Emily Baucum, News On 6
TULSA, Oklahoma -- Taxpayers footed the bill for four state employees to attend the International Air Show in Paris back in June.
It's still not clear what the state has to show for it. But a Tulsa company that also made the trip said it paid off for them.
M&M Manufacturing was one of eight private companies to represent Oklahoma in Paris. Managers brought home a multi-million dollar, multi-year contract.
Just 38 people work for M&M Manufacturing. They build parts for companies like Boeing, Gulfstream, and Spirit. And like any small business, M&M faces competition.
"We found that we lose a lot of opportunity to some of the bigger companies because we maybe don't have everything under one roof to offer," said Kenneth Statton, President of M&M Manufacturing.
M&M paid the Department of Commerce $8,000 to participate at Oklahoma's booth. The company covered $12,000 in expenses for its two employees.
"We had to pay our own way. There's no bones about that. We had to pay our own way," Statton said.
He says he'd do it again in the second, because the trip got him face-to-face with representatives from Turkish Air International.
M&M struck a deal to build rub strips for the company. Another Tulsa company will provide specialized work.
"The rub strip is a stainless steel part that requires some specialized Teflon coating and chrome plating. Southwest United Industries right here in Tulsa is one of just a couple of companies that are certified to do those processes for Boeing, for Spirit," he said.
Statton says the deal will bring new jobs and millions of dollars to Tulsa -- and hopefully more of these big contracts.
"The taxpayer dollars that were spent will not be spent in vain. I firmly believe that it was money well invested," he said.
He hopes taxpayers realize that sometimes it takes money to make money.
After seeing the Paris trip's $84,000 price tag, aviation insiders are brainstorming ways to get the same results without all that spending.
Mary Smith of the Oklahoma Aerospace Alliance told News On 6 she's opened a dialogue with the Department of Commerce about it.
Smith says, "Any show coming up, we need to have a plan in advance to make sure every dollar spent is a measurable result."
She supports putting the companies front and center -- instead of state employees.