Washington state’s aerospace innovation on worldwide display at the 2021 Dubai Airshow
Aerospace leaders from Washington and across the globe were on the ground for the Dubai Airshow, the fastest-growing airshow in the world. It opened Nov. 14 after a two year-hiatus.
The five-day event featured speakers, forums, pavilions and companies from more than 20 countries, as well as commercial, military and private aircraft displays.
In collaboration with Greater Seattle Partners (GSP), the Washington State Department of Commerce was on hand with a delegation of nine Washington-based aerospace organizations.
“The Dubai Airshow was an incredible opportunity for Greater Seattle to showcase its rich heritage of aerospace innovation that has shaped the industry globally for more than a century,” said Josh Davis, vice president of global trade and investment at Greater Seattle Partners. “It was an honor to join the Department of Commerce and its delegation of aerospace companies to tell our story to the world — at the forefront of the aerospace, aviation, defense, IoT, satellite and commercial space sectors.”
International trade shows offer businesses of all sizes opportunities to expand their sales with overseas partners. Commerce organizes more than 20 trade shows and missions each year and is expanding its in-country trade operations to better help businesses seeking international business development opportunities. In addition, small businesses benefit from the State Trade Expansion Program (STEP), funded by a federal Small Business Administration grant. For the Dubai Airshow, for example, six companies received a STEP export voucher — direct cash assistance that helps offset the costs of attending the show.
“The involvement with the Department of Commerce has always been a huge advantage for small companies like us,” said Steve Nelson from Seattle’s TLG Aerospace. “Partnering with Commerce gives us the ability to get into doors that we’ve not been able to get in. It’s a real treat to be here.”
Choose Washington delegation focuses on connecting companies with potential partners and supporting visionaries and innovators
At a U.S. Pavilion forum, Tacoma-based ZEVA Aero presented its electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) vehicle, ZEVA Zero. As an early visionary for eVTOL vehicles, ZEVA founder and CEO Steve Tibbitts is impressed with the level of interest in personal aircraft during this year’s event compared to 2019.
“In the eVTOL business, there’s a lot more activity,” Tibbitts said. “There’s a ton of mock-ups and vehicles out there. So we’re excited there’s a lot more interest in that.”
The opportunity to meet other innovators working on similar or complimentary projects is an important part of live trade show events.
“We’ve found incredible partnering opportunities,” says John Matthieu, managing director for Seattle-based Taqtile, Inc. “We have some customer opportunities, both in the region and people visiting from all over the world. So the advantage of being here at the Dubai Airshow is you really get a chance to meet the world and it’s been great for us.”
Spokane’s Rebirth Analytics’ CEO, Chonchol Gupta, was pleased with the representation from Washington state. “It’s been a wonderful show. It’s great to see so many Washington companies really well represented in Dubai.”
The Choose Washington booth welcomed a few special visitors throughout the event. Former astronaut Charlie Duke, who was the lunar module pilot of Apollo 16, stopped by to see the advances in flight technology since 1972. He signed the miniature ZEVA Zero display, which also bears the signature of late Apollo 15 astronaut Al Worden from when he attended the same show in 2019.
Choose Washington attracted the attention of several high-profile companies, including a visit from Emirates, the largest airline in the United Arab Emirates. The delegation also met with the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) and were hosted at the Irish chalet by Enterprise Ireland, an organization focused on the economic development of Irish companies in the global market.
“Our delegation members have been introduced to dozens of potential buyers throughout the show,” said Amandine Noel-Crabtree, Commerce’s lead business development manager for aerospace. “We anticipate our delegation members will be forging lasting relationships with global companies in the future!”
Trade show offers “massive advantage” for businesses of all sizes
Delegation companies have built relationships with potential clients — some of which they might have never met without the networking made possible at the airshow.
“This is really a great opportunity to have,” said Eric Yates, the Vice President of New Business Development for Snoqualmie-based Gladiator Technologies. “It is an opportunity to showcase our products, especially in this region of the world where there is a lot of great new business for our company.”
The relationship with an official state delegation means that Washington companies can reach new audiences with less risk. It’s important for both new-to-market businesses and those that are more established.
“The Department of Commerce has a unique mechanism in place to allow businesses to access this environment to reach out to people they might not have been able to before going on their own,” said ZEVA Aero’s Andrew Balerud. “Partnering and having grants available is a massive advantage for a startup like ZEVA. Even larger businesses are wanting to take advantage of the program as well. It’s not just for startups or small businesses.”
Following more than 100 meetings with prospective partners, delegation members are already seeing signs of the long-term impact the airshow will have on the growth and prosperity of their businesses, said Noel-Crabtree.
“I would say without much exaggeration, I think through this show and the support we’ve received, within 12–18 months we’ll have 20 to 35 new jobs just at Aerovel alone,” said White Salmon’s Aerovel CEO Ali Dian. “I think the investment that the state made is going to be a fantastic return on investment.”