Aerospace pushing universities to think bigger

Jill McCallum, president of Pacific Rim Aerospace Corp., said South Carolina needs to be patient and realize that aerospace is “a big pie.” (Photo/Kim McManus)Jill McCallum, president of Pacific Rim Aerospace Corp., said South Carolina needs to be patient and realize that aerospace is “a big pie.” (Photo/Kim McManus)

By Ashley Barker
abarker@scbiznews.com
Published August 28, 2014

One of the often unnoticed benefits of the statewide surge in the aerospace sector has been the impact it’s had on universities, according to George Patrick, deputy secretary of the S.C. Department of Commerce and member of the S.C. aerospace task force.

During a Charleston Regional Business Journal Power Breakfast this morning, Patrick emphasized that workforce development is key in nearly every conversation he has about the aerospace industry.

“Aerospace, and the focus on aerospace, has brought our university systems to their knees to some degree and are forcing what has traditionally been rivals — both on the football field and in the lobbying-for-dollars business ... to take a much more cooperative approach to how we work together as a state to enhance our educational system,” Patrick said.

Patrick and the other panelists — retired Navy Capt. Marty Keaney, executive director of the McNair Center for Aerospace Research and Innovation at the University of South Carolina, and Jill McCallum, president of Pacific Rim Aerospace Corp. — discussed how the arrival of the Boeing Co. in North Charleston has impacted the local economy and positioned South Carolina as a leader in advanced manufacturing.


Retired Navy Capt. Marty Keaney, executive director of the McNair Center for Aerospace Research and Innovation at the University of South Carolina said a high level of cooperation has always existed among South Carolina's universities when it comes to research (Photo/Kim McManus)

“I’m very pleased that there is the momentum in this direction to get this right. I believe there is a need for that pressure to be applied across the place, about working with Clemson and other institutions around the state.”

— Marty Keaney, retired Navy captain and executive director of the McNair Center for Aerospace Research and Innovation at USC


“I’m very pleased that there is the momentum in this direction to get this right,” Keaney said. “I believe there is a need for that pressure to be applied across the place, about working with Clemson and other institutions around the state. One of the first things I was told when I came to town is you need to work, you need to collaborate.”

Keaney said a high level of cooperation has always existed among South Carolina’s universities when it comes to research.

“They’ve always worked well together,” he said. “If you needed somebody from Clemson, or the College of Charleston or MUSC [the Medical University of South Carolina] to be competitive for a grant, they went out and did it.”

Keaney said in recent years, institutions have started collaborating more on putting together proposals, and concepts are becoming easier.

McCallum’s company, which is headquartered in Washington state, recently opened an office on East Bay Street. She started her career at Boeing in 1985 before leaving to work for smaller engineering firms and forming Pacific Rim Aerospace. McCallum said South Carolina needs to be patient and realize that aerospace is “a big pie.”

She said Boeing has generational roots in the workforce and economy of the Pacific Northwest and, in time, will have roots in South Carolina too.

“It takes a long time, and it will continue to take a long time,” McCallum said. “There’s often a lot of discussion on workforce and, of course, being new here, everyone is coming out of the woodwork. I have more resumes on my desk than I know what to do with.”

She said in Seattle, Boeing became a mindset, and it’s all about getting people passionate about aerospace from an early age — like the 3-year-old who knew what contrails were from seeing planes fly overhead. She recalled the first time she saw a 787 Dreamliner fly over her house. Her entire family went outside to see the plane, noting that its engines sound different from other airliners.

“It becomes part of the lifestyle,” she said. “That’s part of the patience while the community is growing used to this. Parents and children and grandparents are having discussions about seeing the Boeing airplane take off, and the 787 flying right over our house.”

Reach staff writer Ashley Barker at 843-849-3144 or @AshleyNBarker on Twitter.

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