The trio of local officials who went to the Paris Air Show last week termed the visit a success. So much so that they’re already planning on attending the Fornborough International Air Show in London next year.
And, in October, they plan to attend a National Business and Aviation Association meeting in Las Vegas.
“It was a wonderful opportunity,” said Tim Thomson, Port of Bremerton CEO, of the Paris Air Show. “We met the objectives we set out to, and we made connections that will prove invaluable in the future.”
Thomson, along with Kitsap County Commissioner Josh Brown and John Powers, executive director of the Kitsap Economic Development Alliance and co-chair of Kitsap Aerospace and Defense Alliance, spent last week at the Paris Air Show to market Kitsap County as a destination for aerospace and defense subcontractors.
Thomson presented a PowerPoint presentation, complete with photos of the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, Tuesday at the meeting of the port commissioners.
Thomson said their time in Paris was spent meeting with several companies that have manufacturing in Kitsap County, including Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. The purpose of those meetings was to secure relationships with those companies and talk about possible future expansion.
The group also met with RUGA, Umbra Aerospace, Nimbus and toured the Safron Aerospace Factory.
“What a lot of people don’t understand is that you have to make plans ahead in order to get time with these companies,” Thomson said. “You do your pitch through an invitation. A lot of the credit goes to John (Powers) for that. Because of his front work, we were able to see the people we needed to meet with.”
Thomson said the meeting with RUAG, a Swiss aerospace manufacturing company, opened doors that could prove fruitful in the future.
“We gave them our marketing packet and we met with the head of their business development,” he said.
The meeting with Raytheon was about “exploring where they could expand in Kitsap and to show them our appreciation for their being in Kitsap,” he said.
The group had meetings with suppliers for Airbus and with officials from Boeing, Thomson said.
“It’s not just Boeing, but it’s Airbus who’s looking to the Northwest for their supply chain,” he said. “They know the expertise is here.”
The group also met with Nimbus, an Italian Aerospace company that is working on a prototype for a balloon wing for use in surveillance work. And they stopped by displays and talked with officials of Tubiflex, Flame Enterprises, Albany Engineered Composites, Nexans and Circor, all domestic aerospace manufacturing companies that are not represented in the Pacific Northwest.
“They are long shots, but we hope they might consider Kitsap when they expand,” he said.
Thomson also stressed the importance of he and other representatives of Kitsap County getting to know officials of the Washington State Department of Commerce and others in economic development throughout the King-Snohomish-Pierce counties area. Many of the events at the Washington State booth at the show allowed for that.
Commissioners said they were pleased with the connections that had been made and thanked Thomson and Powers for going.
“This air show is the place to be if your’e going to be in the game,” said Commissioner Axel Strakeljahn. “We have to be at the table and now we are.”
Thomson summarized the trip by saying the objectives of going — to better understand all the aspects of the aerospace industry and to develop business relationships — had been met. But he reminded commissioners that the Paris Air Show is “part of a process, not an end in itself.”
“That’s why it is important that we are at Fornborough (London air show) next year to nurture the relationships we’ve made.”
County Commissioner Brown was not at the meeting Tuesday but during the Kitsap County Commission meeting Monday, he said the trip to Paris was “a lot of work.”
“It’s staggering the competition that’s out there,” Brown said. “For too long we’ve taken for granted our aerospace (companies) here in the Pacific Northwest. Our focus now has to be on what we can do to keep aerospace (work) in Washington.”