A new report from the Duluth International Airport shows the number of aviation-related jobs in the Duluth region grew by 39 percent over the past decade.
The analysis, which is based on data from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, showed that aviation-related jobs grew from about 2,300 in 2007, to over 3,400.
Duluth's aviation cluster is anchored by the airport, the 148th Fighter Wing Air National Guard Base, and small airplane manufacturer Cirrus Aircraft, which employs 850 people.
The company has quickly expanded its workforce to manufacture its newest aircraft called the Vision Jet, a 7-seat "personal jet" with a sticker price of $2 million.
"We've hired 142 people since January," said business development executive director Bill King. "I've got over 130 openings as I stand here. And I need another 100 next year."
Commercial aircraft maintenance and repair company AAR Aircraft Services is also furiously advertising for more workers. The company set up shop five years ago in a long-vacant hangar at the airport first built for Northwest Airlines.
It started with 100 employees. Now it's at 400. "And I could easily hire 50 mechanics," said vice president of operations Mark Ketterer.
To try to fill that void, Lake Superior College recently started a program to train aircraft mechanics. The college has teamed up with AAR to advertise for students, and future workers, said president Pat Johns.
"We're training, they're hiring. It's a win-win for the entire community,"