How Texas' Workforce Brings Value to the Automotive and Aerospace Industries

January 26, 2018 by Midlothian Economic Development

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While the automotive and aerospace industries may be very distinct from each other, they do share one thing in common: the need for top-notch skills. These complex, evolving industries thrive on efficient operations supported by intellectual capital, enhanced by cutting-edge technology and innovative training programs.

As a state with an exceptionally diversified economy, Texas has garnered plenty of automotive and aerospace industry success over time.

Just what makes Texas such a great fit for manufacturers producing everything from chassis and sensors to motors, aircraft parts and so much more? For one thing, sheer logistics.

Texas offers not only convenient access to major interstates and highways, but also a springboard to lucrative North American markets.

Additionally, the state’s right-to-work status is beneficial for both employers and employees, while its relaxed regulatory environment and highly competitive tax environment translate into elevated profitability.

When it comes to talent, Texas automotive and aerospace employers can tap into the nation’s second largest civilian workforce – 13 million industrious, skilled, diverse Texans – one of the state’s most compelling business advantages.

Accelerating Automotive Progress

The Texas automotive industry has been making headlines thanks to notable projects in recent years. Toyota’s 2014 decision to relocate its North American headquarters to Plano, Texas, was one of North Texas’ most important announcements and planted the Lone Star State even more squarely on the auto industry map.   

The massive seven-building campus, which officially opened in July 2017, was designed to consolidate Toyota’s three separate North American headquarters from Kentucky, California, and New York into one sprawling billion-dollar, 100-acre, state-of-the-art property which will house up to 4,000 people.

Toyota suppliers and support companies have been making their way south to reinforce Toyota’s Texas-sized operations in not only North Texas, but also San Antonio, where Toyota Tacoma and Tundra trucks are assembled. However, Toyota’s story is just one piece of the state’s evolving automotive picture and just one example of how the Texas workforce is meeting the industry’s needs.

Since 1954, General Motors has been building vehicles at its Arlington assembly plant in North Texas. Today, more than 11 million vehicles later, the plant is undergoing a major expansion to open a supplier park across the street from its Arlington plant, where the Chevrolet Tahoe, Suburban, GMC Yukon XL and Cadillac Escalade are produced.

The $250 million Arlington Automotive Logistics Center will encompass two warehouses with a combined 1.2 million square feet of industrial space for General Motors assembly plant suppliers. Slated to open in 2018, the project is expected to bring 850 new jobs and will increase efficiency and productivity of GM’s Arlington plant by moving its part suppliers closer and reducing transportation costs.

Numbers Tell a Good Story

North Texas’ central location makes the region an ideal fit for auto companies wanting to tap into the Texas-Mexico auto corridor as well as expand distribution operations.

Other recent industry projects include Continental Tires’ decision in early 2017 to expand its North Texas distribution hub in Grand Prairie, bringing the total footprint of the building to more than 1 million square feet of industrial space.

And in mid-2017, Arizona-based Discount Tires revealed plans to break ground on a 700,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution hub in southern Dallas.

As one of the top 10 states in the U.S. by number of automotive workers and auto manufacturing establishments, Texas is home to key automotive employers including General Motors, Toyota, Peterbilt Motors, Continental Automotive Systems, Toshiba and Caterpillar.

Motor vehicle parts manufacturing (45 percent), motor vehicle manufacturing (34 percent), and motor vehicle body and trailer manufacturing (21 percent) comprise the state’s automotive industry sectors which are experiencing steady growth.

More than 466 automotive manufacturing firms directly employ over 35,800 Texans who earn an average of around $58,700 annually, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.

Further, the state’s auto industry has experienced a 17-percent increase in activity since 2014 and shows no signs of slowing. As the automotive industry continues its southern shift, Texas is well-poised to welcome future automotive investment.

Soaring to Success

The Texas aerospace and aviation industries are also alive and well, as evidenced by the 184,800 employees at 1,350 firms in these sectors.

Headquarters operations of two international airlines, two of the world’s busiest airports, and NASA’s renowned Johnson Space Center in Houston, as well as numerous industry icons, set the stage for Lone Star aerospace and aviation success.

Texas has a long history with these two industries; one that’s punctuated by operations of 17 of the world’s 20 largest aerospace companies, some of the nation’s most highly concentrated regions of aircraft and aircraft parts production, and a specialized workforce trained in the industries’ most sought-after skills.

It’s not hard to see why Texas consistently enjoys a solid foothold in the top 10 states when it comes to aerospace manufacturing attractiveness.

North Texas, alone, boasts an enviable concentration of aerospace and aviation companies including Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Bell Helicopter and Triumph Aerostructures-Vought Aircraft Division, to name just a few.

Recent job fairs held by Lockheed speak volumes of the workforce eager to fill the high-paying positions connected to these aerospace and aviation employers.

When Lockheed announced in 2017 that it would hold a job fair to hire on the spot for 1,800 new positions, the company received such an overwhelming response that it had to shut down pre-registration after 2,600 people signed up within 24 hours.

When all was said and done that hot July day, Lockheed officials had spoken to roughly 3,000 applicants for primarily manufacturing positions, but also technician, engineering, financial analyst, supply chain management, estimator and human resource roles. The company made 600 job offers that day and went on to hold similar job fairs later in the year as it continued to ramp up production of the F-35 Lightning II fighter.      

Lockheed’s Fort Worth plant employs roughly 14,500 people and the company is constantly on the hunt for quality employees – as are many other Lone Star aerospace and aviation employers.

Thankfully, Texas delivers a robust workforce primed for aerospace and aviation positions such as aircraft mechanics, commercial pilots, engine assemblers, airfield operations specialists and much more.

In fact, in the Dallas-Fort Worth metro area, the percentage of the workforce employed in aircraft manufacturing is nearly five times the national average, according to the Governor’s Office of Economic Development and Tourism.

Preparing for Change

As the nation, in general, faces unprecedented labor challenges including an aging manufacturing workforce, skills gaps, and dramatic technological changes, the need for quality labor has never been greater – or more critical.

Texas is addressing these challenges head on by building its pipeline of talent through state funding programs, educational initiatives and public-private partnerships.

The vast network of higher education institutions around the state provide enduring support for automotive, aerospace and aviation companies continually striving to develop smarter, more efficient operational processes.

The state offers opportunities for degree, certificate and specialty program options in automotive technology through partnerships with community colleges, technical schools, apprenticeship programs, and career and technology education (CTE) at the middle and high school levels.

Similarly, eleven public and private universities have aeronautical programs offering degrees in aerospace engineering, aviation science, and related specialties while 14 public and private colleges around Texas offer Federal Aviation Administration-approved aviation maintenance technology programs.

R&D tax credit regulation as well as state and local incentives and financing assistance factor positively into the comprehensive solutions that Texas offers to these valuable industries.

Without a doubt, the North Texas region plays a pivotal role in Texas’ overall success in the automotive, aerospace and aviation industries, and likely will continue to do so.

“North Texas is a great place for industry to grow and thrive,” said David K. Setzer, executive director of Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas. “It is home to many multimillion dollar industries, providing thousands of opportunities for our workforce. Technical training programs are continuously being developed by educational institutions to meet the demands and standards of our industries. Workforce Solutions for North Central Texas supports these efforts through our collaboration with industry and education and continues to play a role in workforce development throughout the region.”  

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