thirty percent of respondents to the survey say manufacturing shortages are hindering their ability to grow. And companies worry that a need for more on-the-job training could drag down their productivity. Attrition rates for manufacturing professionals and hourly workers are hovering at 10-11%, twice the average for the overall industry. And nearly a quarter of the A&D manufacturing workforce will be eligible for retirement in 2015, up from 18% this year.

Those concerns are real, as is the new “offshoring to America” trend.

With Joseph C. Anselmo in Farnborough.

2012 Aviation Week Workforce Study Advisory Board
Marion Blakey
Wes Bush
CEO, Northrop Grumman
Klaus Dannenberg
Paul Graziani
CEO, Analytical Graphics Inc.
Gregory D. Hamilton
President, Aviation Week
John Langford
CEO, Aurora Flight Sciences
Bradley J. Morton
President, Eaton Aerospace
Frank Pace
President, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems
Rick Stephens
SVP-Human Resources and Administration, Boeing
Ed Swallow
Chair, STEM Workforce Div., NDIA
Anthony L. Velocci, Jr.
Editor-in-Chief, Aviation Week
2012 Young Professionals/University Student Study Advisory Board
Ondrea Adger
Software Configuration Manager, ATK
Gina Burns
Chair 2012 YP/University Advisory Board
VP Workforce Strategy, Analytics and Acquisition, Lockheed Martin
Robert Canfield
Interim Head Aerospace & Ocean Engineering, Virginia Tech
Annie Caraccio
Chemical Engineer, NASA
Angie Clover
Process Excellence, Rolls-Royce N.A.
Tim Denning
Sr. Dir/Business Dev Operations, L-3 Communications
Anthony Eddy
Satellite Communication Systems Lead, Lockheed Martin
Janna Feeley
Technical Staff Algorithm Support, NASA
Philip Harris
International Operations Liaison, NASA
Ed Hoffman
Director Appel, NASA
Kristin Freeman
Systems Engineer, Design Visualization, Boeing
Leah Jamieson Dean, College of Engineering, Purdue University
Debra Larson Dean, College of Engineering, California Polytechnic University
Ryan Rudy
Team Lead Flight Test, Boeing Commercial Aircraft
Patrick Shannon
Systems Engineer, Orbital Sciences
Elida C. Smith
Principal Systems Engineer and Project Team Manager, Mitre Corp.
David WormleyDean, College of Engineering, Penn State
Vigor Yang
Head Aerospace Engineering Department Georgia Institute of Technology