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Aerospace industry could be key to NC's future

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TWC News: Aerospace industry could be key to NC's future
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GREENSBORO – Despite economic hurdles, the aerospace industry continues to grow and a Wednesday conference worked to make sure the state gets a large piece of the pie.

Senator Richard Burr hosted the 2011 North Carolina Aerospace Supplier Conference at the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro, along with the N.C. Military Business Center and Aerospace Association.

The networking opportunity also offered a chance to highlight the industry's growth potential here in the Tar Heel State.

"We want to make sure that we're the center piece of consideration for aviation investment in the future," said Burr.

In fact, the world's largest commercial aerospace manufacturer, Airbus Americas, Inc. had representatives at the Wednesday event.

"We already buy $10 billion worth of equipment from U.S. suppliers every year. It goes on airbus airplanes, that is growing and we want it to grow here in North Carolina," said the company's president and CEO Barry Eccleston.

Beyond building potential partnerships, the military-friendly state is looking to enhance air force aviation into the future.

"Over the next 5-10 years, we're going to see a definite change in the budget outlook for the Department of Defense and it will challenge us to come up with more efficient ways to do business," said Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford.

He continued to explain that because of educational opportunities and tax breaks in North Carolina, he expects to see more growth in aerospace engineering in the state's future.

North Carolina community colleges representatives were also on hand to offer insight into the growth of aerospace programs for its students.

"We have approximately six community colleges in the state who are very much focused on aviation programs, and then our remaining colleges are also focused on those supporting industries," said Maureen Little with the NC Community College System.

The programs focus on workforce development and experts say the state's students will support job growth and financial stability for aerospace suppliers in North Carolina.

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