The advisory board of the Arizona Aerospace Institute is on track to complete its business plan by the end of this year and hopes to have a staff in place to begin operations within six months, a board member said Tuesday.
Karrin Taylor, vice president of DMB Associates and a member of the advisory board, told members of AZCREW, an organization of female commercial real estate executives, the institute will play an important role in retaining and expanding Arizona's important aerospace industry.
"We have this asset sitting right under our noses," she said of the aviation and space business. "We need to get in the game and protect and grow our industries."
The concept of the Arizona Aerospace Institute was announced in February as a public-private partnership to engage in research potentially beneficial to the aerospace industry. Scottsdale-based DMB agreed to provide a home for the institute at the former General Motors proving ground site east of Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport. DMB purchased 3,200 acres from General Motors in 2006 and is creating a master plan for redevelopment of the site,
In addition to the institute, DMB's property has been proposed for a Gaylord resort and convention center and a new spring training complex for the Chicago Cubs.
A study conducted last year by Arizona State University said the aerospace institute could add up to $72 million in annual earnings and 1,320 jobs to the state's economy by sponsoring aviation research that would lead to new manufacturing activity.
Taylor said Arizona needs to develop such institutions to become competitive with other states that are offering more incentives to attract and create businesses. She cited Texas as a state that has been particularly aggressive in trying to draw business away from Arizona by offering lower taxes, workforce training and other incentives.
"Arizona is not as hungry as other states," she said.
The advisory board has been meeting with industry, education and government leaders throughout this year to draw up a road map to develop the institute for presentation to the Arizona Legislature. The plan will include recommendations on how it should be formed, its governing structure, focus of research and funding possibilities, Taylor said.
Although the financially strapped state government is not likely to have money available, other sources could be available from private industry, the federal government and other sources, she said.
"Our goal is to have a physical presence and staff in place in six months, although it probably will take several years to have a robust research effort," she said.
Among promising fields of research are creation of bio-aviation fuels from algae and testing of unmanned aerial vehicles, she said.e_SClBInitially the institute probably will rent office space in the Gateway airport area before it builds a permanent home, she said. Advisory board members have already identified several possible office locations, she said.
Mesa Mayor Scott Smith, who also spoke at the meeting, said the institute is one piece of the puzzle that will help develop a more sustainable community that will provide jobs for young people.
"In Arizona we have the paradise syndrome," he said. "We have great things here, but that has allowed us to slide. ... Warm weather alone won't make it happen any more."
Dr. William Harris, chief executive of Science Foundation Arizona, added to the "call to arms" theme, saying research into algae-based aviation fuel could transform the state's economy while reducing the nation's dependence on foreign oil.
"The key to our success (in economic development) is growing new things, and you grow new things through research," he said.