Ken, a Gold Seal Rated flight instructor with more than four decades of flying experience, and Barney Ballard, a community-minded former Air Force jet pilot, wanted to share their life-long enthusiasm for aviation with young people. Introducing students to aviation and the possibility of an exciting career in aerospace became their passion.
Having long resided in Bonner County, Idaho, both men knew the area offered limited employment options. For quite some time, the Lake Pend Oreille School District was the area’s top employer and national clothing retailer Coldwater Creek ranked a close second. With a narrow range of good job prospects, upon completion of high school and/or college, most Bonner and Boundary County young people had little choice but to leave the area in search of greater opportunity elsewhere.
Ironically, just as the Great Recession was looming and Coldwater Creek began its decline, a positive economic phenomenon was afoot. In a place notorious for its lack of skilled trade and white-collar jobs, the aerospace industry began to “take off.” Local upstart aviation companies like Quest Aircraft and Tamarack Aerospace Group were growing and in need of qualified workers. Ken and Barney recognized that these and other local aerospace companies had the potential to not only help students gain first-hand knowledge and experience, but help cultivate the industry’s future workforce, too — through sharing professional expertise, providing internships, mentoring students, and, ultimately, providing jobs.