Business Profiles

AIAC: Pioneers of aerospace

Striving to maintain Canada as a global aerospace champion, the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada balances beneficial professional relationships with innovation to generate the ideal circumstances for growth and success. 

For over fifty years, the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada has worked with its members to develop what is today the fifth-largest national aerospace sector in the world. By collaborating with industry and government to develop products, services, programs and policies that enhance Canadian aerospace companies, AIAC helps the industry to invest, innovate and develop best-in-class capabilities in the civil, defence and space sectors. 

Jim Quick was appointed President & CEO of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada in 2011. Under his leadership, AIAC has worked closely with federal and provincial governments to strengthen the Canadian aerospace industry’s competitiveness both at home and abroad. “Aerospace stands as one of our country’s proudest achievements, providing nearly 215,000 jobs and $25.5 billion annually to the Canadian economy. By building the fifth-largest aerospace industry on the planet, the Canadian aerospace sector is a true source of pride for Canadians. But it’s also a sector facing increasingly fierce global competition,” said Mr. Quick. 

With this in mind, it comes as no surprise that there are a number of exciting initiatives already being put into practice to benefit the Canada’s aerospace industry in coming years. Most recently, Mr. Quick led AIAC’s launch of Vision 2025, a plan that charts a course for industry and government to ensure Canada’s continued leadership in the global aerospace sector, setting new growth targets for aerospace employment, GDP contribution and exports. This Vision 2025 was launched just over a year ago in an effort to highlight the ever-growing importance of this industry to Canada’s government and members of the House of Commons generally. This pan-Canadian initiative has started a new dialogue to protect Canadian jobs and secure Canada’s future as an international aerospace champion. 

AIAC has been travelling across the country for more than a year engaging members, federal and provincial governments and the more than 200,000 employees that depend on aerospace. This endeavour led to the creation of a comprehensive report that outlined a number of recommendations for the continued growth and stability of the industry, which has been used to plan future strategies. Securing Canada’s future as a global aerospace champion is the highest priority for AIAC and one that has long been on the cards, as the Hon. Jean Charest, Chair of Vision 2025, reminded us: “80 years ago, Canada’s decision makers committed to making the country a global leader in aerospace. They were visionaries. The time has come for us to renew that commitment,” said Mr. Charest. 

What happened all those years ago, you might be wondering? Canada had an energised contingent of political and industrial leaders, both of which pooled their resources and enthusiasm to leap on an opportunity to maximise the country’s technological and monetary advantages. The global aerospace industry was still relatively small and those in powerful positions recognised that Canada had more than just the requisite technologies to get involved. Being in such close proximity to the United States also afforded a number of extra advantages and so, Canada joined the space race.  What followed was a period of industry change and development that moved exponentially faster and more competitively than anybody could have predicted, bringing us to now and a need for Canada to stay at the forefront. 

Times have changed, rapidly. Powerful new and competing economies have entered the market; disruptive technologies are reshaping the industry at an accelerating pace. What hasn’t changed is the need for vision, investment and partnership. Canada is at a critical turning point – if it is to remain a global aerospace champion, it needs a bold new vision for the industry, fully aware of the new realities and building on its strengths to keep it at the forefront of discovery and innovation. AIAC feels that Vision 2015 is that plan: it is charting a new course. 

Despite enjoying impressive rankings in terms of global manufacturing of flight simulators and business aircraft production, there is no room for complacency. Every member of the AIAC, from small through to large and experienced companies, understands that nothing can be taken for granted and that a historically successful operation cannot survive in legacy alone. As if to reinforce this stark warning, employment rates within Canada’s aerospace sector has decreased by 5% and the sector itself contributes 4% less to the GDP, since 2012. So, what can be done? 

A vital element is increasing spending and investment by appealing not only on a domestic level, but also globally, to the right companies and backers. This is a cornerstone of the Vision 2025 initiative and calls for every stakeholder to come together and commit to thrusting Canada forward into the marketplace.  

Vision 2025 will be the catalyst for this new approach to Canadian aerospace growth and leadership, if government and industry work together and make this an urgent priority. The priorities and areas for increased collaboration identified in AIAC’s report represent steps that must be taken if Canada is to seize the opportunities that lie ahead. With the rising global middle class, the demand for aircraft is predicted to double in the next 15 years. There is also an expected increase in military spending and a greater worldwide commitment to space. By making the right decisions today, AIAC feels that Canada will have a major share of this growth. 

With the right collaborative partners on board, AIAC is confident Canada’s aerospace sector can generate an extra $7 billion in GDP contributions, offer 55,000 extra jobs and create $4.5 billion in exports, but the going will still be tough, as success hinges on the meeting of six identified priorities. Covering the all-important issues of providing proper support for the workforce, backing for a number of small and medium enterprises, grasping chances to innovate new technologies, investing in Transport Canada, maximising leadership opportunities and securing government partnerships, these priorities are critical. The AIAC shows no signs of backing away from this self-appointed challenge – if anything it is more determined than ever. 

AIAC’s goal is to define a common vision and priorities for the industry and then identify opportunities for greater industry–government collaboration to achieve our targets. Those opportunities require the redoubling of its efforts to pursue success not only for the industry, but for Canada as a whole. In the coming months, AIAC’s technical committees will engage with government partners to ensure the collaborative ideas set out are acted upon. The association feels that the possibilities are endless with this new collaboration: with industry and government working together to realise a shared vision, it believes that Canada’s leadership in the global aerospace industry will be secured. 

Aims without vision are futile, just as actions without commitment are fruitless, but the AIAC suffers neither of these common business maladies. Seemingly, the only thing standing between it and celebrated success for the Canadian aerospace industry is time, but with a clear roadmap as to how every minute will be put to good use, there is little doubt that 2025 will see the realisation of an ambitious, pride-fuelled vision.