Thrust Tech Accessories is a part of the multi-billion dollar aviation industry that participates in the regional corporate business jet sector of private aircraft. On this episode of the Economic Development Podcast, Stanley Kowlesser, CEO of Thrust Tech Accessories shares the scope of opportunities in the aviation industry and how South Florida is promoting the industry by providing professional training in colleges, tax relaxations, and training incentives for companies.

The demand is here. So when someone is in school or getting out of school, there’s a lot of apprentice opportunities that give South Florida a competitive advantage in the aviation sector, which continues to be fast growing and it’s going to grow even further.

Episode Highlights:

  • 01:22 – Thrust Tech has unique niches and it participates in the regional corporate business jet sector of private aircraft
  • 02:13 – Stanley describes why there’s a shortage of talent in the aviation industry and how people in aviation earn 20-30% higher than their counterparts in other traditional business sector
  • 03:36 – When someone is in school or getting out of school, there’s a lot of apprentice opportunities
  • 04:00 – Miami Dade College has aviation schools to train up future aviation technicians
  • 06:15 – Provided centers for companies to relocate, tax incentives, and training incentives for employers to train the workforce
  • 07:08 – The specific needs that aviation repair needs as compared to the typical warehouse environment
  • 09:30 – South Florida’s geographic location in the world is such that a lot of European aviation companies have set up shop in South Florida

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Episode Transcript:

Stanley Kowlesser 00:00

South Florida has a competitive advantage, because the maintenance sector sort of got its start in South Florida back in the Eastern and PanAm days. And it grew from being one point in time, over 75% of the world’s maintenance came out of South Florida. And since then it has spread throughout the world. And also in South Florida, it used to be heavily in Miami-Dade County and it has grown more into the Tri-County in South Florida. And you see like Broward Community College has programs. You have Miami Dade…

Fabiola Fleuranvil 00:39

You’re tuning into the Florida CEO Podcast presented by Blueprint Creative Group, where we discuss targeted industry growth and resiliency, in the regions in the state’s largest economic opportunity. Today’s guest is Stanley Kowlesser, who is the CEO of Thrust Tech Accessories. Hey Stanley, how are you doing?

Stanley Kowlesser 00:58

Doing wonderful. Thank you for having me on.

Fabiola Fleuranvil 01:01

Good. So Thrust Tech is located in Broward. How long has it been here in South Florida?

Stanley Kowlesser 01:06

It’s been in Broward since 1990. Prior to that, it started off down in Miami; the previous owner relocated it up to Broward County in 1990.

Fabiola Fleuranvil 01:16

So you’re in the aviation maintenance sector. Tell us more about the company.

Stanley Kowlesser 01:22

Thrust Tech has some unique niches in the industry. All of the aviation industry is a very large multi-billion dollar global economy. Thrust Tech participates in the regional corporate business jet sector of private aircraft as well. And during the recent COVID-19 events, because of the area we participated in, although we were impacted less than the others and the rebound seems to be faster.

Fabiola Fleuranvil 01:54

Yeah. Okay. Well, then that’s good to know. So let’s talk about the aviation sector, because what I do know that it’s a huge opportunity to scale up talent, but that’s also where there’s a capacity need. So there’s a shortage of talent and it’s probably due to education or the lack of awareness of the opportunities that’s available.

Stanley Kowlesser 02:13

Both items you mentioned are some of the reasons there is a shortage of talent. Number one, let’s say a lot of people are not aware that it is a very lucrative business to get into not just for business owners but also if you’re working crafts, tradesmanship even in the front office in an aviation company. And the folks tend to earn 20-30% higher than their counterparts in other traditional business sectors.

Fabiola Fleuranvil 02:41

So let’s unpack that a bit, because obviously there’s a lot of growth opportunities in the sector from the state’s perspective. There’s also significant opportunities that has kind of been spurred by the pandemic, right? We have a lot of companies that are relocating. We’ve seen it on you, the residential side, a lot of New Yorkers and North Easterners moving down South Florida, making it one of the fastest-growing states. And South Florida being one of the fastest growing markets in the country. And so that also presents an opportunity for companies looking to relocate. Down in Miami the mayor has been campaigning and making this pitch to position the city and the county as the tech hub. So let’s talk about industry development, because aviation is a huge sector from your vantage point, where do you see some of the growth opportunities within the sector, whether it’s just on the maintenance side, whether it’s aviation tech, or innovation, or anything else related to the sector.

Stanley Kowlesser 03:36

South Florida has a competitive advantage, because the maintenance sector sort of got its start in South Florida back in the Eastern and PanAm days. And it grew from being one point in time, over 75% of the world’s maintenance came out of South Florida. And since then it has spread throughout the world. And also in South Florida, it used to be heavily in Miami-Dade County and it has grown more into the Tri County in South Florida. And you see like Broward Community College has programs. You have Miami Dade College – the school system has aviation schools to train up future aviation technicians. And also some of the private colleges are offering bachelors and flight programs. And also the demand is here. So when someone is in school or getting out of school, there’s a lot of apprentice opportunities. So that gives South Florida a competitive advantage in the aviation sector, which continues to be fast growing and it’s going to grow even further than we are. So the real challenge is going to be to find sufficient amount of labor to meet the demand.

Fabiola Fleuranvil 05:08

Okay. So that’s our greatest opportunity as a region, but also statewide as well, building up the talent capacity for the demand and the need in this sector. Right?

