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New Utah partnership aims to grow state's aerospace, defense industry

Published: Wednesday, June 2 2010 12:00 a.m. MDT

SALT LAKE CITY — Public-private cluster partnerships are aiming to reshape Utah's economic landscape.

Nearly six months after its inception, the Utah Cluster Acceleration Partnership is scheduled to announce June 2 the first of three strategies for enhancing core aspects of some of Utah's leading industries.

The Cluster Acceleration Partnership — a collaboration of leaders from industry, state government, higher education and workforce services — is set to unveil its strategy for growing the aerospace and defense field, with similar plans for both energy and digital media to follow.

According to T. Craig Bott, president and CEO of the Grow Utah Ventures company that is integrally involved in forming the Cluster Acceleration Partnership's strategies, the aerospace and defense industry generates $5.4 billion of annual economic activity in Utah and employs more than 12,000 people.

"This is a way to really take a look at an (aerospace and defense) industry that's been a bit overlooked," Bott said. "We've taken it for granted, and … we've had a lot of layoffs in the space program, at ATK and others.

"So (the partnership) is a way to come back and say, 'Yes, this is a vital industry, and we need to pay attention to it and see what we can do to grow it.' "

The aerospace and defense game plan rests on measures for sustaining the core industry as presently constituted, initiating growth and exploring untapped opportunities.

To solidify the industry's current production, Bott pinpoints the maintenance of unmanned aircraft as a way of sustaining the present level of aerospace and defense work the military brings to Utah.

"We do a great job at Hill Air Force Base with the military aircraft, and there are new, great opportunities with unmanned aircraft systems," he said. "The state is becoming recognized as the place to test and maintain all these unmanned aircraft systems."

e-mail: jaskar@desnews.com; jlee@desnews.com

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