In the opening address of the Aviation and Aerospace Industry Manufacturing Summit in Fort Worth, H. Ross Perot, Jr. recounted the history of Alliance Airport and touched on the future of the aerospace industry.
“Why we are here – why we have an Alliance Airport was all built upon growing the aviation base in north Texas and attracting more companies into the North Texas aviation community,” Perot said. “As you watch those aircraft (at the Alliance air show), watch those pilots and watch the training, you realize that it’s not an accident that we have the finest aviation base in the world in the United States and the second largest cluster of aviation companies in North Texas.”
Perot, who was an Air Force pilot, said he has been in aviation and a pilot for 31 years.
“I’ve been around most of the leaders in aviation in the North Texas marketplace and around the country and around the world, and as you talk to leadership and as we started working on this Alliance program, we worked very closely with the FAA,” Perot said. “When I started working on the Alliance project, this was going to be the second of four new airports the FAA was going to build in North Texas. They asked if we would donate the land for the airport.
“Being a pilot, just out of the Air Force, and real estate developer, it looked like a great combination project for all the interests that I had. We started work on this airport with the FAA in partnership, and we were going to donate the land for the airport. Originally, it started out to be a general aviation airport.”
Perot said his friend Wayne Joseph at Bell Helicopter told him what the area needed was an airport for industry.
“It’s the industrial airports that have really made North Texas great,” Perot said. “We have Carswell Air Force Base with General Dynamics/Lockheed and then Navy Dallas which had the Vaught headquarters. That is where we had the big World War II manufacturing facilities that helped grow the aviation base and helped attract companies like Bell Helicopter back in the 1950’s. But if you look at the airport infrastructure 20 years ago, where would that industrial base grow?
“DFW Airport is designed for commercial aviation, moving people and belly freight. What we saw we needed was this evolution of this industrial airport concept. The FAA liked the idea; they supported the idea, and that’s why Alliance Airport was built and why it grew into a large airport and into this industrial airport complex, was to take care of all the non-commercial aviation customers.
“It’s worked very well; the team’s worked very hard,” he said.“We have 300 companies at Alliance today with 33,000 people working in the Alliance program. We have 50 of the Fortune 500. I challenge all of our customers to outgrow us because we are only 40 percent developed. We have thousands of acres left to be developed to continue to grow the economic base in North Texas.
“If you add up all the clients at Alliance today, and you add up the taxes that we pay, we are the largest tax paying entity now in the City of Fort Worth, and if you look at the money that’s been invested, over $7.5 billion in investments has been put into the Alliance program by the private sector. So it’s worked out well; it’s a huge partnership with the City of Fort Worth, Tarrant County, Denton County, the State of Texas, and it’s the FAA and the private sector that’s pulled this off. I believe that the best years are still in front for aviation, and really the best years are in front of us at Alliance.”
Perot said the goal of the conference was to make sure that the United States continues to attract and build great aviation companies, supported by a labor force that brings the talent necessary to keep the competitive edge.
“If you’ll look around the world today, the United States still has the finest aviation products in the world,” Perot said. “No other air force has the technology, training, manpower, and processes of the United States Air Force.
“If you look at every major combat activity around the world – if you’re going to go fight in Syria, today, you really can’t do it in a cost effective manner, or for a practical matter without the United States Air Force,” Perot said.“If anybody goes into Iran today, even if the Israelis go in, it’s not going to be (the same) type of operation if you don’t have the United States Air Force.
“How do we prepare our communities to train up the leaders of this great industry we call aviation? Look what is on the front page of the paper today: Elon Musk launches Dragon Space craft to go resupply the space station. The foundation of private space is in the United States. It’s the next great industry, the privatization of space.
“Elon Musk is doing a very good job,” Perot said. “Erik Anderson was the real pioneer working with the Anastasias on the X PRIZE to encourage private space activity. Richard Branson now has his private space program in New Mexico that will give rides into private space. Jeff Bezos of Amazon has his own private space company out in West Texas, where they are working on privately designed rockets.
“Erik Anderson started space adventures. He’s taken nine people into space with the Russians, and Anderson now has his asteroid mining company that he is beginning where he has a team from NASA that will be going out to the asteroids trying to determine how we mine asteroids and bring that product back to earth.
“So these are very exciting times for aviation, extremely exciting times for space and every country in the world wants these jobs,” Perot said. “I go all over the world, and I’ve toured the aviation factories in China; I’ve toured the factories in Mexico; I’ve toured the budding factories in the Middle East that want aviation. India has a very, very focused and dramatic program to grow their aviation business.
“The jobs we have today; the technology we have today, a lot are pioneered between the private and public partnerships between the private sector and the Defense Department. These jobs are wanted around the world; it is very competitive.
“We still dominate, and there’s no reason we can’t continue to dominate this industry. These are the jobs this nation needs. They’re private sector jobs, high-paying jobs, skilled jobs building this phenomenal product that we export out around the world.”