Seven thousand miles separate Detroit from Dubai, but within this span, there is a vast amount of opportunities between these two regions. Last week, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) hosted the Dubai Airshow, promising to hold the most significant airshow in the world. Even though this year did not topple the 2013 record breaking $200 billion in sales orders, there were many indicators on where the world is heading in aviation.
I was fortunate to be able to join Automation Alley on this trade mission to the Middle East and was joined by three other Macomb County companies, Alpha Precision Aerospace, Hydra-Lock and Mobile Data Holdings. Other regional partners included Detroit Airport Corporation, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, MAMA and Wayne County. My strategy on this trip was very different than other business attraction missions, as I went there specifically to talk about the mature aerospace and defense market in Macomb County and to explore export and supply chain opportunities.
There are many opportunities for aerospace parts, tooling and automation manufacturers to become immersed in this market as Boeing and Airbus struggle to fulfill back orders on new aircraft platforms. These production orders will dominate the global commercial aviation market and the trend is expected to continue over the next 10 to 15 years. Couple this with the growing demand for maintenance and repair of existing aircraft, Macomb County aerospace companies have the ability to join the supply chain – on a global scale.
One of my meetings in particular was with a subsidiary of the Saudi Arabian airlines where I learned about a major aircraft repair and overhaul facility planned at Jeddah Airport in Saudi Arabia. They are seeking repair and spare part component manufacturers. In Abu-Dhabi, the giant investment partner, Mubadala is investing in companies that can bring new manufacturing technologies to the market. And the big news was UAE’s space program strategy which has an aggressive mission to send unmanned probes to Mars by 2021.
The big theme that emerged from the Dubai Airshow is commercial and defense spending in aviation is here now and will continue to grow both domestically and abroad. Companies looking to expand into this market will need to strategically grow their international presence and their global footprint in the Middle East and Asian markets. Trade missions such as this provide us a window to meet and build relationships with decision makers who can bring these opportunities front and center for our businesses.
Vicky Rad is the deputy director for the Macomb County Department of Planning & Economic Development.