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Vandenberg Space Force Base plans military, commercial expansion to boost local economy

vandenberg space force base.jpg
Posted at 7:42 PM, Jun 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-04 01:23:11-04

The future of space could be right here on the Central Coast, and private and public sectors are joining forces to bring about economic growth and space exploration.

On Thursday, REACH, a Central Coast economic impact nonprofit, announced its partnership (memorandum of understanding or "MOU") with the 30th Space Wing, Santa Barbara County, Cal Poly SLO, Deloitte, and Go-Biz to develop a master plan for commercial space at Vandenberg Space Force Base.

"We can be a technological leader in one of the most beautiful places on Earth,” said Santa Barbara County District 3 Supervisor Joan Hartman.

On more than 100,000 acres of land along the California coast, the newly-named Vandenberg Space Force Base powers 16,000 jobs and generates $4.5 billion annually for Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties.

A new plan aims to grow that to $6 billion and an additional 2,000 jobs per year over the next decade.

“The global market for launch is a key leading indicator for the industry generally and of course, Vandenberg is ideally positioned to compete extremely effectively,” Andrew Hackleman, COO of REACH, said.

A recent study found military and commercial interests at Vandenberg could result in vast economic expansion

“California and the Western Range is a place where a lot of these companies and newer technologies want to be and need to be,” Dee Dee Meyers, director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (Go-Biz) said.

In addition, the base could allow private companies to launch on a proposed commercial space enterprise zone.

“We're envisioning space that is more accessible to the community, more accessible to our partners and yet approximate to the launch capability,” said Col. Joe Tringe, the individual mobilization augmentee to the Vandenberg Space Launch Delta 30 commander. “These enable these proliferated constellations, which allow for those imaging missions and weather missions that are going to be so important across the board. And because they’re important for both the DOD and for commercial partners, we can envision sharing infrastructure that’s going to allow them to be launched more frequently and be maintained.”

With increased investments in the industry, local leaders aspire to compete with Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

“My office is working with the Air Force now to develop policies to address some of the barriers identified in the report that prevent much-needed investments for infrastructure on the base and expand launch capabilities," 24th District Representative Salud Carbajal said.

The plan could also foster highly skilled talent and good-paying jobs.

“This plan is a win-win,” Cal Poly President Jeffrey Armstrong said. "Cal Poly, UC Santa Barbara, Allan Hancock College and Cuesta Community College benefit through access to cutting edge technology and experts, through entrepreneurial and internship opportunities for faculty and students, through the enhancement of vibrant, local communities and through the creation of more local career opportunities for our many graduates."

Several projects, from on-base launchpad improvements to off-base roads, are already underway.

The master plan is currently in phase one which is expected to be complete in the coming weeks.

The $450 billion global space industry is expected to reach a multi-trillion dollar level in three decades, according to experts.

The Central Coast economy is bracing for impact once the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant is decommissioned. Many hope Vandenberg and the local space race will fill the economic hole.

REACH has also formed a bipartisan coalition made up of several local, state, and federal organizations to figure out what happens after Diablo Canyon is decommissioned.

CLICK HERE to view the Vandenberg Space Force Base Master Plan.