Department Director Denise Dyer and the Economic Development Board’s Susan Suess, our partner in economic development, attended the 2016 International Airshow at Farnborough located about 40 miles outside of London.
There were over 110,000 trade visitors from 39 countries, more than 100,000 public visitors, 1,500 trade show exhibitors and 99 aircraft on display. Denise and Susan were part of a 39-person delegation from Washington State (Pierce, Kitsap, King, Spokane and Snohomish counties, along with representatives from Washington aerospace suppliers) and the State’s Department of Commerce.
Farnborough is a week-long event that combines a major trade exhibition for the aerospace and defense industries along with a popular airshow. The first five days of the event are when deals are made and the show is open to exhibitors only; planes are sold, vendors transact business, and groups such as the Washington State delegation do all they can to attract new companies to the region and let exhibitors know the capabilities of local firms.
That’s exactly what Denise and Susan did. They held 47 targeted meetings with aerospace companies. In addition, they attended 11 events – from a Japanese prefecture’s reception to an invitation to dine with a Russian cargo company’s President (they had just inked the deal on a number of 747s). They also staffed the economic development section of the Washington State booth at times, greeting visitors and making referrals. A highlight was touring Boeing’s exhibit celebrating their 100 years in business!
In addition to the airshow activities, Denise and Susan’s visit was timed not long after Great Britain voted to exit the European Union with the “Brexit” vote. They were there for resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron and the appointment of Theresa May as the new PM. They just happened to be walking past the parliament building when the Members of Parliament were gathering for the nomination of two women for PM! It was certainly an exciting time to be in London!
So was it worth the investment of time and money? The short answer is – absolutely. We compete on a global scale for new companies. At least eleven other states had booths at Farnborough and others sent delegations. If companies are not familiar with us – they will go elsewhere. Attending events such as Farnborough are critical in order to build relationships and show the world what Pierce County has to offer. One company that is now located in Pierce County, was first introduced to Pierce County at a previous Farnborough show. In addition, we were able to make referrals to Pierce County businesses for suppliers looking for US partners. The work does not stop at the show. Susan and Denise will be following up with the individuals they met on the trip and inviting the companies who indicated a potential need for a US presence to tour our area.