The Guilford County Economic Development Alliance (GCEDA) almost never has a special guest, however, on Thursday morning, Jan. 24, the GCEDA members were very eager to hear from the rare special guest who had been invited that day: Senior Director for Triad Aerospace Development Rick Reed.

Reed, who just began that job on the first day of the year, and who just got his office in order at Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTIA), is charged with bringing new aviation and aeronautic business to the region – with a key focus on the new 800-acre megasite now under construction at PTIA.

The GCEDA is a collective of elected officials, business leaders and economic development professionals who work together to promote economic growth in Guilford County – and much of that groups’ current hopes hinge on the aviation industry and its future development at the airport.  Reed will be central to that effort and many of the alliance members who assembled at the Cameron Campus of Guilford Technical Community College in Colfax first thing Thursday morning said they were glad to meet him.

The position he now occupies was created about two years ago through a collaborative effort between the Piedmont Triad Partnership, the Greensboro Chamber of Commerce, the Piedmont Triad Airport Authority, the High Point Economic Development Corp. and Winston-Salem Business Inc.

The first person to fill the job was Jim McArthur, a Mississippian who jumped ship late last year when he got a better offer to do similar work for Duke Energy.

At the Jan. 24 GCEDA meeting, Reed told the alliance members that he was very excited about the prospects for this area.

He added that, as the former president and CEO of aviation company Triumph Actuation Systems, he’d spent a good deal of time working with McArthur.

“He and I have got terrific comradery and have built a relationship over the last two years,” Reed said.

He added that the two had also traveled to aviation conferences together.

Reed also said that he felt a lot of support from area economic development officials.

“While I am totally green to the job as of Jan. 1, I am so thankful to be surrounded by people who know what they are doing,” he said, adding that his first few weeks in the job had been spent largely getting to know the various players in the regional economic development community.

One area where Reed sounded extremely confident was in his knowledge of the industry.  He said he still has a lot to learn about economic development recruitment but he did know a thing or two about aviation.

“My background is 100 percent aviation and my heritage is Piedmont Aviation,” he said.

Reed’s father worked for Piedmont Aviation for 40 years. Reed said that, after seeing his father in that career, it was his dream to work for the same company – and he did so for 24 years.  In that job, he worked largely out of Winston-Salem.

Reed spoke so passionately about aviation at the GCEDA meeting, he sounded more like someone in a job interview than someone who already had the job.

“I learned to fly airplanes over there,” he said of his time in Winston-Salem “I’ve been flying airplanes ever since.  I’m a licensed A and P [Airframe and Powerplant] mechanic. I’m an aerospace engineering graduate of NC State.  I mean, my whole life is airplanes and aviation.”

Reed also spoke on his experience as president and CEO of Triumph Actuation Systems, which is part of the Triumph Group – a global aerospace parts maker and service provider.

That job, he said, helped him gain a high degree of familiarity with The Boeing Co. and other aviation companies all around the world.

In some ways, Reed is a reverse image of MacArthur, who had a strong resume in the economic development field but didn’t have much experience in aviation before he was hired for the job in 2017.

Reed said he’s now hitting major trade shows including an upcoming event in Seattle.  He said one of the first things he’s doing is seeing “where it makes sense” to devote time.

“I’m excited,” Reed said.  “I look forward to it.  It’s a challenge.”

Greensboro Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Brent Christensen explained the rationale for creating the position Reed now holds.

“We decided we needed to have someone focused full-time on aerospace development with that great asset that we’ve got, but also with the great aerospace operations we have throughout the region,” Christensen said. “We needed somebody who would wake up every day and think about who else in the aerospace industry we could bring to this area.”

At times, Christensen made it sound as though Reed was the first choice in 2017 when McArthur was hired.

“He was in the running the last time,” Christensen said of Reed.

Christiansen added that at that time Reed said that he had some other things he wanted to do and said that he was glad that, this time around, things worked out.