Stanley Kowlesser 05:20

That is correct.

Fabiola Fleuranvil 05:21

So, and as you mentioned, a lot of the schools are doing a lot to educate and bring attention to the opportunities and even how profitable the industry is. What about from an industry development perspective? Whether it’s at the statewide level, you know, there’s a lot of different organizations that are responsible for attracting businesses and expanding industry within the state. And then you have the local and regional organizations that are responsible for that, what role or what opportunities should the state and even local markets, what should they be pursuing in the sector to help attract businesses? Whether it’s those that are looking to relocate post pandemic, whether it’s because of our business friendly environment, if it’s whatever the reasons may be, what is it that the state should be pursuing or the region should be pursuing when it comes to industry development?

Stanley Kowlesser 06:56

Florida is very pro business development, which kind of leaves one of the precursors for other businesses moving in and continue some of the same path of being business friendly. But also provided centers for companies to relocate, maybe a five-year tax incentive break at whatever percentage. But also some training incentives for employers who would have take on students in trade school, in universities, and transition them into the workforce where there’s say a two year tax incentive some kind of benefit for companies to do that. The other thing is having some of the right facilities most of the time, the companies that are moving into South Florida have to come and really design and build facilities, buildings, warehouses, to meet their specific needs. What are the specific needs that aviation repair has that the typical warehouse environment does not require? Number one is that you have to have a lot more electrical power needs than you typically will have in a warehouse. Typical warehouse may have a couple of hundred amps of electrical power. Small aviation facility you’re looking in the thousands that you will need. So that’s one thing.

The other thing is aviation facilities require air conditioning warehouses. Typically warehouses, the offices are air conditioned. And probably the third and most critical thing is parking so many per 10,000 square feet. There’s probably one or two parking spots, so maybe 10 walking spots. In an aviation business you need a lot of parking spots, because you hire a lot of employees. It’s not uncommon for a big size aviation facility to have hundreds, maybe thousands of employees. And so that’s one of the challenges I think South Florida will have. Because to get those types of facilities and the approval whether there is more land available to build, and then distance of commute becomes a challenge. So the real challenge would be, how do we get those types of facilities within the demographics that way that you could also pull on the labor pool to fill the need.

Fabiola Fleuranvil 08:41

Okay, so now you speak of infrastructure needs which goes into a broader discussion or a need around the state. Because, you know, for so long industry diversification has always been our greatest unmet opportunity. We’ve been so concentrated in the hospitality and tourism sector, and there are so many other areas of strengths that we have, whether it’s from a talent perspective, the educational hubs that we have here, or the concentration of certain industries and businesses where, that industry development can help to add the capacity that certain industries typically require. So as we see more aviation based, aviation type companies moving to the state, or whether it’s different aspects of the industry that will naturally start to build up the capacity from an infrastructure perspective.

Stanley Kowlesser 09:30

Yes. I will give you another example, because of South Florida’s geographic location in the world, we see a lot of the European aviation companies have set up shop in South Florida even AirBoss has multiple facilities. For example, the largest aviation in Europe has facilities set up here make the systems out of the UK moved into South Florida. We see more and more that have taken place, because growth also is coming through acquisition. And so typically, because of the limitation of infrastructure, some of the businesses, small family-owned businesses, and for them to grow, they only could grow through acquisition, M&A acquisitions. And we’ve seen quite a bit of that, but it’ll be a wonderful thing to see where family businesses, private businesses like ourselves could grow to be a much larger business, because the infrastructure allows it. Currently it’s difficult for business like Thrust Tech to grow exponentially, because of the infrastructure needs and the capital investment. So what we do is we do organic growth basically slowly longer but steadier. But the M&A acquisition allows for exponential growth in a shorter period of time, but then it takes it out of the hands of a family or privately owned businesses put in the hands of larger corporations.

Fabiola Fleuranvil 11:08

Good. So any exciting updates or any highlights with Thrust Tech that you can share, anything that you’re looking forward. I know that you said the pandemic didn’t really affect your sector as much just because you’re on that side of the fence and not on the consumer side. But what can you share with us about what we can look forward to?

Stanley Kowlesser 11:29

We can look forward to steady continual growth. I am excited that we came out under more of the winning side as the pandemic fallout settles down. In the aviation community, I wish our counterparts on the other end, what I mean the other end, the commercial side, the passenger carriers see it better, but they’re going to be okay. This gives us an advantage to move forward and grow, continue to retain jobs and grow jobs. It is my personal desire to continue to create employment. When I worked for other people in the past, it was my measuring stick, how many new jobs that created that determined my success in what I did. And now as an owner, I’m looking forward to creating more jobs and growing the company and creating a legacy and hopefully, help Florida gain a stronger foothold in the global aviation aftermarket service and support.

Fabiola Fleuranvil 12:26

Well, thank you Stanley Kowlesser. I appreciate all of the insight that you added to the podcast.

Stanley Kowlesser 12:31

Thank you so much for including me and including Thrust Tech.

Fabiola Fleuranvil 12:39

Thanks again for tuning into the Economic Development Podcast presented by Blueprint Creative Group. There are more episodes featuring economic development leaders throughout the country. And we thank all of the participants for sharing their perspectives. Check out all of the episodes in this series at blueprintcreativegroup.com/economicdevelopment.

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