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OFFICIALS CALL FOR UNITY ON AEROSPACE ISSUES.

Byline: Jim Skeen Daily News Staff Writer

California's state and federal lawmakers must recognize the importance of the aerospace industry and speak with a united political voice in order to bring in business, industry officials said Friday during a ``space summit.''

Organized by state Sen. W.J. ``Pete'' Knight, R-Palmdale, the summit attracted about 50 people, including representatives of Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop Grumman and the entrepreneurial start-up Space Access. Also in attendance were representatives of the California Space and Technology Alliance, the state's spaceport authority.

A common theme during the 2-1/2-hour meeting was the need for California's federal and state legislators to be unified on aerospace issues. Texas was cited as an example of a place where legislators recognize that a vote for aerospace is a vote for jobs.

``We need a unified political voice,'' said Mark Johnstone, Palmdale site director for Boeing's Reusable Space Systems Division.

In the discussion of incentives, Johnstone said that Boeing is advocating what he called a zero-gravity, zero-tax policy, so that goods taken into space would not be taxed.

``We do not need targeted tax breaks,'' Johnstone said. ``We want a level playing field.''

California has lagged behind other states in competing for aerospace business, said John Bass, a Lockheed Martin Skunk Works vice president. In the 1980s, California plants took in 50 cents of every dollar spent on the industry. Today that figure is closer to 20 cents.

``We are losing, in my estimation, a domestic economic cold war,'' Bass said.

Stephen Wurst, whose Palmdale-based Space Access company is developing a two-stage space launch system, said there is little recognition by the federal government of the emerging commercial space business. For instance, there is no way for the government to order space launch services from the private sector, Wurst said.

His prime desire is to see the government take some action to show the investment community that there is an interest in the emerging space market.

``We're interested in the criteria of award of incentives. We want them based on commercial benefits the launch system offers and not a reinforcement of the status quo,'' Wurst said.

To help the state compete for space business, the California Space and Technology Alliance put together a strategic plan. It includes taking inventory of the state's aerospace suppliers, conducting a competitiveness analysis of the state in attracting business and hosting policy summits at the state and federal levels to get them to support the industry.

``We don't have five to 10 years to get policy makers' support - we need it this year,'' said Victoria Conner, CSTA's program director.

The Lancaster City Hall summit was organized as part of a fact-finding effort by Knight, vice-chairman of the newly created Senate Select Committee on Defense Conversion, Retention and Space Flight Industries.

The nine-member panel will be responsible for looking at how the state can promote quick reuse of closed military bases, fight to retain existing bases and promote space flight industries.

The summit focused on commercial space operations, which are expected to grow from a $79 billion industry in 1997 to a $117 billion industry in 2001.

``We need to capitalize on that business,'' Knight said. ``We need to make sure that business stays in California.''
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 13, 1999
Words:539
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