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Do we look to the sky for area’s future?

Coming on the heels of the historic Apollo 11 50th anniversary celebrations, I read with interest news this week that Michigan had been designated the number one state in the Midwest for aerospace manufacturing attractiveness. In addition, it rose from 8th to 4th in national rankings.

The rankings were done by PricewaterhouseCoopers, which traces its roots to accounting but these days helps businesses by offering a variety of tools, including consulting.

“These rankings are a significant achievement as PwC recognizes and acknowledges Michigan’s history in aerospace, its sustainability, and the growth of the industry now and in the future,” said Tony Vernaci, president of the Aerospace Industry Association of Michigan (AIAM). “Aerospace manufacturers are seeing what Michigan has to offer and are excited about the future of the industry in the state. Being the number one state in the country for tax policy, and third in the nation for its economy, we are confident that we will continue to attract aerospace companies to Michigan.”

After hearing that I was excited as well. And it got me wondering as to what ever had become of the spaceport project being considered for a number of sites in Northeast Michigan, including Alpena and Presque Isle counties. The answer to that question is that all of us might learn its fate before the month is out.

Officials with the Michigan Launch Initiative are wrapping up their reports as I write this. The Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association is holding a space symposium in Traverse City Sept. 9 and 10 and according to a story in the Escanaba Daily Press, Marquette County Administrator Scott Erbisch told an intergovernmental roundtable a week ago that “we’re hopeful either that (there’ll) be a selection at that time.”

Michigan is in the running for a launch facility that could send into space about two dozen or more satellites each year. Once a potential site is determined in the days ahead, then a site plan for environmental and FAA permits would be due in 2020, with construction to begin 2021 and launches to take place for the first time in 2022.

According to the MAMA website, “Michigan is entering the race to commercialize Low Earth Orbit space. The space launch market was estimated to be over $8.8 billion in 2017 and is projected to grow to over $27 billion by 2025 … a compounded annual growth rate of over 15%.

“Morgan Stanley estimates that the global space industry could generate revenue of $1.1 trillion by 2040, up from $350 billion today,” the website states.

I did not realize, but I learned through the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, that Michigan “is home to over 800 already-existing aerospace companies and has attracted nearly $750 million in additional aerospace capital investments in the past 18 months.”

I admit the thought of a satellite launch pad in our region at first sounds far-fetched, but it also sure is intriguing. And, when you consider the extent of the the aerospace industry already in Michigan, suddenly the concept doesn’t seem so “pie-in-the-sky” after all.

If nothing else it has allowed us all the opportunity to dream a little.

Certainly there is nothing wrong with that.

After all, the same used to be said of one day landing a man on the moon.

Bill Speer can be reached at 989-354-3111, ext. 311, or bspeer@thealpenanews.com. Follow him on Twitter @billspeer13.