Ellen Perlman was a GOVERNING staff writer and technology columnist.E-mail: email@example.com
What, exactly, does a pilot's ability to right a plane after the tail fin snaps off have to do with the prosperity of Roswell, New Mexico? Plenty. The small city has landed a flight safety training center that will boost its image as an aviation hub and help attract more aviation-related businesses to the area.
Roswell is home to a former Air Force base, closed in 1968, that has a long runway, upgraded technology and a Federal Aviation Administration tower, but the extensive facilities are underutilized. A local-state-federal-university-private partnership was formed, called the Alliance for Flight Safety Research, which has launched a plan to bring aviation businesses to the area and supply those businesses with students trained locally in aviation and aircraft mechanics. The Flight Safety Training Center aims to train 2,000 pilots from regional and commuter airlines over a five-year period.
Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell had already been training students to meet the needs of the aviation industry, but the number of graduates was small and Roswell just wasn't on the radar of many businesses looking to relocate. "It's a chicken-and-egg issue," says Robert Rhodes, director of customized training at the university. "We've developed students who meet the needs of industry, and we're beginning to develop that industry because we have the students. It's so critical that both come together."
Roswell is not looking to attract an Intel or a Boeing. Rather, it is trying to pull in businesses with 25 to 100 employees, companies that are, like the aircraft painting business and airplane-recycling company already located there, a manageable size for a small community to support.