Washington County and Hagerstown are historical aviation centers. The Hagerstown Regional Airport (HGR) has been a hub of the aviation business since before World War II, so consequently there is an available workforce with a strong background and training in aircraft maintenance and modifications.
Southern Business & Development magazine, ranks Hagerstown-Washington County as one of 20 areas in the Southern United States that feature a robust defense industry. This is attributed to the strong aero defense presence and growth at HGR.
In 2010, the Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics (PIA) located an FAA-approved Aviation Maintenance Technician (AMT) education program at HGR. With the skills PIA graduates acquire from the program, they can work in many industries including: aviation, mechanical systems, hydro-mechanical systems, and the green technology field. As PIA graduates are extremely versatile employees, Washington County has the workforce to meet the aviation and defense industries' needs.
Defense companies and PIA chose the area for the convergence of a number of critical factors beneficial to business in the aviation/defense industry. First, a lack of available hangar space on the East Coast made HGR an obvious choice with more than 100 acres available for commercial development and available runway accessible development sites with Enterprise Zone tax benefits and Foreign Trade Zone designation. Approximately 500,000 square feet of private hangar and industrial space is available adjacent to the airport—much of which is runway accessible.
Hagerstown has an established defense presence and is an ideal place to conduct defense related work because it is outside of Washington, DC's highly-controlled air traffic area, but still within an hour's drive of the Pentagon. Existing infrastructure such as the extended airport runway, aviation workforce, telecommunications, and local shipping powerhouses nearby, help businesses easily succeed at HGR.
"The support from the airport and county combined with available personnel has made our significant growth in the past three years much easier. We have more than 400 employees and are continuing to hire. As we have needed new employees and new facilities, we have found them available in Washington County." — Hal Lucas, Director, Sierra Nevada Corporation Integrated Mission Systems, an aviation and defense firm at HGR.