Jet East Meets Iredell Ready
At the very core of Iredell Economic Development Corporation is a firm commitment to building strong relationships with local businesses to help them grow and prosper. As new businesses move into Iredell County, Iredell EDC takes the lead in helping businesses understand and navigate the local labor market, accelerating their engagement with workforce partners to ensure a successful outcome for their short-term and long-term employment goals. This collaboration has evolved as a result of the formation of Iredell Ready, a workforce initiative that was established in part to strengthen partnerships with industry by supporting their recruitment, retention, and pipeline development efforts. When Jet East, a Gama Aviation Company and one the nation’s leading aviation maintenance providers, selected Statesville Regional Airport as the site for their newest maintenance facility, they were immediately introduced to Iredell Ready.
On May 9, 2023, representatives from Iredell-Statesville Schools’ Career Academy and Technical School, Mooresville Graded Schools, NC Works Career Center, North Carolina of Department of Commerce, Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina, Centralina Workforce Development Board, and University of North Carolina at Charlotte School of Professional Studies joined Iredell EDC and David Crowder, General Manager of Jet East, to discuss how they could help fill approximately 250 positions that Jet East plans to ultimately fill.
Jet East’s Statesville location is a full-service flagship maintenance facility consisting of two state-of-the-art facilities with a combined 115,000 square feet of office and back shop space. They specialize in scheduled maintenance, on-demand mobile maintenance for unscheduled events, avionics, and related services in the areas of structural repairs, composite work, non-destructive testing (NDT), and paint capabilities. Because Jet East offers such a wide range of services, their needs for their skilled workforce are also quite diverse. “Obviously, I need airframe and powerplant mechanics,” Crowder shares. “I’m also looking for avionics’ technicians and interior technicians, meaning people with experience in woodworking and soft goods, like leather and carpet. We’re building a paint shop that will be complete near the end of the year. Then I’ll be looking for painters. Many of these jobs need an aviation background; however, the painters and interior technicians do not.”
With such a wide range of needs, Crowder was thrilled so many partners were ready to help. “I have never been introduced to anything like this before which is why it’s so exciting to me. It gave me the opportunity to talk about the needs of the Maintenance, Repair, and Operations (MRO) industry and to start building a relationship with the organizations in Iredell County.”
Crowder has already initiated discussions with Mitchell Community College, Iredell-Statesville Schools, and Mooresville Graded School District regarding putting aviation programs into place to prepare a pipeline of skilled workers. The only challenge he foresees is simply educating students as to the viability of a career in aircraft maintenance. “When most people think of aviation, they think of being a pilot,” he explains. “When in fact, working on airplanes is a great career choice that doesn’t require a four-year degree or even a two-year degree. I want to visit some of the high schools and introduce them to the industry.”
Crowder already has plans in place to partner with the Iredell-Statesville Schools on several workforce development initiatives including an upcoming Career Road Trip for high school students (July 31st – August 2nd). Todd Williams, Executive Director of Industry, Trade, & Business Development for Iredell-Statesville Schools, agrees with Crowder that there is immense value in a career with Jet East. “Jet East has an incredible work facility!” he exclaims. “Their airplane hangar is climate controlled, and the workspaces are neat, clean, and modern. This would be a great place to start and finish a career. What a great asset to the Statesville community!”
Iredell EDC touts a skilled, well-trained workforce of more than 90,000 to be one of Iredell County’s greatest strengths. The goal of Iredell Ready is to help businesses tap into that strength as quickly as possible. According to Crowder, for Jet East that goal was more than met. “Iredell EDC and Iredell Ready hit the ground running. I now have so many people reaching out to me. They are so proactive in helping the community and connecting businesses to the workforce.”