Airport Development

Raleigh County Memorial Airport Regional Analysis

The Raleigh County Memorial Airport and its Regional Economic Development Partners
Tucson Atlantic Consulting, Common Sense Economic Development, and our data partner, the University of Southern Mississippi


This aerospace assessment was authorized to evaluate the resources and opportunities necessary to attract and support the aerospace industry in a seven-county region (“The Region”) in Southern West Virginia. It also offers insight to assist local leadership in deciding whether to target the aerospace industry.

As former economic development practitioners, it is our intent to offer a document that is readable, practical, and executable. To ensure accuracy, we have taken a comprehensive approach to the assessment. On a local and regional scale, we personally interviewed key leadership in workforce training, business, politics, education, and economic development to accurately evaluate resources, capabilities, and challenges. We purchased and examined proprietary data and research to compile a statistical view of The Region, including aerospace resources in the surrounding 100-miles. The Region includes the counties of Raleigh, Fayette, Summers, Nicholas, Wyoming, Mercer, and McDowell. Due to the mountainous topography, we have also used a 75-minute drivetime standard to obtain a more practical method of determining actual skill availability.

This examination also reviewed 14 central factors specific to the aerospace industry, which stimulate relocation and expansion projects; these include existing aerospace industries, training and education institutions, airports, workforce, support services, and several quality-of- life factors, along with many secondary factors and data requirements (see Appendix B, General Recruiting Overview and Purpose of AEROreadyTM Certification). We have used charts and maps wherever possible to simplify and clarify this information for ease of reading and understanding.

Additionally, we have presented some proven marketing and recruitment strategies and recommendations to successfully attract aerospace business into The Region. Our research indicates that the area is positioned to attract and maintain aerospace manufacturing. Currently, there is no nearby FAA Part-147 maintenance school within practical commuting distance; however, we have made recommendations to provide for maintenance training either through high school dual enrollment training or community colleges. Coincidentally, Oak Hill High School in Fayette County offers a four-year Aerospace Engineering program designed to introduce students to the aerospace field. This curriculum will build interest in students to seek aerospace related careers, which is a solid beginning to educate students to high-demand, high-paying careers in the aerospace industry.

This assessment reveals a clear opportunity to expand the economic base and add aerospace businesses in and around the Raleigh County Memorial Airport. This airport, alone, has all the resources, services, and available industrial land to support aerospace manufacturing business and MRO operations.

It is also our belief that there is a greater opportunity to add regional marketing partners to the recruiting effort. Furthermore, the greater 100-mile region contains adequate resources in both skills and industry to support aerospace industry expansions to The Region.

The Raleigh County Memorial Airport Authority, New River Gorge Regional Development Authority, Mercer County EDA, surrounding counties and their associated economic development organizations, and Appalachian Power, along with multiple West Virginia workforce training agencies, New River Community and Technical College, and Southern West Virginia Community and Technical College form a formidable and exclusive regional marketing team that can leverage the resources of each organization to enhance the capabilities of the entire team marketing effort. As an added bonus, Bluefield State College offers an impressive complementary engineering curriculum.
The West Virginia Department of Commerce and Development Office have experience marketing and recruiting aerospace industry throughout the state already. The West Virginia Development Office offers a state-wide network of aerospace companies and executives to assist with a regional marketing effort. In addition, the state has research capabilities to assist and support a comprehensive recruiting campaign.

Consequently, we are pleased to award the AEROreadyTM Community Certification to each of the seven participating regional counties. This certification can be engaged to market and recruit on websites, in brochures, publications, media presentations, and discussions with aerospace industry prospects. Common Sense Economic Development and Tucson Atlantic Consulting also look forward to a sustained relationship and offer to provide continuing guidance to The Region’s economic development efforts. We believe that if this assessment and marketing strategy is employed, aerospace will become an essential and expanding component of the regional economy.