The backbone of Port San Antonio is Kelly Field and the aerospace Industry. Fourteen companies, including Boeing, Chromalloy, General Dynamics, GDC Technics, Ltd., Lockheed Martin and StandardAero employ nearly 3,500 people at Kelly Field and generate $1.5 billion of annual economic activity for the region (2010 economic impact survey). Aerospace workers at the Port specialize in aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul and earn an average wage of about $60,000 a year—well above the Bexar County median of $35,000 a year.
Over the past decade, aerospace has been one of the fastest growing industry clusters in San Antonio, with most of that growth and opportunities for future expansion taking place at Kelly Field. San Antonio's aerospace industry has the potential to more than double over the next five to ten years. Thanks to $40 million in investments by the Port and local, state and federal sources, a road project extending 36th Street from Highway 90 to Billy Mitchell Blvd. has opened approximately 400 acres for new air-served facilities at Kelly Field to initially accommodate such growth.
Kelly Field features the region's longest runway and can accommodate anything that flies; it regularly receives C5 and 747 freighters and in 2009 hosted the Space Shuttle atop a 747 freighter. Kelly Field is owned and operated by the U.S. Air Force. Via a joint-use agreement between the Air Force and the Port, the airport is open for international civilian use with around-the-clock on-site U.S. Customs services.
On the southern end of Kelly Field is a highly specialized engine test cell facility—able to accommodate the largest aircraft engines to ensure their proper operation. The facility is essential to the work of Lockheed Martin Commercial Engine Solutions and its partners and can handle up to 1,000 engines a year.
A strategic partner to Port San Antonio's customers at Kelly Field is St. Philip's College Southwest Campus, located in the Port's East Kelly Railport. Part of Alamo Colleges, the Southwest Campus is where the majority of the region's aerospace technology training takes place and is an essential job pipeline. It is also the site of the Alamo Aerospace Academy, an innovative two-year program with more than 300 graduates to date, many of whom access promising careers with aerospace firms at Kelly Field.
In recent years reductions in demand for military aircraft maintenance work has impacted several Port aerospace customers, for whom that work was a primary source of revenue. In light of this significant market shift, those companies have focused on attracting more private commercial work to their operations at Kelly Field, as evidenced by the Dreamliner and commercial engine projects now underway at Boeing and Lockheed Martin Commercial Engine Solutions, respectively. Global forecasts for commercial air transportation indicate positive growth in the years ahead.
However, these business lines have significantly different requirements than military aircraft maintenance, and are more susceptible to national and international market cycles. As a result, the Port is actively collaborating with its customers and stakeholders to develop a community-wide strategy to adapt its own business model and provide current and future facilities at rates that will allow aerospace customers the flexibility they need to grow in this marketplace and, subsequently, to continue to grow at Kelly Field.