Report: Washington’s space industry contributes $1.8 billion to state economy, supports 6,200 jobs. And it’s poised for growth.

Washington’s commercial space industry makes significant contributions to the state economy, according to a new report from the Puget Sound Regional Council. (Full report and highlights.) The PSRC summarizes on its website,

Washington state is well positioned to compete in a growing commercial space industry, according to a new study led by the Puget Sound Regional Council.

The Washington State Space Economy report was developed to help industry leaders, elected officials, policy makers, and local economic development professionals strengthen and support the commercial space sector.

The report shows that the space industry has a strong economic impact throughout the central Puget Sound region and Washington state. Business activities tied to direct, indirect and induced impacts of the space industry will contribute an estimated $1.8 billion in economic activity to Washington communities in 2018. The estimated 6,200 jobs in the state supported by the space industry will provide an estimated $610 million in payroll. In addition, the space sector contributes about $62 million annually in state and local tax revenues.

Geek Wire puts the economic impacts into perspective relative to the state’s overall aerospace industry.,

The report considers the economic contributions from Boeing Defense, Space and Security, which has employees in Kent, Tukwila and Everett — but not from Boeing Commercial Airplanes, which has a much larger presence in Washington state. Past studies have estimated the wider aerospace industry’s overall contribution to Washington state’s economy at nearly $70 billion annually, with Boeing accounting for much of that activity.

In addition to Blue Origin and Boeing, today’s report highlights home-grown space ventures such as Spaceflight Industries and Planetary Resources, as well as companies that are based elsewhere but have a significant presence in the state, such as SpaceX and Aerojet Rocketdyne. Stratolaunch Systems, the space venture created by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, also comes in for a mention even though most of its development work is done at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port.

As the study, prepared by BERK Consulting, makes clear, the industry has potential for substantial growth in Washington.

“This study shows that the space industry today supports thousands of good paying jobs throughout our region and state and has the potential for significant growth in the future,” said Terry Ryan, Snohomish County Councilmember and Economic Development Board President.

“The central Puget Sound region is already a worldwide leader in aerospace and information technology, and we plan on being a world leader in the space industry as well,” Ryan said.

The PSRC points to existing strengths and recommendations to support the sector further.

Washington has strengths that have helped establish the state in the industry, including long-term investments in space and aerospace supply chains, a large, skilled labor pool, support from universities and strong representation of private firms.

The analysis identifies areas for future work to grow the industry.

These include supporting space related startups through expanded access to venture capital, business incubators, and other services; expanding the state’s robust aerospace supply chain to meet the needs of the burgeoning space industry; growing the local talent pipeline for the high skill jobs in demand for the industry; and targeting tax credits for space craft and satellite manufacturing.

Some of these recommendations will be familiar. We specifically call your attention to the workforce development section of the report, which concludes:

From the analysis of the regional workforce, we can provide conclusions related to future efforts with the space sector:

  •  The presence of a large aerospace workforce supports the development of the regional space economy. As with the presence of a mature supply chain, the ability for space-related startups to tap into an extensive talent pool in aerospace can be a significant advantage…

  • High current demand and gaps in the workforce can make it difficult for space-related companies to retain staff, however. The ability for regional businesses in the space economy to succeed will depend on the availability of this workforce…

  • Future gaps from the “silver tsunami” will have a greater impact on the ability to access skilled labor. In the longer term, the retirement of the Baby Boomer generation will have a significant effect on the supply of labor in the market. General improvements in efficiency and automation in aerospace manufacturing may address some of these shortfalls, but there are significant concerns that constraints in labor supply will restrict the ability for businesses across the aerospace cluster to grow.

  • Supporting training and education programs will have the greatest impact on startups and suppliers that are more likely to recruit locally. Although larger companies such as SpaceX and Blue Origin may have the ability to draw on a national labor pool, many startups and suppliers often rely on local labor to meet their needs. Providing for a greater availability of skilled labor locally can be an effective strategy in supporting startups and suppliers to encourage growth and capture additional economic benefits from space-related activities.

The recommendations reinforce many of the overall recommendations for manufacturing workforce development and the call for significant improvements in postsecondary creational attainment we’ve cited previously.