Lakeland, Florida, – Polk County, Florida is primed for soaring aviation growth. To highlight this valuable industry, business and community leaders gathered at the Central Florida Aviation Industry Breakfast to discuss the opportunities ahead for aviation. During the breakfast, two expert panels explored the aviation industry on both a macro and micro level as well as examined how Polk can be more competitive. The event was held at Aerospace Discovery at the Florida Air Museum on the SUN n’ FUN expo campus.

The first panel of the morning, moderated by retired Maj., Gen., USAF Jake Polumbo, discussed the state of the aviation Industry on a national level, including the staggering storages of pilot and airframe mechanics facing the industry. Panelists included: John Baum with Draken International, John Pittman with Express Airlines, Nancy Shane with JetBlue Airways and Darrel Stern with Embraer Executive Jets.

The discussion transitioned to examining Polk’s competitive advantage and how local businesses can benefit from aviation while also exploring the need to target and attract specific aviation activities to Polk. Leading the second expert panel was Eric Crump, Director of Polk State College’s Aerospace Program. Panelists included: Gene Conrad with Lakeland Linder Regional Airport, Aaron Judy an Aerospace Faculty member with Polk State College, Bob Knight owner of Knight Industrial Equipment and Robb Williams with the Aerospace Center for Excellence.

Polk County’s aviation industry has nearly a $500M economic impact and combined with Polk’s Regional Airports employ nearing 3,000. With four regional airports in our County and two international airports within an hour’s drive, businesses have increased connectivity.

Sean Malott, Central Florida Development Council (CFDC) president and chief executive officer stated, “The CFDC is committed to encourage aircraft and aircraft maintenance manufacturing in the region, as well as air cargo operations. The CFDC is also interested in assisting its educational partners to help develop the talent pipeline for both pilots and maintenance technicians. Businesses in the Central Florida region are well positioned to benefit from the explosive growth of the aviation industry.”