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Columbia Business Monthly

S.C. Aerospace Firms Seek Business Boost At Farnborough Airshow

Jul 11, 2018 11:06AM ● Published by John McCurry

Pictured is the Team SC group from the South Carolina booth at the Paris Air Show in 2017. The group included represenatives from the S.C. Department of Commerce, S.C. Council on Competitiveness, TIGHITCO, Zeus, Innegra Technologies, CentralSC Alliance, Charleston Regional Development Alliance, SC I-77 Alliance, and The LINK Sumter/Lee County Economic Development Alliance. They are in front front of the Boeing Dreamliner 787-10, which is built in Charleston.

By John McCurry

The aviation world will soon turn its eyes to Farnborough, England, about 35 miles southwest of London. That’s home of the Farnborough International Airshow, where aerospace companies make deals and announce previously arranged sales. It’s also where economic development recruiters lay the groundwork for plum foreign direct investment projects. The huge exhibition is set for July 16-22.

South Carolina has been an active participant in the Farnborough event, as well as the Paris Air show. Farnborough is held in even-numbered years, alternating with the Paris. This will be the second year that the S.C. Council on Competitiveness has organized a group of four of the state’s aerospace suppliers to attend as part of the Team South Carolina booth sponsored by the S.C. Dept. of Commerce, which helps with the cost of the companies’ attendance.

Adrianne Beasley, director of aerospace initiatives for the Council on Competitiveness, says she hopes to increase the participation of South Carolina companies to six next year at the Paris Air Show. She says her role is to help the Dept. of Commerce target aerospace companies to participate at the air shows. The four companies selected this year are excellent examples of the state’s diverse aerospace supply chain and also represent the state’s growing advanced materials sector, she adds.

Participating this year are two companies from the Charleston area and two from Greenville.

Acutec Precision Aerospace in Berkeley County specializes in precision machining and other services.

FSC Cutting Tools of Greenville does precisely what its name suggests: it manufactures cutting tools for a variety of industries, including aerospace.

Material Sciences Corporation of Greenville provides engineering services to aerospace and other industry sectors.

TIGHITCO in North Charleston operates an advanced composites manufacturing and assembly center serving the aerospace industry. It is part of the Charleston-based InterTech Group.

“TIGHITCO is an approved manufacturer of composite structures, details, and assemblies for leading companies such as Boeing, Gulfstream, Sikorsky, and Spirit AeroSystems, so we are looking to meet with our existing customers and with new potential customers,” says Daniel Friberg, TIGHITCO’s director of business development.  

“We believe new customers will value not only our capabilities, but also our location near Charleston, which is in the center of the southeast aerospace corridor.”

Friberg says aerospace business conditions in South Carolina are good due to the number of OEMs in the South creating demand for suppliers, and the “business-friendly stance” of South Carolina. He also cites access to skilled labor bolstered by private/public partnerships for training.  

Another factor, he says, is that real estate and housing prices are competitive when compared to other parts of the country with aerospace industries.

“Material Science hopes to broaden our company's exposure to a wider and more international market base,” says Tom Cassin, president and CEO. “South Carolina is a hotbed of aerospace activity. Getting access and exposure to tier 1, 2, and 3 suppliers is key to advancing our design capabilities and products.”

Also attending will be Drew Cervone, Acutec Precision Aerospace’s sales director, and Afzaal Mir, founder and owner of FSC Cutting Tools.

“For me, it’s important that the companies we bring and that Commerce brings are those that represent the full gamut of the supply chain,” Beasley says. “On the nuts and bolts side, companies have to be large enough to handle the contracts that could be awarded at the show. We vet these companies to make sure that they are able to follow through on orders.”

Participating companies also have to have appropriate aerospace certifications and have a workforce in place to handle new contracts. Beasley says her office markets this event throughout the year and there is no shortage of companies interested in participating.

The Dept. of Commerce helps with the B2B matchmaking side, scheduling appointments and handling logistics, which is helpful for smaller companies.

“Anecdotally, we know that our companies do see a benefit,” Beasley notes.

Other companies with South Carolina connections exhibiting elsewhere at Farnborough include Boeing, Lockheed Martin, and Zeus.

The Dept. of Commerce will have a five-person contingent: Jennifer Fletcher, deputy secretary; Megan Anderson, project manager, global business development; Ryan Melvin, project manager, global business development; Anita Patel, trade program manager, international strategy and trade; and Tony Allen, senior program manager, FDI, international strategy and trade.

Also attending are representatives of four regional economic development organizations: the Central SC Alliance, The Link (Lee and Sumter counties), the Charleston Regional Development Alliance and the I-77 Alliance.