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Previewing the 2015 S.C. Aerospace Conference & Expo

August 11, 2015

Later this month, leaders from the aerospace industry, government and the investment community will gather in the Palmetto State for the second annual South Carolina Aerospace Conference and Expo, held August 26-27 in Columbia, S.C.


This year’s event promises to be even bigger and better than last year’s inaugural industry conference, highlighting South Carolina’s emergence as one of the premier locations for aerospace manufacturing and research.

The state’s growing aerospace cluster is backed by a number of companies found in Upstate South Carolina. Attracted by the region’s strengths in materials research and manufacturing, engineering and workforce training, companies such as GE Aviation, Michelin, Cytec and Champion Aerospace proudly call Upstate South Carolina home. And with the region’s proximity to major OEMs, such as the Boeing facility in Charleston, Gulfstream in Savannah, Lockheed Martin in Marietta and HondaJet in Greensboro, the Upstate is a strategic location for subcontractors and suppliers.


(Located in the northwestern corner of South Carolina, Upstate SC is uniquely postioned to serve many of the biggest names in the aerospace industry.)

Featuring prominent leaders from around the aerospace industry, the conference agenda will offer a truly unique insight into K-12 education initiatives, advanced materials for aerostructures, big data and aerospace and unmanned aerial systems, as well as breakout sessions on technology and workforce development.

The conference will also include a Technical Symposium focused on a number of topics including:

  • Aerospace Structure and Materials; the future of fiber composites
  • Analytics and Simulation in aircraft manufacture and maintenance; In-situ Non-Destructive Evaluation and Condition Based Maintenance
  • Automation in aircraft design and manufacture; engineering tool developments to support design, reduce cost and increase the speed of the manufacture of advanced structures

To learn more about this year’s conference, we recently spoke with Steve Townes, Chair of SCAerospace and CEO/Founder of Greenville-based Ranger Aerospace LLC.

Q: What can attendees to this year’s event expect to gain from the conference?

Steve Townes (ST): “The aerospace industry in this entire region is growing like Carolina Kudzu—let’s keep up the momentum! Attendees can expect a high-energy event with stimulating presentations from industry experts on a wide variety of topics directly connected to the aerospace industry. The conference planning team has done an excellent job in attracting high caliber speakers to the event.

The conference is organized by the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness, the McNair Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research at the University of South Carolina, the South Carolina Department of Commerce, the South Carolina Aeronautics Commission and the South Carolina Aviation Association. The Boeing Company is the title sponsor.”

Q: What are some of the central themes for this year’s event?

ST: “Last year we had an education panel focused on higher education related to aerospace. This year we have assembled a panel of educators focused on K-12 education. We know a key to getting kids interested in aerospace careers is to hook them early. The panelists will tell us about current initiatives focused on aerospace education and what we must do to build the talent pool of the future for this industry. And speaking of education, I have ardently called for the creation of at least one FAA Aviation Magnet High School in South Carolina, a natural extension of our many workforce initiatives.

SCAerospace members will have an exciting opportunity to interact with growth companies in the state, or those that are considering branching into SC. One of the ways we will do that this year is through a business-to-business matchmaking event on the second day of the conference.

This year a Technical Symposium has also been added with speakers who are working on the latest research directly related to the industry. Being a technology geek myself, I know this will be a great opportunity for attendees to geek out and find out the latest and greatest on cutting edge technologies.

We will also welcome back to South Carolina two natives who make South Carolina look good on the global stage. Robert Sumwalt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board, and Don Myers from Toray Composites will both make presentations.

Another highlight will be the dinner keynote by Scott Thompson. Scott leads the aerospace and defense practice for PricewaterhouseCoopers. His group generates a report that ranks states for their attractiveness for aerospace manufacturing. We want to learn how to do even better from Scott and his knowledge.”

Q: This year’s conference looks to be even bigger and better than last year’s—the first year for the expo. Is the industry starting to take even more notice of SC’s aerospace cluster? Why?

ST: “We have great expectations for the conference. The huge success of last year’s conference frankly took us by surprise. There was obviously demand for such an event and a desire to be part of the growing aerospace cluster. We have taken down more exhibit space this year and expanded the conference to two days. This year we also have Boeing – the largest private-sector aerospace firm in South Carolina – as our headline sponsor, and Governor Nikki Haley will open the conference.

The SC aerospace cluster is more organized than ever. Through the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness and their SCAerospace team, we are now having smaller aerospace events throughout the year, and an Aerospace Advisory Board has been created to provide the voice of industry on actions we need to take to foster continued growth in the industry.”

Registration for the 2015 South Carolina Aerospace Conference and Expo is now available online and by mail. For more information, visit: http://saeu.sc.edu/reg/aerospace/index.php.

Want more information on the aerospace industry in Upstate South Carolina?

Let our Business Recruitment team assist your company in finding the perfect location, gathering critical market intelligence and making business connections.


Jacob Hickman

Business Recruitment Officer

Visit our aerospace site at: AerospaceinUpstateSC.com