Friday, June 09, 2006

Airbus and aerospace jobs

Last week, at the invitation of the City Council, Airbus visited Los Angeles to meet with potential suppliers for its new superjumbo A380. While some have worried that the rise of the European-based plane giant spells only trouble for the U.S. aerospace industry, the A380's supply chain is very American, and Southern Californian at that. Last year, Airbus paid more than 400 U.S. suppliers $8.5 billion, supporting 170,000 manufacturing jobs.

I took a trip down to Monogram Aerospace Fasteners in Commerce, CA, where I was joined by Jeff Henry and Keith Brunell from Monogram as well as Commerce Mayor Nancy Ramos, my fellow Councilmember Wendy Greuel, Ron Gastelum from the Greater Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce, Allan McArtor from Airbus North America, and Fred Freuh from UAW local 650. For some more pictures of the factory tour, check out my flickr page.

While Hollywood only just cracked the top ten industries of our local economy recently, aerospace was a linchpin of Southern California’s middle class for decades.

It's no longer the juggernaut it was—no American manufacturing subsector is—but surprisingly, it continues to be a prominent player in our economy today. It’s not true that the days of aerospace are gone; what’s true is that the days of our region being defined by one or two single industries are over.

The strongest quality of our economy is its variation. We’re no longer subject to the kind of shock we felt when national economic shifts pushed out manufacturing. The thousands of aerospace jobs in los angeles today, bolstered by continued investment from global players like airbus, are higher-skilled jobs that pay about 25% higher in inflation-adjusted dollars than the jobs of twenty years ago.

The risk we have is that our region must step up to educate and train the young workers to take these jobs. Los Angeles—am I starting to sound like a broken record?—doesn’t have a jobs gap. We have a skills gap. Whether through Hire L.A. or by cultivating relationships with international manufacturers, we must commit ourselves to developing the educational and training infrastructure to help our young people take advantage of what are still middle-class manufacturing jobs.

Oh, by the way, I did get to fabricate a set of fasteners (see pic). And you can fly with peace of mind this summer: I kept them as a paperweight.