ARDMORE, Okla. (KTEN) — Oklahoma's second largest industry — aviation — is getting a boost after SouthernTech officially opened its new aviation maintenance building that will help provide skilled workers.

"Students, you all are going to be integral to our growing economy in the aviation industry," said Ardmore Development Authority president Bill Murphy.

SouthernTech's new aviation program will be the seventh in the State of Oklahoma to offer an air frame and power plant certification, preparing students for jobs like airplane mechanics, frame constructors and engine work.

Before SouthernTech's A&P certification program, Norman was the closest city from Ardmore to offer it.

Aerospace and defense industry liaison Eddie Compton noted that workers who will soon be laid off from Michelin, Ardmore's biggest employer, will be needing new skills. 

"That could replace some of the jobs that are going to be lost here in the future," Compton said. "Obviously, we're at the beginning stages where we just have a school. Now we have the certified technicians. We can bring in the businesses, and we expect that to grow in this area."

SouthernTech's new Aviation Building.

The Oklahoma Department of Commerce says aerospace is the fastest-growing industry in the state, employing around 120,000 people.

Companies like King Aerospace at the Ardmore Airpark let SouthernTech know they need a trained and ready-to-go work force.

"As the Airpark was growing out there in Gene Autry, a lot of those positions are going to require the certification," said SouthernTech Superintendent Dr. Eric Ward. "We just met with Southeastern last week, and we're looking at how we can align what our students are learning here so then they can take that certification and continue their education in other aviation-related fields."