Ontario remains a leader in aerospace growth in North America. International customers represent 80% of revenue for most aerospace firms, in part because of free trade agreements with 15 countries, a highly skilled workforce, strong educational programs and a business friendly environment.

“Aerospace is among the most technically advanced and internationally focused of Ontario’s manufacturing sub-sectors,” said the Honorable Brad Duguid, Ontario minister of economic development, employment and infrastructure (MEDEI). “Our companies are taking a leadership role in pioneering and disruptive technologies as the industry looks to become ever more connected, energy efficient and cost competitive.”

At last count, Ontario had over 20,000 skilled workers in aerospace, with another 17,000 indirect jobs tied to the sector. Fifteen of the top 25 global aerospace companies have key operations in Ontario, said the minister, who listed several examples of recent aerospace development in the region.

In early July 2016, Airbus Helicopters Canada in Fort Erie expanded its facility to enhance its MRO capabilities by 65%. In June, Héroux Devtek, a major supplier to Messieur-Bergati-Dowty and UTC Aerospace, announced that it was five weeks ahead of schedule in delivering Boeing 777 landing gear pre-production shipsets.

Ontario is a landing gear cluster. Four of the leading landing gear companies produce full or major components in Ontario. Héroux Devtek inaugurated its 108,000-square-foot landing in Cambridge, Ontario in February 2015.

In April, the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario announced an investment of Cdn$4.87 million in Flying Colours Corp., which specializes in aircraft retrofits and customized interiors. This repayable investment, given through the FedDev Ontario’s Investing in Business Growth and Productivity Initiative, is for the construction of a 100,000-square-foot hangar at Peterborough Airport. This is the second repayable contribution for Flying Colours. Earlier, the company received Cdn$900,000 from FedDev Ontario to expand its facilities and acquire new equipment.

In January 2016 unmanned aerial vehicle developer Aeryon Labs opened a second facility in Waterloo to handle expected growth. And in Ottawa, Neptec Design Group Ltd. won a contract to design an “advanced space vision system” to monitor the International Space Station’s aging infrastructure and to aid spacecraft docking.

Bombardier Aerospace is investing in its Toronto-Downsview facility to prepare for the Global 7000 and 8000 business jets. The company is also a founding member of the Downsview Aerospace Innovation and Research (DAIR) consortium, which is working to develop an aerospace hub next door to Bombardier.

The federal and Ontario governments are doing their part to feed aerospace growth. In its 2016 budget, Ontario announced a Business Growth Initiative (BGHI), which includes CDN400 million to support Ontario’s plan to promote a “high-growth innovation economy,” according to MEDEI.

The initiative is in addition to various research and development, education and business support programs available to aerospace and other companies. The province established its High Skilled Workforce Expert panel to provide workers where needed. MHI Canada Aerospace, a division of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries which makes airframe parts in Mississauga, is working with the Youth Skills Connection Program sponsored by the Ontario Government to train structural airframe assemblers.

“This is one region where the aerospace industry is defining what they want in employees and the curriculum is tailored to fit that need,” said Moira Harvey, executive director of the Ontario Aerospace Council. “Not only do the students learn the skill they need but are immersed in the company culture.”

Duguid (pronounced Dogood) was asked if Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has outlined new plans that could affect Ontario’s aerospace sector: “Many of the aerospace initiatives started by the previous Canadian Government continue to move forward under the new government.”

This includes, said Duguid, new aerospace-specific funding mechanisms such as the Technology Demonstration Program (TDP) and enhancements to the Strategic Aerospace and Defense Initiative (SADI), a repayable support program that various Ontario companies have used.

Relatively low corporate taxes and tax incentive programs help prime the aerospace pump in the province. Combined national and sub-national general corporate tax is 26.5% in Ontario, versus the G20 average of 38.2%, Mexico at 30% and the U.S. at 39%. Tax credits in Ontario can generate 40-60% savings for aerospace companies wanting to do research and development, said the Ministry. Overall business costs in Ontario are lower than in any other G7 nation.

Duguid, who will attend Farnborough, said the Canadian and Ontario governments would continue to support aerospace trade missions in global markets. Later this year, Ontario will send delegations to the Japan International Aerospace Exhibition and Airshow China. It also plans to attend MRO Europe in The Netherlands in October to attract business to the province.

“Companies continually tell us that these missions are invaluable to their business development efforts,” said Duguid. “They also provide an opportunity for government officials to meet with global aerospace players and promote Ontario.”