Austin to target booming space economy

Posted on 29 Jan 2015 by Tim Brown

The Austin Chamber of Commerce, as a part of its Opportunity Austin initiative, has added Space Technology & Exploration to its list of key industries for future economic development.

In a statement the Austin Chamber of Commerce said the global space technology and exploration industry is worth $314bn annually, stemming from the demand for growth in space exploration and technology including satellites, launch providers, spacecraft components, in-space services, software and robotics.

This designation by Opportunity Austin opens the door for job expansion, development of industry and the recognition of the greater Austin region as a player in the rapidly growing market of commercial space exploration and related technologies.

“Austin has always been at the forefront of driving innovation – from the semiconductor industry of the 70s and 80s, to the growth of the software and Internet markets of the 90s. We recognize the next great frontier for innovation in our community is space,” said Phil Wilson, Chairman of the Opportunity Austin Board of Directors..

“The emerging commercial Space Economy adds to the diversity of business in our region and has the potential to create additional opportunities for other sectors like cloud technology, energy and medicine.”

A grassroots group comprised of local community leaders formed the Greater Austin Space Economy Task Force to explore the potential for a Space Economy in Central Texas. The Task Force, co-chaired by Paul Baffes, chief architect for change management innovation at IBM, and Rich Phillips, founder and president of Phillips & Company, researched and proved the potential of the space market for Austin.

“Over 30 new space start-up companies are launched annually,” said Paul Baffes, co-chair of the Greater Austin Space Economy Task Force. “It’s these small companies that are driving industry change. Austin has a unique opportunity as a technology hub known for fostering innovation and growth. As such, we’ve decided to take a leadership role amongst cities and commit ourselves to the Space Economy.”

The surge of new space investment in the United States creates a unique opportunity for a US-based, accredited space leadership program. To meet this unmet need, and to further bolster the Austin talent pool, McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin is introducing a master’s degree in Space Entrepreneurship beginning in May 2015.

“The McCombs School of Business at UT is delighted to add a space entrepreneurial emphasis to its world-renowned Master of Science in Technology Commercialisation Program,” said Dr. Gary Cadenhead, Director of the MSTC Program at The University of Texas at Austin. “Beginning in May 2015, space industry enthusiasts will be able to focus on space technologies throughout the MSTC Program. Along with UT’s outstanding Aerospace Department, this innovative addition will make Austin a premier location for space industry talent to further their educational goals.”

Opportunity Austin’s decision to add Space Technology & Exploration enables companies in the Space Economy to receive full support and access to program resources. This includes connecting companies with other assets throughout the region, such as the Texas State University program for Advanced Composite Materials used in the space industry.

Taking flight in Austin

A number of space technology companies, such as Firefly Space Systems, a small satellite launch company, have already made Texas their home.

“We decided to move Firefly to the region for a number of reasons,” said PJ King, chief operations officer at Firefly Space Systems, located in Cedar Park, TX. “Top of our list was access to talent, nearness to a major, third-level institution and a business-friendly location with a great quality of life. Austin scored high marks on all counts.”

Earlier this year, Firefly Space Systems entered into a Space Act Agreement with Nasa to collaborate on the design and commercial development of Firefly’s Alpha launch vehicle.

The Greater Austin Space Economy Task Force will convene in the first quarter of 2015 to develop a strategic plan in support of Opportunity Austin and its efforts to expand opportunities for space commerce.

In addition to Space Technology & Exploration, Opportunity Austin is targeting several key industries for future economic development, including:

  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Clean Energy & Power Technology
  • Corporate Headquarters & Regional Offices
  • Creative & Digital Media Technology
  • Data Management
  • Life Sciences

About Opportunity Austin

Opportunity Austin is a five-year, five-county economic development initiative aimed at fostering job-creating investment in Central Texas. Launched in 2004, the regional strategy aimed to create 72,000 regional jobs and increase regional payroll by $2.9bn. To implement the strategy, the regional business community committed to invest $14.4 million.

Regional employment growth has surpassed even the most optimistic scenarios. Since 2004, an estimated 190,900 new jobs have been added to Austin’s regional economy. Regional payroll increased by $9.9 billion (as of December 12, 2012). Per capita income and average annual wages also increased.

In December 2012, the Greater Austin Chamber unveiled the next 5 year phase of its Opportunity Austin strategy, 2014-2018.

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