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Michigan lawmakers highlight growing aerospace industry with inaugural Space Day

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Posted at 10:44 PM, Mar 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-30 22:59:58-04

(WXMI) — When you think of the space industry, you may think of states like Florida or Texas, but will Michigan soon be on that list? Leaders says it’s not a long shot; they want to see the industry take off.

“The contribution of Michigan's manufacturing and talent is quite extensive to the space industry,” says Gavin Brown, the executive director of the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association, which advocates for the more than 600 aerospace-related companies in the state.

“As this economy grows, the opportunities for Michigan will also grow. So it's not just supporting a ‘Space Day’ in concept; it's looking at our future and saying, 'What is that we can be?'” Brown added.

State Senators Roger Victory (R–Hudsonville) and Dale Zorn (R–Ida) were among a handful of state lawmakers who, along with Brown, traveled to Florida to meet with top space companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX. March 30 also marked Michigan’s first inaugural “Space Day." The day was declared in a resolution adopted by the Senate last week and aims to recognize Michigan’s role in the aerospace industry.

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“When you're here at Cape Canaveral, the large presence that Michigan companies actually have... I think that surprises a lot of people. When you think of space, you should be thinking of Michigan and its capabilities and its assets,” says Brown.

According to Brown, right now the state’s industry is just a small portion of what it can be; he believes Michigan has the potential to be mid-America’s epicenter of the industry:

  • "Incredible human talent, with the highest concentration of electrical and mechanical engineers nationwide and more industrial designers employed than any other state.
  • Unparalleled manufacturing prowess and technical expertise, with manufacturing-friendly tax laws and one of the most favorable business climates in the Midwest.
  • Critical infrastructure at Sawyer International Airport in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport in Oscoda, which feature runways approximately 12,000 feet in length – long enough to accommodate aircraft needed for certain space-related tests.
  • The largest amount of restricted airspace east of the Mississippi River with multiple military operating areas in the Great Lakes region.
  • Prime location in the Upper Midwest, which offers opportunities to locate facilities in areas with sparse population to create safe testing corridors.
  • Convenient access and proximity to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the national manufacturing innovation institute, LIFT, and its eight research partners: Carnegie-Mellon University, Michigan State University, Michigan Technological University, Purdue University, The Ohio State University, University of Notre Dame, University of Michigan and Western Michigan University."

While we might not send people to space from the mitten, we could build most of what's involved and even send up satellites.

“The goal is to create an entire ecosystem. So from engineering, prototyping, manufacturing, and integrated with the technologies of artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, quantum and edge computing, along with advanced manufacturing, gives us the ability to be a not just a participant but an emerging leader with the emerging technologies,” Brown explained.

Growing the industry will also help keep talent from leaving to work in other areas.

“My hopes that we can build this industry to where we can bring our kids back to Michigan, and keep those that are graduating with the type of knowledge that the space industry needs,” Senator Zorn said.

So is this just a wish upon a shooting star? Or can we start the countdown?

“The opportunities we talk about are not conceptual, that they're actually here for us to take hold of,” Brown added.

Michigan’s aerospace-related companies produce more than $3 billion in annual revenue.

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