Aviation Business News

The wonder of western Pennsylvania

The aviation industry in the western Pennsylvania region of the US is soaring to new heights, says Larry J Nulton, PhD, aviation entrepreneur and co-owner of Nulton Aviation Services and Cambrian Hills Development Group, and chair of his new nonprofit, Aerium

As a long-time avid proponent of the aviation community in western Pennsylvania, I’m thrilled to witness all the great work that public and private partnerships are doing to expand and advance the aviation ecosystem in the region.

From announcing our planned Mid-Atlantic Opportunity Park to preparing for the inaugural Aerium Education Summit, dozens of partners are working to transform and evolve the industry. That acceleration stems from the following four major initiatives.

Mid-Atlantic Opportunity Park

In December 2022, the Johnstown-Cambria County Airport Authority and Cambrian Hills Development Group jointly announced plans to develop the Mid-Atlantic Opportunity Park – a nearly 130-acre expansion to the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport (JST).

The project will be anchored by a state-of-the-art, 100,000sq ft MRO facility, significantly increasing airport capabilities and ultimately providing a regional destination for routine repair, service and inspection for corporate aircraft. The MRO operator, whom we are actively pursuing, will be able to service narrowbody jet aircraft and more.

The Opportunity Park offers build-to-suit leases and is an ideal location for companies that want access to a highly mobile population of more than 42 million, as well as a region with a growing industrial base and one of the nation’s most active logistics clusters. The site is located within 500 nautical miles of the nation’s largest population clusters, and near notable universities and top-level school districts.

We anticipate breaking ground on the Opportunity Park this spring, and look forward to the positive economic growth it will bring to our community and the western Pennsylvania aviation industry.

Growing talent and workforce

Our aviation ecosystem is only as strong as the workforce that supports it and I’m excited about the new initiatives that are launching in the western Pennsylvania/ Laurel Highlands region.

In 2022, Saint Francis University expanded its existing relationship with Nulton Aviation Flight Academy to provide students access to SkyWest’s elite Pilot Pathway and Aviation Maintenance Training Pathway programmes.

Larry J Nulton
Larry J Nulton, PhD is an aviation entrepreneur and chair of new nonprofit Aerium. For more information on the summit, visit AeriumSummit.org. To learn more about the Opportunity Park, visit theopportunitypark.com

On top of that, Saint Francis was awarded a US$1 million grant by the Appalachian Regional Commission to launch an aviation maintenance technician school, further adding to the potential talent pipeline for the Opportunity Park and beyond. These initiatives complement the existing strengths in the region from the likes of the Aviation Institute of Maintenance, Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics and Pennsylvania College of Technology.

We’re also working on infusing the aviation curriculum into local public high schools to foster the industry’s growth further and solidify its future.

And there’s more to come as our partners work to make western Pennsylvania one of the most attractive destinations in the country for the aviation industry.

Public-private partnerships

None of this would be possible without the engagement of key partners. State and local leaders are joining forces to make our region, the Opportunity Park included, one of the country’s most attractive aviation industry destinations. Members of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation have also pledged their support.

The shared goal of promoting the region’s economic growth was instrumental in helping us secure a Keystone Opportunity Zone designation for the Mid-Atlantic Opportunity Park. Businesses that find a new home in the Opportunity Park will receive tax abatements, exemptions, reductions or credits in corporate taxes, and more. In addition, most business purchases will be exempt from state and local sales tax for property used, consumed and utilised in the zone.

Thanks to years of partnerships among industry, academic institutions and elected officials, the western Pennsylvania region is well on its way to becoming a hotbed of aviation, drones and maintenance activity.

The Aerium Education Summit

This summer (30 May-1 June), we’re excited to host the Aerium Education Summit at the Johnstown Airport. It is designed to serve several purposes. First and foremost, we have placed a priority on providing guidance, connections and real-world context to high school students interested in careers in aviation, aeronautics, drone operation, defence and related maintenance careers.

Hundreds of school administrators, students and industry stakeholders will get a first-hand look at the incredible aviation and associated maintenance career pathways and resources that are now available. If your company is looking to expand operations, we invite you to come and learn more.

This feature was first published in MRO Management – April 2023. To read the magazine in full, click here.

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