Exporting is a crucial way to build sales for Wichita's large and small aircraft and aircraft parts manufacturers — but it's harder than it should be, said several aircraft executives.
The opportunities and barriers to exporting was the topic of the 2011 NEI ExportNow Conference held Thursday at the Hyatt Regency Wichita.
The conference was organized by the U.S. International Trade Administration and the Kansas World Trade Center.
The federal government wants to double U.S. exports over the next five years.
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The benefit of exporting can be huge: 70 percent of Learjet 85 sales are international — and it isn't even built yet, said David Coleal, vice president and general manager, Bombardier Learjet.
And that will only continue, he said. The number of corporate jets will more than double by 2030, but most of the new demand will come from emerging economies.
Jorge Della Costa, president of Chrome Plus International, an aircraft supplier with a location in Wichita, said Wichita enjoys a global competitive edge because the range, quality and price of its parts production can't be matched, especially for newer, more complex products. Even when China requires that aircraft sold in the country contain Chinese-made components, some of the parts for those components are made in Wichita, he said.
"It gives us a real competitive edge," he said.
But the speakers said one of the biggest hurdle facing exporters is federal regulation, especially the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, which require exporters to navigate through a complex bureaucracy designed to keep American technology from being used in foreign weapons.
Another big issue is intellectual property rights. Many companies fear that their products will be reverse-engineered by an overseas competitor.
Other issues mentioned: government encouragement for research and development; worker training for the coming wave of retirements; and international trade agreements needed to remove tariffs.
Stronger solutions to these problems would help reach the goal, they said.
Coleal said the world has just five aviation clusters, including Wichita. They must be nurtured, he said, or they risk being lost.