Jackson County was recently certified as an “aerospace ready community” by a group of consultants who assessed the region.

Jackson County was awarded the Certified Aerospace Ready Community designation as a result of an assessment conducted by Tucson Roberts and Robert Ingram of Common Sense Development and Tucson Atlantic Consulting, according to a press release from the Jackson County Development Authority.

Funded by American Electric Power, the assessment determined that Jackson County meets 10 essential qualities in aerospace site location for industry investments. The detailed assessment included multi-county areas around West Virginia and Ohio.

“The analysis examined a wide range of specific indicators that Jackson County would need to be attractive to the aerospace industry,” said Mark Whitley of the Jackson County Development Authority.

West Virginia and Ohio have a vast array of the nation’s finest aerospace industry, including parts, manufacturing, aircraft assembly, maintenance, testing and research and development, Whitley said. These industries are mostly centered near Clarksburg and Morgantown, Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Dayton Ohio.

“Jackson County is blessed to have Constellium, a global leader in aluminum aerospace technology providing aerospace materials to the commercial, military and space industry,” Whitley said. “Our Board of Directors of the Jackson County Development Authority, through its strategic plan, wanted us to focus on certification opportunities and, if successful, join the Appalachian Sky national marketing strategy focusing on attracting aerospace investment in the County.”

The aviation industry is critically dependent on skilled labor, Whitley said. Working with Jackson County’s educational partners is going to be important.

“We were very impressed with Jackson County Schools and West Virginia University of Parkersburg,” Ingram said.

The consultants said local learning institutions emphasized their ability to develop specific educational and training programs to adapt to industry needs.

“Aerospace wages are generally higher and generally require high-skill and specialized technical training,” Roberts said. “The Jackson County Schools and WVU-P folks were very impressive.”

This certification, along with the newly awarded federal Opportunity Zone, designation are two additional tools to allow us the opportunity to compete globally for exciting economic development projects, Whitley said.

Whitley said this certification would not have been possible without partners in economic development, including the Jackson County Commission, the Jackson County Board of Education, West Virginia University of Parkersburg, Constellium and American Electric Power.¤