Aerospace & Aviation
Arizona is home to more than 1,200 aerospace and defense companies that contribute almost $15 billion annually to the economy and provide more than 150,000 jobs.
Rick Kettner, Northrop Grumman
Our Gilbert location is integral because it is tied to a legacy business started here. The abundance of technical resources in Phoenix’s East Valley, most notably the specialized workforce from the progressive STEM education initiatives, give this area a significant advantage over other competitive markets in the science and technology industries.
Gilbert Job Growth 2016 – 2021
Degrees Awarded Related to Aerospace and Aviation Occupations
Aerospace and Aviation Jobs within a 30-minute commute
*Source: EMSI, 2021
Located in the midst of the country’s fourth-largest aerospace market, Gilbert, Arizona offers access to regional infrastructure, low operating costs, and the commitment of state and local leaders to the aerospace and defense sector making the community an optimum location for firms of any scale that are considering expansion or relocation.
Arizona offers both Foreign Trade Zone and Military Re-Use Zone incentives, which can provide the lowest effective tax rates available anywhere.
Greater Phoenix offers aviation-specific property tax abatement as one of its many business tax credits and other economic development programs. Plus with 330 Visual Flight Rules (VFR) days for easy flying and four airports with runways more than 7,000 feet, Gilbert is a great market that caters to both aerospace and aviation.
Within the industry, Gilbert-based firms are excelling specifically in optics, satellites, and FAA repair stations.
The community includes Fortune 100 Lockheed Martin, who established its lead business unit for research, development, and production of world-class electro-optics and smart munitions systems in Gilbert. It is also the only facility in the Lockheed portfolio that provides field support for lasers.
Northrop Grumman develops and manufactures small- and medium-class space systems for commercial, military, and civil government customers from its Gilbert, Arizona manufacturing facility.
The company’s primary products are satellites and launch vehicles, including low-Earth orbit, geosynchronous-Earth orbit, and planetary exploration spacecraft for communications, remote sensing, scientific, and defense missions; human-rated space systems for Earth-orbit, lunar, and other missions. Noted as one of the most advanced satellite testing facilities in the world, Northrop currently employs over 400 within the community.
Praxis Resources, Inc., has an 18-year history in electro-mechanical manufacturing, build-to-print manufacturing, cable harness, and printed circuit board repair. Praxis Resources provides FAA Certified Part 145 Repair Station Avionics Repair, Avionics Test Stations, and Avionics Repair quotes.
Perform Air is an EASA / FAA Repair Station (IS3R590L) with an Accessory Class I and II rating, and a Limited Instrument and Airframe rating. The company specializes in hydraulic, pneumatic, electro-mechanical, and water and waste component overhaul and repair.
In addition, more than 25 companies, including Cessna, Embraer and Hawker Beechcraft, are located only half a mile from Gilbert’s border in the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport’s industrial airpark, a submarket that is surrounded by a foreign trade zone.
- TechAmerica’s 2013 Cyberstates Report ranks Arizona fourth nationwide for jobs in the space and defense systems manufacturing industry, employing more than 8,700 people.
- A 2012 report by Brooking Metropolitan Policy noted that Tucson ranks fourth in the nation for the total percentage of manufacturing workforce dedicated to high-tech work, with more than 51% of it related to aerospace & defense.
Gilbert-based companies like Northrop Grumman are partnering with Gilbert schools through Project Lead the Way in order to help students develop the skills needed to succeed in a Global economy. These partnerships develop the next generation of critical thinkers, innovators, and problem solvers.
For additional information about Gilbert’s labor force, employment densities, top employers, and educational attainment and resources, please visit our Talent Pipeline page.
Recognized as the reliever airport for passenger and freight traffic for Sky Harbor International, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport is noted as one of the fastest-growing airports in the country currently serving one million passengers each year.
Commercially, the airport is developing as an international aerospace center with aircraft maintenance, modification, testing, and pilot training. More than 35 aviation companies currently operate at the airport generating over $685 million in annual economic activity. In addition, Gateway has been designated as a Foreign Trade Zone and a Military Reuse Zone offering qualified aviation companies significant financial savings through transactional privilege tax exemptions, tax credits, and reclassification of state real and personal property taxes.
According to population and growth estimates, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and surrounding areas will boast over 100,000 new jobs by 2035, making it one of the largest employment centers in the state of Arizona.
Four major research institutions in Arizona have been provided the NASA Space Grant: Arizona State University, Embry Riddle University (home of the nation’s highest-ranked aerospace engineering program among non-doctoral program schools, according to U.S. News & World Report), Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona.
Arizona State University (ASU)
As one of the world’s leading research and education institutions, ASU is home to one of the country’s three altitude chambers; the Flexible Display Center; the Center on Adaptive, Intelligence, Materials and Systems (CAIMS); and the Airworthiness Assurance Center of Excellence. ASU has participated in every major NASA planetary science mission since Apollo first put a man on the moon.
