Northern Nevada’s aerospace industry struggling to fill jobs in smaller counties
MINDEN, Nev. — A tight labor market is hurting many of the region’s industries, and that includes aerospace and aviation.
“We are finding it very difficult to find qualified people,” said Ed Henricks, marketing and sales, Specline Inc., an aircraft parts and equipment manufacturer in Carson City. “We’re unable to grow as fast as we’d like.”
Henricks spoke as part of a panel discussing Northern Nevada’s aerospace industry during the Northern Nevada Development Authority lunch Wednesday, June 26, at Minden’s Carson Valley Inn.
Henricks said Specline now runs 10-hour shifts Monday through Thursday, and Friday’s work is all overtime pay for its workers.
“We have enough work to add more shifts,” said Henricks, who said he knew of California-based manufacturers operating at 80 to 100 percent capacity.
Bob Potts, deputy director, Governor’s Office of Economic Development, said part of the cause is the area’s low unemployment rate, now between 3.5 to 3.8 percent.
The aerospace/aviation industry in the region — within Carson City and Douglas, Lyon and Storey counties — grew 6.2 percent from 2013 to 2018 and is projected to grow 5.9 percent between 2018 and 2023, said Potts.
The area has 1,035 aerospace jobs currently, with the most in Carson City where there are 687 jobs at 38 businesses paying an average wage of $86,000 annually.
Of note, the panel on June 26 did not address the status of aerospace and aviation employment within Washoe County/Reno.
According to GOED statistics, the aerospace job pool in Washoe County grew from 1,809 to 2,310 from 2010 to 2018, representing a 28 percent increase. Average wage in Washoe/Reno for those jobs is at $100,105.
Elsewhere, the number of jobs in 2018 in Clark County total 9,914, with Nye County having 1,041 jobs. Average salaries in those counties are at $103,860 and $115,772, respectively.
At the June 26 discussion, Chris Johnson, airport manager, Minden-Tahoe Airport, said the Douglas County airport holds two career events for students to encourage interest in aviation as well as a build-a-plan program in which students build an aircraft from a kit.
The airport is growing and soon plans to expand on the east side of its 994-acre site.
“We have 30 to 40 people waiting to get into hangars,” said Johnson.
The Silver Springs Airport is growing, too, thanks to its proximity to the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center in Storey County, said Kay Bennett, owner and manager.
The airport, which is 15 minutes from the industrial park, has five businesses and a sixth coming in.
“If we had the hangars we could fill them,” said Bennett.
Despite the challenges, aviation is a key industry for Nevada, said Ken Moen, airport manager, Carson City Airport.
“Nevada is the seventh most rural state in the nation. The best way to connect it is through the aviation system,” he said.
NNBV Editor Kevin MacMillan contributed to this report.
The Regional Transportation Commission is grappling with how to have developers pay for the traffic impact of new development in Carson City.