Home Tech Rust to riches? Ohio city’s fortunes set to rise with flying taxi startup

Rust to riches? Ohio city’s fortunes set to rise with flying taxi startup

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Rust to riches? Ohio city’s fortunes set to rise with flying taxi startup

FFor a decade, Dayton, in southwestern Ohio, has fought to shake off its rust belt. New apartment complexes, hotels and breweries have emerged in a landscape dominated by abandoned warehouses and general industrial decline. But today, that transformation is changing gears and taking off.

A city that produced the pioneers of human flight, the Wright brothers, 120 years ago will build hundreds futuristic flying taxis every year.

It’s here in Dayton – rather than in its home state of California – that Joby Aviation plans to produce its electric vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft.

Joby’s Didier Papadopoulos cites a number of reasons for the company’s plans to employ up to 2,000 people in a $500 million facility north of Dayton, which is expected to open next year.

First, it has “a great history in aviation – it is the birthplace of flight,” Papadopoulos said recently. He also noted, “Ohio is home to a talented and skilled manufacturing workforce, and we expect to hire and train a mix of both local and national candidates.”

Some expect the plane, which will appear at the Paris Olympics this summer, to reshape not just air travel but the broader mobility industry. A host of startups and established companies have delved into electric flying vehicles in recent years, and the global eVTOL market is expected to be worth $1 trillion by 2040.

Joby has positioned itself as the “Uber of the sky”. The aircraft has room for a pilot and four passengers and can reach speeds of up to 322 km/h; a test flight in November went from Lower Manhattan to JFK International Airport in just seven minutes, compared to the hour it might take by taxi or subway.

The company hopes to launch commercial flights in New York City and Los Angeles in 2025 and has signed an agreement taxi service from home to airport with Delta Air Lines.

As Joe Biden’s White House has invested billions of dollars in a new era of manufacturing, part of a broader move to reduce the U.S.’s dependence on other countries for key technology products, much of that money is ending up in the industrial Midwest . Millions of dollars in government incentives have been deployed for new semiconductor and other mobility projects in Ohio, Michigan and other states more commonly associated with socio-economic decline.

For Dayton, a city that has lost nearly half its population since the 1960s, the move could be a game-changer.

“Ohio was the first state to adopt one advanced air mobility plan” said a Joby contact, Ted Angel, of the Dayton Development Coalition. “No other state leaned so far forward.”

Several miles east of Dayton, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is the largest single-location employer in Ohio and boasts a massive federal military research and development spending force that has in turn attracted a growing ecosystem of aerospace partners and startups to the area .

In nearby Springfield, a city of 60,000 that has also suffered years of manufacturing shutdowns, the U.S. Air Force has helped build a new National Advanced Air Mobility Center of Excellence, which is expected to serve as a workhouse for the aviation industry. companies from South Korea and elsewhere.

“For a product like the one (Joby) produces, there is a defense and security market as well as a consumer market,” said Jennifer Clark of Ohio State University, an expert on regional planning. “That is quite normal for the aviation sector. Almost every aerospace company you can think of has both defense and civilian manufacturing. The Dayton area is very familiar with this.”

While the creation of thousands of new skilled jobs in economically disadvantaged regions like Dayton is generally welcomed, some in those communities will likely pay a price.

Dayton has been known for years as a place with plenty of affordable housing, and Dayton’s rising rents last year prompted residents to do so establish a tenants’ association. In other citieslarge factories have led to large increases in real estate prices.

The Ohio state government is expected to $325 million in taxpayer money to help Joby build his facilities. Montgomery County in Dayton has that too suggested giving the company $1 million to help it with “development costs.”

“There’s a school of thought among economic development people that it’s not the best way to use taxpayer dollars to do these recruitment-retention-expansion deals with individual companies because it’s risky,” Clark said. “Most research indicates that if you want to do sustainable economic development, you want to invest in your institutional infrastructure in general. But that’s the long game.”

And while Joby’s initial announcement suggested 2,000 jobs would be created, this number is now expected to increase. closer to 1,200with the potential to rise.

Still, investments from companies at the forefront of mobility are seen as a welcome boost for a region whose population has been shrinking for decades. The fact that the new factory sits on top of a former U.S. Post Office air mail facility is proof of that.

Angel of the Dayton Development Coalition said a host of community colleges and universities in the region have adapted by opening training programs to build a pipeline of technicians for Joby and other aerospace companies.

“I couldn’t count how many tours we did with schoolchildren,” he said. “The (new) revolution of flying is taking place here.”

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