California Aerospace: Bigger and Brighter than Hollywood, for Now
By : Duane Hyland, AIAA Communications
California’s aerospace industry dwarfs both Hollywood and Agriculture as the state’s primary source of jobs, an AIAA panel reminded representatives of the California state legislature at the California State Capitol Building, Sacramento, Calif., on Tuesday, 8 August. The event’s theme was: “California Aerospace: Stuck in the Past, or Rocketing into the Future?”
The panel, was moderated by Ivan Rosenburg, management consultant at Frontier Associates, and was composed of: Lt. Gen. Gene Tattini, U.S. Air Force (retired), Deputy Director, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and former Commander, U.S. Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, Ken Guss, former CEO, Klune Industries, Randy Garber, partner, A.T. Kearney Global Management Consultants, led A.T. Kearney’s analysis of the Californian aerospace industry in 2008, and Gregory C. Hill, director of marketing, Ordnance Systems, Meggit Defense Systems, and Ross G. Bell, AIAA, spent an hour and a half reviewing the current state of California aerospace and the possible dark future of the industry in California, unless substantive governmental reforms are made.
California State Senator Joel Anderson started the session with a stirring speech about the ability of the aerospace industry to mobilize the American populace with programs like the Apollo Project, the Space Shuttle program, and the recently landed Curiosity rover. Anderson indicated that it is imperative to continue to support the aerospace industry in California so that these amazing programs can continue to unify and inspire our nation.
Mike Rossi, jobs advisor to California Governor Jerry Brown, addressed the meeting as well. Mr. Rossi stated that while he knows that there are threats to the aerospace industry in California which made the future look grim, he also believed that bi-partisan consensus would be achieved to protect the industry and its vital jobs base. He agreed that the industry is too large to lose from California’s economy.
Among the topics covered by the panel were the overall state of the aerospace workforce in California, the economic contributions that aerospace makes to the California economy, and why California is losing business to Texas and other states which are willing to make substantive economic concessions in order to lure business to Texas. Among the barriers to aerospace growth in California that were cited by the panel were: the tax assessments levied against businesses doing work in California, the tight environmental controls placed on industry in California, the dwindling state investments in education – making it hard to educate a viable workforce in the STEM areas, and a general sense of apathy among the legislatures which seem, to observers, to take the industry for granted. General Tattini gave an inspiring presentation on the recently landed Curiosity rover, and reminded the crowd that while Curiosity represents the best that California can offer the world, that the ability of California to continue offering these scientific wonders in the future is hampered by the barriers indentified by the panel. Ken Guss discussed the general decline in quality of the workforce in California, brought on by increasingly frequent cuts to job training programs, as well as to higher education programs. The panel was followed by an evening reception at Sacramento’s Esquire Grille, which was attended by over 30 California state Senators and Representatives, along with staff members.
The California Aerospace Day program continued on Wednesday, August 9, with face-to-face meeting with representatives of AIAA’s San Francisco, Orange County, and San-Fernando Pacific Sections, along with AIAA staffers, and representatives of Northrop Grumman and Meggit Defense Industries. Through a dozen meeting with key assembly staff, the small groups continued to discuss the importance of aerospace to California along with the possible impacts of upcoming, so-called, sequestration in the defense sector, on the economy of California. Throughout the day a few messages were conveyed: 1) More needs to be done to educate the workforce in California, both through aggressive STEM programs in California’s schools, and in work training programs for those wishing to enter the workforce; 2) That aerospace in California dwarfs other sectors of the economy, and is a real engine for growth within California, bettering the state and the lives of its citizens; 3) More needs to be done in California to ensure that businesses operating here stay there, and that businesses outside California see it as an attractive place to do business, especially as the aerospace industry no longer takes California’s support for granted, and are looking to do business with states who will value their presence.