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AVIATION JOB GAINS EXPECTED AEROSPACE INCREASE NOT LIKE BOOM OF '90S.

Byline: Jim Skeen Staff Writer

PALMDALE - Antelope Valley's leading industry, aerospace, is expected to show modest but steady short-term growth.

While no one has specific numbers for the Antelope Valley, the High Desert anticipates benefiting from expected increases in defense and space contracts. In its midyear forecast, the nonprofit Los Angeles Economic Development Corp. predicts the county's aerospace industry will grow from 45,100 jobs to 47,400 next year.

``It's military aerospace and that's based here,'' David Myers, executive director of the Greater Antelope Valley Economic Alliance, said of the job numbers. ``We're seeing growth. We don't see any product that will bring in major numbers. What we're seeing is a ramping up at Air Force Plant 42 of a few hundred jobs, a ramping up at Edwards of a few hundred jobs.''

The LAEDC is projecting that gains in defense and space contracts - the Antelope Valley's bread and butter - will offset job losses the county will experience in its commercial aerospace sector.

``The aerospace sector will enjoy modest employment growth, reflecting both major and minor contract awards,'' the LAEDC report said. ``More contracts are coming in, and so this segment (defense and space) should continue to add jobs for the foreseeable future.''

While the numbers are encouraging, the industry is still well below its heyday of the late 1980s and early 1990s. There were as many as 118,700 jobs in 1991, according to the LAEDC.

The Antelope Valley's two largest centers of employment are Air Force facilities - Edwards Air Force Base, a mecca for flight testing, and Plant 42, a production plant with operations by aerospace giants Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Boeing.

Edwards employs about 11,500 people, down from the more than 15,000 workers of the early 1990s.

Plant 42's contractors employ approximately 6,300, well below the 12,000 workers during the defense buildup of the Reagan years. During the late 1980s, there were 7,000 workers employed on the B-1B bomber production line alone.

The Antelope Valley's major defense and space contractors are predicting either growth or, at the least, steady employment.

Northrop Grumman is predicting it will add 1,000 workers to the Antelope Valley over the next 10 years. That increase will be driven by center fuselage assembly work for the F-35 joint strike fighter.

Boeing, which employs from 800 to 1,000 workers in the Antelope Valley, expects it will have close to 1,200 workers by 2008.

Lockheed Martin is also expecting its work force to remain strong, with new work coming from the F/A-22 Raptor and F-35 programs. The company is building parts for both jets in Palmdale.

At Edwards, officials are expecting to see a major flight test program wind down, the F-22 Raptor fighter, while another, the F-35 joint strike fighter, ramps up its employment. The F-35 is expected to bring 800 to 1,000 workers, offsetting work force losses from the F-22.

Edwards is being considered as the home base for two aircraft units, the V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft and the Predator unmanned reconnaissance aircraft. Edwards is among five West Coast bases being considered for the V-22 aircraft, which would bring in as many as 2,500 workers, and the Air Force will decide between Edwards and Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico to be the home of the Predators, which would involve as many as 1,000 workers.

There is one commercial aircraft venture being eyed by the Antelope Valley - Boeing's proposed 7E7 jetliner. Palmdale is among several sites in at least 19 states vying to be the home of the jetliner's assembly plant.

State tax credits potentially worth as much as $99 million are part of the package Palmdale is offering to attract assembly work for the jetliner that could bring in as many as 800 to 1,200 jobs.

Palmdale is proposing that Boeing use Site 9 at Avenue P and 30th Street East for the 7E7. Site 9 has more than 1.3 million square feet of manufacturing and office floor space and was used by what was then Rockwell North American Aircraft, now part of Boeing, to build 100 B-1B bombers during the 1980s.

Boeing's home base, Washington state, has offered a staggering incentive package totalling $3.2 billion to keep the aerospace giant from taking the 7E7 out of state.

Boeing expects to make a site selection by the end of the year.

Jim Skeen, (661) 267-5743

james.skeen(at)dailynews.com
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 27, 2003
Words:746
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