Audra Hoy of AeroInnovate was exposed to aviation at an early age. Her grandfather, Paul Poberezny, was the founder of the Experimental Aircraft Association, and her father was a Delta airline captain for 42 years. She sat down with Insight Staff Reporter Andrew Schaick to talk about the efforts to create new aviation business clusters in what has been called “Aviation City.”
Around the world,especially in the aviation industry, Oshkosh is known. When you say “Oshkosh” everybody knows where you are from. You no longer have to clarify it. What I have seen over the past decade is Northeast Wisconsin really coming in and owning that notoriety and businesses are starting to build on that foundation.
AeroInnovate is an early stage aviation aerospace business accelerator program based at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh Business Success Center. We run an eight-week accelerator program every summer that starts in June and culminates with a pitch to potential investors at EAA’s AirVenture. We get applications from various companies that we narrow down to five. Selection is based on their impact in aviation, the potential impact on Wisconsin and what innovative ideas they have to offer. When they are selected we help with the executive summaries and help them become more comfortable with getting in front of investors and potential customers including key players within the aviation industry.
It was really exciting for us to see these potential aviation clients that want to come to the area. When we started the interview process for our accelerator program, of the five companies only one said they had an interest in coming to Wisconsin. By the time our program was done, three of the five were interested in potentially either relocating or opening an office here, and one of them is looking at bringing their manufacturing to this state. So we started with one of the five being interested, and now four of the five are going to bring either revenue or jobs the state and that is really enticing for us since we are not doing that hard sell.
The companies we worked with offered everything from vibration resistant fasteners to drones with sense- and-avoid technology to a training device to help pilots with instrument flying. We had everything from the end consumer who is working on his or her airplane in the garage to the Boeings and the Airbuses of the world. So everything we had in our class truly spanned the consumer market.
What’s great about Oshkosh is the platform EAA gives us for our companies to debut their new technologies to the aviation aerospace marketplace. EAA is a great partner of ours, and we also provide their members with innovative new aviation technologies that are coming out.
I see many aviation clusters coming to the area in the future. AeroInnovate is really trying to spur that along. Even though we do not do a hard sell to these companies to come to Wisconsin, we want to stake that flag in the ground and say we are doing such awesome things in Oshkosh and Northeast Wisconsin when it comes to aviation, that you want to be here and that you want to come here.
We’ve got the foundation laid in Northeast Wisconsin and not only do we have the space, but we’ve got the knowledge and innovation.
Even though we have separate aviation organizations in Oshkosh, we work tightly together, and that is what makes us successful. Between EAA, Sonnex, AeroInnovate and all the rest, we all work very closely together for a common goal, and that is what is making us successful now and is what will continue to make us successful as we go down the road.