Boeing will officially open its 290,000-sq.-ft. engineering research and development lab in mid-July in Oklahoma City, providing 800 new jobs for a state with a long history in aerospace.

A primary thrust of the center is to further Boeing’s modernization services for aircraft such as the E-3 Sentry AWACS and the C-17 Globemaster.

The US$80 million investment in the Global Services & Support (GS&S) facility, the third structure in Boeing’s existing campus, is likely to have a positive cascading effect on aerospace in Oklahoma, similar to what Boeing’s 787 airliner manufacturing center in North Charleston is having on South Carolina.

“Not only will this facility grow Boeing’s presence in the state, it is highly likely that Boeing suppliers will want to move closer to supply this facility,” Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin told ShowNews before Farnborough. “This means higher sales for local suppliers and small businesses and high-paying jobs for Oklahomans, as well as attracting talent to the state.”

The headquarters for GS&S’ Aircraft Modernization and Sustainment (AM&S) division is moving to Oklahoma City. This decision transfers 12 senior management positions to Oklahoma City. Leanne Caret is president of GS&S. This division provides support and modernization services for U.S. and coalition lift, executive transport, airborne refueling, airborne command and control and global strike capabilities.

Aerospace is the second-largest industry in Oklahoma, with over 120,000 employees working for more than 500 companies and an economic impact of US$12 billion. Aerospace comprises 7.4% of the state’s economy, with jobs paying well above the state average.

Fallin said Boeing chose Oklahoma because of its low costs of land, highly skilled workforce and the fact that “we are a right-to-work state with great job incentives, such as the aerospace engineering credit,” she said.

Asked what Boeing gets in turn, Fallin said the OEM has utilized Oklahoma’s Quality Jobs Program (QJP), which will pay US$93 million over the next ten years. The QJP program is available to any company expanding or moving to Oklahoma that meets the required criteria in number of jobs provided and investment.

Providing a pro-business environment with tax credits is a key element of the governor’s strategy in bringing or enhancing the aviation/aerospace business in the state. Oklahoma claims to be the only state in the nation that offers an engineering tax credit for engineers coming to work in the aerospace industry.

“My strategy is to offer the best set of incentives coupled with our low cost of living and low utility rates to bring new jobs to Oklahoma,” Fallin said.

Asked if other aerospace companies have indicated an interest in moving to Oklahoma, Fallin said: “My team is working with several major companies, both domestic and abroad, that are looking at Oklahoma. Several have cited Boeing’s recent movement of various parts of their organization to Oklahoma.”

The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAS) industry is one segment likely to increase its footprint in the state, said Fallin. Oklahoma is a pioneer in UAS research and development. Oklahoma State University has provided UAS instruction since the late 1990s. The state is involved in weather research, releasing specially equipped UASs into storms to improve weather prediction capabilities.

Earlier this year, Oklahoma and south Kansas were awarded a US$500,000 grant by the U.S. Small Business Administration to form the UAS Cluster Initiative, which is expected to help accelerate growth of the UAS industry.

The National Science Foundation recently provided a US$6 million grant to CLOUD MAP (Collaboration Leading Operational UAS Development for Meteorology and Atmospheric Physics) to conduct UAS research in Oklahoma and other states. Oklahoma State University leads the research that includes the University of Oklahoma, the University of Kentucky and the University of Nebraska.

Ten Oklahoma institutions of higher learning offer aviation/aerospace-related degrees. The University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State between them offer 11 degree programs that include aerospace engineering, aviation management, UAS and others. Oklahoma State is the only university offering a doctoral degree in UAS aircraft design.

Tinker Air Force Base, which houses the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Center, is a big employer for the state. In 2015, Tinker announced the acquisition of 158 acres of land to be used for a depot maintenance facility for the Air Force’s KC-46A refueling aircraft. Tinker also could house some of the KC-46 tankers, “which could add billions of dollars in additional funding for the state,” Fallin said.

Fallin plans on attending Farnborough, but declined to say whether the state would make any major announcements there.