The balloon from China that moseyed across the U.S. – and which was shot down by an advanced fighter jet – is a reminder that a lot goes over our heads.
Much of what passes across the sky (but not the balloon) originated in Southern California, birthplace of aerospace. The industry is one of the region’s most powerful economic engines, and it’s taking flight once again following a nose dive in the 1990s, churning out everything from 3D-printed rockets and robots to hypersonic aircraft and A.I. for front-line soldiers.
To better understand the past and future of aerospace and its enormous impact on Southern California, former U.S. Rep. Jane Harman is moderating a pair of discussions with some of the nation’s leading aerospace experts from government and industry.
A discussion about the future of aerospace will take place April 18 in the Rayburn House Office Building Cafeteriain the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.. The event is being presented in collaboration with Reps. Ted Lieu and Ken Calvert, co-chairs of the California Aerospace Caucus.
Panelists will include:
The first discussion, hosted by the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy on Feb. 28, looked at the legacy and resurgence of Southern California aerospace. Panelists included:
“I couldn’t ask for a more distinguished group of panelists,” said Harman, who currently serves as the Presidential Scholar in Residence at the USC Price School. “This is the A-list of experts.”
Spectrum News is the media partner for both events and will be airing coverage about the Southern California aerospace industry based on the discussions.
Harman is the ideal moderator for the talks. During her nine terms in the House of Representatives, Harman served on every major U.S. House security committee including Armed Services, Intelligence and Homeland Security. Her 36th congressional district encompassed many of the leading aerospace companies in Southern California. She is currently a member of the NASA Advisory Council and the Homeland Security Advisory Council, among other organizations.
Lured by sunshine, cheap land and skilled labor from area universities, including USC, aerospace took off in Los Angeles in the early 20th century about the same time that the cameras started to clatter in Hollywood.
Having helped win the Cold War, the industry fell victim to its own success in the 1990s when the U.S. declared a peace dividend. But aerospace has been on the mend for several years to counter growing military threats, including in space. The industry is also benefiting from its role in digital innovation and the private-sector’s mounting role in space exploration, as exemplified by Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX.
Aerospace remains one of the region’s largest industries. Southern California aerospace generated 268,100 direct and indirect jobs as of 2016, according to the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp., with average wages of $106,200 – almost twice the overall average for area jobs. And the industry spends more than $28 billion on goods and services.
“Aerospace has helped shape Southern California for more than 100 years,” Harman said, “and it will continue to have an outsized impact on the region by anchoring our economy, driving innovation and keeping the entire country safe.”
Update April 13, 2023: This story has been edited to include guests of the second event in the two-part series.