Aircraft currently in c-check at AMES.

Photos provided by Jonathan McKay

Leadership Clinton Class of 2023 enjoying freshly packaged lettuce from Bright Farms.

Photos provided by Jonathan McKay

Growth cycle of lettuce at Bright Farms.

Photos provided by Jonathan McKay

Class members from ATSG companies presenting donation check to class member Andy McCool of Laural Oaks. Left to Right: Andy McCool (Laural Oaks Career Campus), Kristi Burns (AMES), Kati McFarlane (LGSTX Services), Jason Shope (ATSG).

Photos provided by Jonathan McKay

Leadership & Economic Development

Up, up, and away! On Feb. 16, the Leadership Clinton Class of 2023 “flew” into the Wilmington Air Park on their first stop of Economic Development Day.

Kym Parks, director of marketing, and other Air Transport Services Group (ATSG) marketing team members planned a morning full cargo aviation learning opportunities. Debbie Loveless, ATSG vice president of human capital, began the morning presentations focusing on the employment opportunities within the ATSG family companies for Clinton and surrounding counties. She highlighted the current and potential demand for employees at the Air Park. Quint Turner, ATSG chief financial officer, presented on the current and future economic impact of the ATSG family of companies and predictions for future growth.

Dave Soaper, president of ABX Air, presented his insights into leadership in good and bad times. Beth Huber, assistant executive director of the Clinton County Port Authority (CCPA), presented on employment and the economic impact of the Air Park within Clinton and surrounding counties. Currently, the Wilmington Air Park serves as home for 14 companies employing around 4,000 personals.

Upon conclusion of the presentations, students toured the Air Park. Airborne Maintenance and Engineering Services (AMES) personnel gave students an inside look at their refurbishment, manufacturing, and maintenance capabilities. Students were given a brief synopsis of the conversion process from taking a retired airline aircraft and converting it to a freighter aircraft. Aviation data firm Cirium predicts the world’s freighter aircraft fleet to grow exponentially over the next 20 years, with 1,060 new builds and 2,480 aircraft conversions from passenger aircraft to freighters. The tour concluded with a stop at the Airborne Training Services DC-8 flight simulator. Students were allowed to simulate landing the aircraft, which many students were successful.

After touring the Air Park, students toured the growing operations at Bright Farms. Bright Farms uses hydroponic technology, meaning crops are grown in water instead of soil. This growing method allows for 80% less water usage compared to normal field growing methods. Bright Farms starts with a germination process letting trays of seeds grow into seedlings. Seedlings are then placed in a pool where employees rotate plants taking out the fully grown seeds on one side and putting new ones on the other side. Watching the progression of the seedlings transform into the leafy green product on the other side is majestic see. After completing the full growth cycle, which takes about 21 days, the lettuce is cut and stored in a refrigerator prior to packaging. The class was able to taste freshly cut lettuce from the same day. Bright Farms then packages the lettuce to be sent to stores and ready for consumers to purchase.

The final part of the day led the class to TimberTech industries. What an amazing place this is! TimberTech uses recycled plastic to make one-of-a-kind decking. In 2021, TimberTech diverted about 500 million pounds of waste and scrap from ending up in landfills. The production process involves lots of science and testing to make recycled plastic mixed with wood flour into low maintenance decking that is guaranteed for a lifetime.

Although small but mighty, Wilmington is on the cutting edge of many economic sectors, both on the local and global levels.

The Leadership Clinton Class of 2023 would like to thank everyone who made this extraordinary day possible. All members were impressed with the economic impact each company has, not only locally but also globally. Members left with a new perspective on Clinton County.

Group Leadership Project Update

The class has been collaborating with local business to gain support for their Group Leadership Project of the Laurel Oaks Food Pantry. The Laurel Oaks Food Pantry supports those students at the Laurel Oaks Career Campus who do not have a steadily available food and other personal care items. The project is focusing on monetary and nonperishable donations to support this service.

Upon hearing of this project, Rich Corrado, president and CEO of ATSG, and Kym Parks on behalf of ATSG and the ATSG family of companies donated $2,500 to the Laurel Oaks Food Pantry. This donation will go a long way with the fight against student hunger but there is still a great need for further donations. The Leadership Clinton Class of 2023 and Laurel Oaks Career Campus extends their gratitude to ASTG for their kind donation.

If community members would like to donate, arrange for a donation to be picked up, or have general questions about the Laural Oaks Food Pantry, please contact Andy McCool, Laurel Oaks Campus Dean at 937-655-5402. Monetary donations can be made using the following QR code: enter your name and email, select “To Support the Career Tech Student Organizations,” enter “Laural Oaks” for the Campus, enter “Laurel Oaks Food Pantry” for the Student Organization.