Searching for the Space Economy

The Space Economy pops up in the most unlikely places. For years, I drove by an office building in Blacksburg with a sign out front for a company called Phoenix Integration. I knew that they were some kind of software company, but never gave it much thought.

A profile in the Sunday paper (the Roanoke Times) indicates that Phoenix is tightly hooked into the emerging Space Economy. The eight year old company with 18 employees provides software for the biggest aerospace companies around, including Boeing, Raytheon, Northrup Grumman, GE, and NASA.

The software they write and sell allows spacecraft designers and engineers to collaborate, share data, and work on design drawings jointly even though they are thousands of miles apart.

Among other projects supported by Phoenix ModelCenter software is the GoFast spacecraft, which is in advanced testing at the Nevada SpacePort.

Add Phoenix Integration to the advanced composites manufacturing facility just down the road in Smyth county, and southwest Virginia may have a toehold in the emerging Space Economy, with an economic development cluster focused on aerospace technologies.

Could southwest Virginia become a major player? Only if economic developers do two things: Survey existing businesses to locate all businesses in the region that are providing goods and services to the space industry, and then make space a key part of economic development initiatives, like New Mexico is doing.

How about your area? In the last six months, I've stumbled, literally, across two very sophisticated Space Industry businesses in my own region. What about your area? Have you even asked?

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