Santa Barbara County joins commercial space partnership

Santa Barbara County has officially signed on to the regional partnership working to develop a thriving commercial space industry at Vandenberg Air Force Base and the surrounding area.

County supervisors voted unanimously this morning to join the existing ​Memorandum of Understanding​ between REACH, Cal Poly State University, Deloitte, the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) and the 30th Space Wing, and to support development of Phase 1 of a master plan for commercial space on the Central Coast.

“Economic development and job creation are paramount as we work to recover from the impacts of Covid-19,” Board Chair Bob Nelson said following the vote. “This is a tangible action the county can take to help lay the groundwork for a growing industry to take root and flourish on the Central Coast.”

“It’s an important milestone in the county’s economic development efforts,” Supervisor Gregg Hart said at the meeting. “These are very high-paying jobs that have real potential in regards to economic development in Santa Barbara County, and we want to be an active partner and participant in this planning effort so that we can help deliver good-paying jobs to the residents of Santa Barbara County.”

The county first ​signaled its interest​ in joining the MOU shortly after it was signed in July and offered project participation by Assistant County Executive Officer Nancy Anderson.

With Santa Barbara County on board, Phase 1 of the master plan is expected to be complete by spring. It will build on the ​Phase 0 report​ released in July with the ecosystem, stakeholder and industry assessments required before a state- and federal-funded Phase 2 with analysis and recommendations.

“We’re excited to have Santa Barbara County join this landmark partnership,” said Andrew Hackleman, vice president at REACH, which was recently recognized by the Governor’s Military Council as the​ official community support organization​ for Vandenberg. “We now have all the critical parties at the table to leverage the opportunities presented by an exploding commercial space market and the incredible asset we have in Vandenberg Air Force Base.”

Cultivating a commercial space cluster is a key initiative of ​REACH 2030​, a 10-year action plan to spur job growth and create a sustainable regional economy.

The region boasts several attributes that make it an ideal location for commercial space operations, a sector that is likely to lead high-quality job growth over the coming decades. Vandenberg already maintains active launch capabilities and could support a larger cluster of space-related activities with companies across the industry ecosystem, from manufacturing and launch to maintenance and support.

“It offers a tremendous opportunity for us to see how, particularly in North County, we can develop in a way that’s supportive of the on-base commercial space launches,” Supervisor Joan Hartmann said of the master plan project. “There are a lot of assets particularly at UCSB that can be brought to North County and be brought to this effort, so I’m really enthusiastic.”

Supervisor Das Williams applauded taking a proactive step on economic development: “It’s good that the county and some of the cities are not relying on what used to be the South Santa Barbara County economic development strategy, which was, to sum it up, ‘We’re so beautiful that somebody’s going to do business here no matter what we do.’”

Supervisor Steve Lavagnino rebuffed concerns that the county has been down this road before with little return: “No one’s ever come to our Board of Supervisors before to encourage us to get involved like they have this time,” Lavagnino said of base leadership under Commander Col Anthony Mastalir. “The opportunity is ripe and where better to spend some of our cannabis (tax) money than investing it in the possibility of restarting the economic engine of Vandenberg Air Force Base.”

Find out more about the landmark partnership forged last year ​here​.