It only happens every two years, but it’s worth the wait for Georgia aerospace exporters.
In its 13th edition on Nov. 17, the biennial Dubai Airshow hosted 60,000-plus attendees from more than 60 countries, setting a new record for value of orders announced: $206.1 billion.
The Georgia Department of Economic Development didn’t have a booth as in years past, but that didn’t stop aerospace companies in the state from chasing a piece of that giant pie.
Aventure Aviation, a 13-year-old company in Peachtree City that sells replacement airplane parts, aircraft rentals and maintenance services all over the world, has attended each show throughout the last decade. An Aventure office set up in Dubai in 2012 has helped improve service in the Middle East and North Africa region and has led to a sales jump of 300 percent, said Zaheer Faruqi, the company’s CEO.
“This year’s participation in the Dubai Airshow was to reinforce the company’s presence, meet all the local customers and reach out to new clients,” Mr. Faruqi said.
The strategy paid off, especially the latter piece.
“Aventure Aviation has managed to obtain several new opportunities that the company is now chasing which normally would not have come to us if we had not met the decision makers at the show,” Melissa Coleman Grina, senior sales director, said in an email.
Savannah-based business jet maker Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. saw similar success in connecting with customers, though it doesn’t announce orders from the show.
“Gulfstream has a long and successful presence in the Middle East. Our large-cabin aircraft continue to lead the business jet industry in the region with 45 percent of the Middle East market share,” said Steve Cass, vice president of communications. “Gulfstream has more than 100 aircraft based in the Middle East and northern Africa and have seen the fleet increase by approximately 20 percent over the past five years.”
Neither firm is new to international trade. Exports account for 80 percent of sales for Aventure, which in 2009 won the Small Business Administration’s exporter of the year award for Georgia and the Southeast.
Gulfstream has an order backlog worth $14 billion extending out to 2017, with foreign customers accounting for more than half those orders. The company now has more than 9,000 employees in Georgia, having launched a $500 million, seven-year expansion in Savannah in 2010 largely to meet international demand.
Bill Dobbs, director of aerospace for the economic development department, said that international shows in Dubai, Paris and Farnborough, United Kingdom, help companies shore up relationships and meet many potential clients in one place.
“It is important that the state continue to both build and retain relationships with the international aerospace community,” Mr. Dobbs said, noting that Georgia already has more than 500 aerospace companies supporting more than 86,000 jobs. Aerospace is also the state’s top export product by value: more than $6.5 billion in 2012.
The shows are also good for telling Georgia’s story to inbound investors, he said.
“The Maintenance Repair and Overhaul (MRO) business is big business in Georgia. In fact, Georgia ranks third among U.S. states in civilian MRO activity. Dubai’s Standard Aero has a large MRO in Augusta,” Mr. Dobbs told Global Atlanta.
In 2009, then-Gov. Sonny Perdue attended the show, announcing that Dubai-based Wamar International would invest at least $3.5 million in Georgia.
Other companies with significant operations in Georgia had a presence at the show.
Lockheed Martin, which makes C-130 military freighters in Marietta for the U.S. government and for countries like India, had a large booth and also used the show to unveil a partnership to install turbulence monitoring systems at Dubai international Airport.
S&K Aerospace and Chromalloy, both based outside the state but with operations in Warner Robins and LaGrange, respectively, were in attendance.