- Arizona State University conducts innovative research in all of the traditional core areas of aerospace engineering with applications to some of society’s most pressing problems in energy, the environment, national defense, security, and transportation. State-of-the-art laboratories and computational facilities support research and educational missions.
- ASU’s Aviation Program offers comprehensive undergraduate and graduate degrees that combine academic studies with professional flight and aviation training.
- The College of Technology and Innovation is located in the dynamic, growing Gateway region on the southeast edge of the Greater Phoenix metropolitan area. The 600-acre campus is built in a beautiful desert arboretum and is home to more than 3,000 students studying in undergraduate and graduate majors. The academic facilities are among the best that ASU has to offer and were designed specifically to support the learning and discovery environment. The college is home to one of the most innovative engineering programs in the country and some of the most advanced learning laboratories available to students on any university campus.
University of Arizona (UA)
Known around the world for the College of Optical Sciences, the Department of Planetary Sciences and the College of Engineering, the UA provides baccalaureate and graduate degree programs for highly motivated students who are pursuing careers in aerospace and defense areas. The UA led NASA’s $420 million Phoenix Mars Mission and was an indispensable player in the recent NASA Mission to Mars that resulted in the landing of the robot Curiosity. UA has been awarded 5th most NASA grants in the country when comparing both the dollar amount and number of grants to other universities (both public and private). UA is also at the forefront of developing technologies used in applications from bio-sensing to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Example projects include understanding the black hole at the center of our own galaxy, building cameras and large mirrors that have been installed in the largest Earth and space telescopes, and building systems for sensor data collection for intelligence and autonomous system decision-making.
- Cutting-edge aerospace research is conducted at the UA, primarily in the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering. Nineteen research laboratories focus on topics such as fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, energy and fuel cell efficiency, mechanical characterization of materials, and space engineering. The department oversees the Rocket Laboratory which develops propellants for space. Current research delves into hybrids, safe oxidizers, and environmentally benign exhaust products. This lab, among others in the department, is often utilized by industry partners such as Raytheon Missile Systems. UA researchers also pursue interdisciplinary projects that seek to apply aerospace innovations to biomedical engineering endeavors.
- In the Eller College’s top-ranked Department of Management Information Systems, faculty and students conduct research in artificial intelligence (AI) supported by grants from such large organizations as the U.S. Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Their research in adaptation and development of scalable and practical AI, machine learning, statistical analysis, computational linguistics, and visualization techniques have generated commercial products used by law enforcement agencies.
- UA researchers are also using their knowledge of AI to combat terrorism. The UA Dark Web Project is a scientific program designed to study and understand international terrorism phenomena via a computational, data-centric approach. In addition, MIS professors developed the Terrorism Knowledge Portal, a search engine specifically for terrorism research.
Northern Arizona University (NAU)
Located in Flagstaff and the third-largest public university in Arizona, NAU serves nearly 21,000 students and has developed a curriculum that aligns perfectly with the state’s aerospace and defense initiatives. This includes diverse astrophysics programs, mechanical engineering, aerospace and defense research, adaptive research and materials, advanced composites and optomechanics:
- One cutting-edge project, involving faculty and students from NAU’s engineering and chemistry departments, focuses on a way to add an electrical-storage component to carbon-fiber-based composite materials. These composites, which are lightweight yet strong enough to withstand harsh loading conditions, are being used in high-performance applications in many industries—from medical devices and sporting equipment to aerospace components for use in manufacturing airplane tails, wings, fuselages, propellers, and heat shields.
- Another groundbreaking NAU project is focused on the modeling of magnetic-shape memory alloys (MSMAs) under complex loading conditions. Successfully developing a model will allow engineers to design MSMA-based power harvesters, actuators or sensors. This collaborative project within NAU’s mechanical engineering department involves both theoretical and practical breakthroughs. Research currently conducted on smart materials and their applications significantly impact the A&D industry.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Founded just 22 years after the Wright Brothers’ first flight, Embry-Riddle is recognized as one of the best aviation and aerospace universities in the world. The curriculum covers the operation, engineering, research, manufacturing, marketing and management of modern aircraft and the systems that support them. The university has a deep pool of talented researchers and highly advanced students who regularly conduct extensive research that addresses the unique needs of aviation, aerospace and related industries.
- Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is the world’s oldest, largest, and most prestigious university specializing in aviation and aerospace. It is the only fully accredited, aviation-oriented university in the world.
- The curriculum at Embry-Riddle covers the operation, engineering, research, manufacturing, marketing, and management of modern aircraft and the systems that support them. The University engages in extensive research, consulting, and related activities that address the unique needs of aviation, aerospace, and related industries.
- The “Best Colleges” guidebook published by U.S. News & World Report 2012 ranks Embry-Riddle’s undergraduate aerospace engineering program #3 in the nation.
- The University awarded 362 degrees at the Prescott campus in 2010.
Chandler-Gilbert Community College (CGCC)
Aviation maintenance programs at CGCC are certificate/degree and university transfer programs that have been designed for students to meet the aviation industry’s need for well-prepared technicians. Technical specialties include aircraft maintenance, electronics/avionics, and aircraft construction.