Department of Commerce Awards Nearly $20 Million in Aviation Workforce Development Grants

TOPEKA – Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Commerce David Toland announced today that nearly $20 million has been awarded to seven recipients for training and workforce development initiatives in the aviation and aerospace industry. Funding was made available through the Aviation Learning Opportunities & Funded Training (ALOFT) program launched by Commerce earlier this year. The Department of Commerce received 12 applications, with requests totaling more than $33,000,000.

“Training up skilled Kansans to better align with emerging technologies in this sector is critical,” Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of Commerce David Toland said. “ALOFT funding is designed to maintain our best-in-class status.”

The funds were designated by the Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) Executive Committee and approved by the State Finance Council to provide impactful capital projects that spur regional economic development in the aviation industry, one of the most affected industries by COVID-19.

“Aviation and aerospace contribute a significant portion of our state’s $14 billion export business,” Senate President Ty Masterson said. “The ALOFT awards will help ensure the Aviation Capital of the World has enough talent to keep providing superior services and products across the globe.”

Kansas is home to more than 450 aviation companies that generate 4% of the state’s gross domestic product (GDP). No less than 70% of the world’s current embedded general aviation fleet was made in Kansas.

ALOFT applications included investments in aviation and aerospace manufacturers, supply-chain providers, and local airports.

Award recipients will use funds toward:

  • Construction of on-site training facilities and service expansions
  • Third-party and vendor training costs on machinery and equipment
  • Machinery and equipment used for training
  • Salaries directly related to training, youth training services, and costs related to early interest development in aviation and aerospace industries
  • Course development costs and services for development of in-house training, marketing, communication and activities to attract talent to aviation and aerospace industries
  • Participation costs for the Kansas Registered Apprenticeship and Workforce AID programs.

Awardees will have two years to complete their projects and utilize all awarded funds.

“Kansas workers require the best training available in order to fill the jobs of today and tomorrow,” House Speaker Daniel Hawkins said. “The aviation and aerospace industry is taking off now that the public health emergency is behind us.”

The ALOFT grant awardees include:

  • Learjet, Inc., Wichita, $3,325,000
  • Metal Finishing Company, Wichita, $243,200
  • Orizon Aerostructures, LLC, Olathe, $3,325,000
  • Salina Airport Authority, Salina, $3,325,000
  • Spirit AeroSystems Holdings, Inc., Wichita, $3,325,000
  • Textron Aviation Inc., Wichita, $3,325,000
  • Wichita Airport Authority, Wichita, $2,211,503

For more information about the program, click here.

About the Kansas Department of Commerce:

As the state’s lead economic development agency, the Kansas Department of Commerce strives to empower individuals, businesses and communities to achieve prosperity in Kansas. Commerce accomplishes its mission by developing relationships with corporations, site location consultants and stakeholders in Kansas, the nation and world. Our strong partnerships allow us to help create an environment for existing Kansas businesses to grow and foster an innovative, competitive landscape for new businesses. Through Commerce’s project successes, Kansas was awarded Area Development Magazine’s prestigious Gold Shovel award in 2021, 2022 and 2023, and was awarded the 2021 and 2022 Governor’s Cup by Site Selection Magazine.

Derek Nester
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2020 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.


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