Lawmakers consider strategies for strengthening Washington’s commercial space sector, a $1.8 billion industry.

Yes, there’s a space economy and Washington is poised to do very well in it. This year, lawmakers are taking notice, TJ Martinell reports in The Lens.

HB 2596 sponsored by Rep. Matt Boehnke (R-8) tasks the state Department of Commerce with creating an advisory committee as well as studying the best path to foster a strong business climate for the industry. [The bill, which has passed in the House, cleared the Senate Committee on Financial Institutions, Economic Development & Trade yesterday and has been referred to Ways and Means.]

Martinell’s article cites data from an economic impact study commissioned by the Puget Sound Regional Council.

According to a September 2018 study by the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC), the industry employs 6,200 people and contributes $1.8 billion to the state economy.

The industry draws on two of Washington’s key sectors: aerospace and technology. An article in the Fall 2019 issue Washington Business, the magazine of the Association of Washington Business, addressed the confluence.

For the visionaries, the sky is no limit.

Defining that potential was one reason PSRC initiated the economic research, says Jason Thibedeau, the PSRC’s principal economic development manager.

High-profile enterprises like Blue Origin and Stratolaunch, a project of late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, called attention to the sector, he says. But local leaders wanted to understand better the size and scale of the commercial space activity.

The analysis revealed a vibrant industry at the intersection of Washington’s tech and aerospace clusters. “With space, it’s a little bit of a Venn diagram between our aerospace and our IT industry,” says Thibedeau.

The Lens reports,

Commerce Business Development Manager Connor Duggan told the Senate Financial Institutions, Economic Development & Trade Committee during a Feb. 25 public hearing that “Washington’s continued growth and success in this industry is not necessarily guaranteed. The current cluster should be viewed as a potential opportunity rather than a successful end product.”

He recounted that during a conversation with a new space company weighing the benefits of locating in Portland or Clark County that “the current value proposition for space companies is not bad in Washington, but it is not nearly as developed as with traditional aerospace. Had this been an aviation company knocking on the door, I would have had a wealth of advantageous characteristics to discuss related to specialized programs, initiatives, incentives and other forms of ecosystem support that we have cultivated over the last few decades.”

Cultivating an policy environment that encourages investment, innovation and job creation – building on our state’s existing strengths – makes sense.