Gov. Eric Holcomb says he is laying more groundwork for further growth in Indiana's aviation sector by visiting the International Paris Air Show during the first international trade mission of his administration.
"We're here to sell, sell, sell Indiana, and strengthen relationships that have already taken root, but also build trust and partnerships that lead to building businesses and more opportunities," Holcomb told IBJ Monday morning by phone on the eighth day of his scheduled 10-day trip to Europe. "We're bullish about the opportunities that may come from trips like this."
Indiana already has a burgeoning aerospace industry with players such as Rolls-Royce, GE Aviation, and Raytheon Co., but economic development officials say further growth is possible.
The Paris air show bills itself as the biggest show focused on the worldwide aerospace industry, hosting thousands of exhibitors. In 2015, 150,000 professional visitors and 200,000 public visitors descended on the show. The event is held in odd-numbered years, alternating with major international airshows in Farnborough, England, and Berlin, Germany, that are staged in even years.
Holcomb said Indiana has the sixth largest aviation industry in the nation—comprising 80 companies that employ about 7,000 people—and "we're seeking to grow that." He said Indiana is competing against "49 other governors and the territories."
"We already have a strong network," Holcomb said. "However, this is such an important industry. We're positioned nicely, but you have to show up and make your case and share the success story. It's a competitive world we live in."
The governor said that he has heard "in almost every meeting" about the desire by companies for Indianapolis International Airport to gain new nonstop and direct flights overseas. That is something he pushed for during the Indiana General Assembly this year, and lawmakers included money that could be used to incentivize flights in the budget.
"When you’re talking about companies like Rolls Royce, Tate & Lyle, we have to be connected in every way imaginable," Holcomb said.
As far as where future growth in the aviation industry could come from, Holcomb said "we're focused on the whole supply chain."
The governor's trip—which is paid for with donations to the Indiana Economic Development Foundation—also included a two-day stop to Hungary, where he signed a memorandum formalizing the country's relations with the state. He said the state has formed a working group that will work on expanding economic development opportunities with the country.
Holcomb noted Indiana firms Allison Transmission and Eli Lilly already have footprints in Hungary, but said "we want to look for additional relationships to develop and strengthen."
On Saturday, Holcomb attended the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, where he met with executives from several motorsports and automotive industries to discuss business opportunities in Indianapolis.