The Space Economy and its growing influence from Southern New Mexico
It’s better to create the positive than try to deconstruct the negative. I heard this at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS) which concluded last Thursday, October 8th. Creating a new commercial space industry has been a collaboration across many sectors of the economy which is now producing new launch vehicles, new human spaceflight vehicles, new spaceports, and new satellite systems. Eleven years ago, no one would have believed we could have this new industry which is hiring thousands of people and re-hiring the workforce from the heritage space industry. Kennedy Space Center is transforming itself, but believe me, it is much easier to start with a clean slate like we have here in New Mexico rather than re-furbish fifty year old infrastructure. Yet, Florida is doing just that. New Mexico, well, we have an opportunity here like we have not had since the Apollo program.
Kathy Lueders, NASA Commercial Crew Program Manager was here to describe her role and program to create the new two human spaceflight vehicles which will send NASA astronauts to the International Space Station by 2017. I asked the NMSU Provost to introduce Kathy as she is an NMSU College of Engineering graduate. While showing the slides of the Boeing CST 100 engine test, I pointed out to the Provost- look closely in the background of that photo, what mountains do you see? NASA White Sands Test facility is involved in this test program. NASA does not publicize these types of tests, it has zero money for advertising.
Boeing on the other hand, can and does support letting the public know, how they are spending the tax payer’s dollars. Chris Ferguson, Deputy Program Manager for Operations and the Commercial Crew Program at Boeing was here with a great message. Chris, former NASA astronaut is passionate about looking 10 years into the future because we have a finite resource in the International Space Station. We must think beyond NASA supporting the ISS, and toward who might build future habitats, how we prove the business case for a continued low-Earth orbit presence and who will bear the financial cost. There are companies working on this right now, and they were here at ISPCS.
Boeing Vice President and Program Manager for Human Spaceflight, John Mulholland, another NMSU graduate reported to the ISPCS audience. After fierce competition, Boeing was awarded $4.6 billion dollars under the NASA Commercial Crew Transportation Capabilities solicitation (CCTCap). John also mentioned, with bit of a nervous laugh, that he hoped his son will graduate from the College of Engineering this semester. He will be the 4th generation of Mulholland’s to graduate from NMSU. There is no doubt in my mind he will graduate, and there is no doubt that NMSU has a great legacy of its own in our emerging space industry. While John works in Houston, he and Kathy are working with our NASA White Sands Test Facility on NASA’s human spaceflight program. Why? Because we have superior capability in our facilities and our people and we are competitively priced.
The story we are telling here in our community is one where leadership from the city, county, state and federal level is creating the positive, despite all the negative trying to deconstruct an industry that will help our community bring jobs, good jobs to our community. We had the Secretary of Economic Development Jon Barela talk about how state government is working to make us more attractive to manufacturing. New Mexico is surrounded by states with much larger economies, Colorado, Texas and Arizona. This is a tough environment to compete in and low paying minimum wage job opportunities will not raise the ability of our state to attract companies that require a professional workforce. And allow us to compete with our neighbors to grow this entire regional economy. We will continue to export our human capital unless we bring very interesting exciting jobs here now. The Space Foundation’s 2014 Space Economy report stated the space industry was a $330 billion dollar industry in 2014, with $276.83 billion of those dollars is being spent in the commercial space sector. The average salary of a person working in the space sector is $110,000. I brought the leaders of our community including Davin Lopez, President and CEO of the Mesilla Valley Economic Development Alliance, Billy Garrett Chairman of the County Commission, as I mentioned NMSU’s Dan Howard, Mayor Miyagishima, Jon Barela, and Senator Tom Udall who sent us a message from Washington. It was necessary to let our audience know, every level of government has their eyes on this industry. We must let those who are growing this industry know, southern New Mexico in particular, is a good place for the space economy to invest. And we are all working together to send this message. We won’t stop.