ASHLAND, Ky. — Community representatives visited the Paris Air Show last week with the intent of bringing more of the aerospace industry to the area.

Those from the region who went included Ashland Alliance President Tim Gibbs, Kentucky Power External Affairs Manager Amanda Clark, Ashland Community and Technical College President Dr. Larry Ferguson and Integrated Technology Program Coordinator Michael Tackett, and One East Kentucky President and CEO Chuck Sexton and Project Manager Ivy Stanley.

“This is the biggest trade show in the world and also one of the best opportunities for us in the world,” said Gibbs.

The air show takes place every two years and the Ashland Alliance attended last time as well. Gibbs said the group attended meetings with several different companies—all of which had an active recruitment project ongoing, looking for expansion. One of the companies was GE Aviation, a company that makes aircraft engines.

“The first 48 hours of the show at Paris (they) sold $50 billion in aircraft engines … they have a back order of $239 billion in aircraft engines. They’ve expanded their aircraft engine plants in every state around the state of Kentucky,” said Gibbs. “We had direct conversations with them about what we have to offer—workforce, locations, proximity to their markets, all of these things,” Gibbs said.

GE Aviation is based out of Cincinnati, but Gibbs noted the air show allowed for the chance to meet with the company’s senior leadership.

Clark said the trip was a joint venture between the Ashland Alliance, Kentucky Power and One East Kentucky. A grant was used to offset the cost of the trip for the group, including Ferguson and Tackett.

She pointed out events like the air show allow area representatives to build relationships with companies so when they do have a project or are looking to relocate they know who to contact.

“Over the course of three days we had 20 meetings with 20 different companies, some of those were followups … We’ve got several that want to come see us, we’ve got some that want us to come see them,” said Clark, noting the trip was very successful.

Gibbs touched on the skills of those in the region saying a workforce study showed the area has eight times the number of people that work in metal fabrication compared to the state and national average.

“The number one job in aerospace is metal fabrication, so it’s a high growth,” he said.