President addresses second annual SC Aerospace Conference and Expo

Good morning! Welcome to the second annual South Carolina Aerospace Conference and Expo.

Today we host more than 500 attendees—aerospace companies, educators, economic developers and people involved in advanced technology, sales and marketing.  Aerospace is the second largest industry cluster in the Palmetto state and we have plans for accelerating growth.

For everyone here, there are valuable networking opportunities. The world is a small place and although the Internet will always be available, I think the best connections in business and life are made personally.  In that regard, I hope you all take advantage, during the lunch, dinner, reception and tours of all the facilities and sights, to do some networking. 

Also, especially if you are representing a smaller or medium sized business and are looking for a new home or an additional home, make sure to connect with our Secretary of Commerce who I will introduce in a few moments.  (Shameless marketing Mr. Secretary?)

This morning I would like to recognize a very special leader and friend, Governor Nikki Haley. I also am pleased to welcome Steve Benjamin, the Mayor of the City of Columbia.  He was Student Body President at the University of South Carolina during the 1991-92 academic year and is now leading one of America’s great medium-sized cities in its current renaissance.  Welcome Steve.

Flight has long captivated our imagination—from Icarus to Leonardo DaVinci, to the Wright Brothers and Amelia Earhart to South Carolina native Ronald McNair.  Clearly, with so many in attendance today, the evolving possibilities connected with flight continue to intrigue and challenge us.

Let me also recognize our co-organizers, the SC Council of Competitiveness, SC Aviation Association, SC Department of Commerce, and the SC Aeronautics Commission. Our thanks to all of our conference sponsors, and a special thanks to our headline sponsor Boeing. I know you will enjoy the presentation of Mike Bunker, Director of 787 Aftbody Operations for Boeing. 

I’d also like to recognize three individuals from the University including our brand new provost, Joan Gable.  This is her third day on the job, and she has been given a short runway. I also recognize Zafer Gurdal, Professor and Ronald E. McNair Chair and Director of USC's McNair Center for Aerospace Innovation and Research, and Bill Kirkland, our Director of Economic Engagement.

Flight has long captivated our imagination, from Icarus to Leonardo DaVinci, to the Wright Brothers and Amelia Earhart, to South Carolina native Ronald McNair.  Clearly, with so many in attendance today, the evolving possibilities connected with flight continue to intrigue and challenge us.

The McNair Center was initiated several years ago to assist in South Carolina’s aerospace cluster growth and to provide high level R&D and manufacturing and maintenance consultation within South Carolina and from afar. It is the only university-based aerospace center to house a production-level automated fiber placement machine. And it allows full-scale testing of new materials and designs for our industry partners. The Center was named for Ronald E. McNair. I hope you all had an opportunity to tour USC’s McNair Center this morning.

A few weeks ago, on August 6, Anita Zucker, Chair and CEO of The InterTech Group, Inc. (who is with us today), Boeing Chief Technology Officer John Tracy and I held a press conference at The McNair Center to announce a new partnership between Boeing and the University of South Carolina. This partnership will advance research projects that are expected to forge the next generation of aerospace technology and will also improve existing products.  In fact, Boeing’s $ 5 million investment will fund up to two dozen research projects.

So today on the flight deck, we have excellent speakers and great discussions ahead. We’re just about ready to take off and it is now a pleasure to introduce South Carolina’s Secretary of Commerce Robert M. Hitt III – or “Bobby,” as we call him.