Vertx Partners is bringing Advanced Air Mobility to rural areas like West Virginia – here are some of the effects of rural AAM economic development.
What does Rural Advanced Air Mobility economic development look like?
When we think of Advanced Air Mobility (AAM), it’s common to conjure images of bustling smart cities and high-tech eVTOLs taxiing wealthy metropolitan citizens high above the crowded streets below. After all, Joby Aviation recently test-flew its state-of-the-art eVTOL in New York, an inaugural flight intended to highlight the craft’s capabilities in its target environment. However, there’s a growing realization that AAM can also be a game-changer in rural settings, particularly in a state like West Virginia, where questions about its future economic development linger.
As the Vertx Partners team helped establish the West Virginia Uncrewed Aircraft Systems Advisory Council and has hosted numerous meetings and public talks with industry leaders throughout the state, we believe we must focus the conversation on Rural Advanced Air Mobility in the state.
Depending on how one defines ‘rural,’ anywhere from 64% to 93% of West Virginians live in a rural area, compared to around 20% of total Americans. Additionally, West Virginia is renowned for its once-thriving coal industry, which employed a large percentage of the state’s workforce.
However, as the world transitions toward greener fuel sources and West Virginia refocuses its economy on areas like eco-tourism, where does AAM come into play?
While New, A Blueprint Does Exist
Advanced Air Mobility is a pioneering field. For the romantics and dreamers, it’s the promise of flying cars made a reality. However, while AAM is still on the frontier, there are existing blueprints on how to integrate it into society, particularly in urban communities. The AAM Reality Index lists many of these so-called launch cities: Dallas, Los Angeles, Chicago, etc.
It wouldn’t be unfair to call these cities “the usual suspects.”
But while there are drastic differences between the metropolises of New York and LA and the relaxed countryside of West Virginia, the groundwork laid by these cities provides a blueprint for Vertx to advance its Rural AAM strategy. This foundation helps set Vertx and West Virginia up for success and allows the state to serve as a national and global leader. It’s important to seize on this opportunity while it’s still fresh.
Eco-Tourism & AAM
West Virginia is famous for its scenic beauty, much of which is untouched and undeveloped: by definition, rural. Indeed, tourism plays an increasingly crucial role in West Virginia’s economy. For reference, tourism contributes over $2 billion in annual income and represents one in every 16 jobs in the state.
Additionally, in 2022, the tourism industry experienced remarkable growth, with a nearly $7 billion impact, charting a 17% post-pandemic increase. That’s significantly higher than the national average of 1%.
With much of the state’s tourism rightly identified as “eco-tourism” – tourism directed toward natural environments and that stresses conservation efforts – it’s easy to imagine where drones and eVTOLs might offer a bird’s eye view to tourists interested in experiencing the state’s natural splendor from a unique perspective.
West Virginia’s Business Climate
West Virginia boasts one of the lowest costs for doing business in the entire country. In fact, it consistently ranks 10th or better in the best business climates of the U.S. This economic advantage makes West Virginia an attractive candidate for business owners looking to establish a foothold in the burgeoning AAM industry.
An Existing Aerospace & Aviation Ecosystem
West Virginia is often underestimated, so it’s perhaps shocking that the state already possesses a healthy aerospace and aviation industry. Many companies and agencies call the state home, including:
· And many more…
This existing network provides a foundation for Rural Advanced Air Mobility integration and opens the doors for economic diversification.
Opportunities Across the Spectrum
AAM’s economic impacts extend across the spectrum. From the construction of vertiports and communication equipment to jobs for air traffic controllers, educators, component manufacturers, and tourist guides, AAM opens up a diverse range of jobs across the state beyond drone and eVTOL pilots. This multifaceted approach would benefit residents across a broad range of the state.
Opportunity in the Unexpected
Experts expect AAM to grow into a multibillion-dollar industry. West Virginia has the opportunity to invest early and capitalize on this lucrative field for the benefit of its citizens.
West Virginians were mountaineers. Then, we dug into mountains to become miners. With AAM, we have the chance to become pilots.
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