Aerospace drives economy, innovations
The aerospace industry has always been a major driver of Antelope Valley’s economy. A report released last year details just how big a role the industry plays. Aerospace companies and contractors—many of which are housed at the Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale and the Mojave Air and Space Port—provide nearly 30,000 jobs (including civilian and military positions), with an annual payroll greater than $1 billion. The industry spending adds almost $600 million to the local economy and creates nearly 20,000 indirect jobs—all of which adds up to an almost $3 billion annual economic impact.
The companies that call Antelope Valley home range from defense industry giants like Northrup Grumman and Lockheed Martin to Monarch Inc. in Ridgecrest, which operates drones for agriculture, mining, surveying, and renewable energy companies.
The Mojave Air and Space Port, once a World War II Marine Corps training base, is now the fifth-largest aerospace employer in the region. It also provides development and testing facilities for 70 tenants, including Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Co., Masten Space Systems, and Stratolaunch Systems.
Aerospace & defense impacts on Kern County
From weapons development to civilian spaceflight, all aspects of aerospace and defense can be found in Kern County, especially in Antelope Valley. A 2016 report from the Kern County Economic Development Corporation summarizes some highlights and developments from the region, which include:
- Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipOne was the first privately funded, built and manned spacecraft to successfully launch into space from the Mojave Air and Space Port.
- The Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division at China Lake is home to laboratories, ranges, and weapons test squadrons. Almost 2,000 scientists and engineers are employed here to design, develop, and test the tools that will be used to defend the country in the 21st
- The Edwards Air Force Base is home to the Air Force Flight Test Center. Virtually everything the Air Force uses—every aircraft and everything that goes on or in an aircraft—is tested and developed here.
A huge percentage of California’s roughly 139,000 high-wage, full-time aerospace jobs are in Kern County. These jobs are likely to stay (and grow) thanks to the open land and weather, proximity to Los Angeles, and high education levels in the region.
RENEWBIZ grant program makes funds available for local improvement projects
Each year, up to $300,000 in grants is provided to local businesses and nonprofits for revitalization and beautification projects in unincorporated communities in Kern County.
The Renewable Energy Neighborhood Enhancement Wind Business Investment Zone program, or RENEWBIZ, uses funds from increased property taxes generated by the wind energy industry. The funds are allocated in grants of up to $10,000 for projects in downtown Mojave, Rosamond, Boron, and Old Town Tehachapi. The projects improve the downtown cores of these communities in order to spur more investment and enhance residents’ quality of life.
As part of the program, all four communities have created a vision plan for their core downtown areas. These plans outline the ultimate goals for each community. Projects must adhere to these goals in order to receive grant funding. (Read all vision plans at the Kern County website.)
Past RENEWBIZ projects have included:
- Adding murals and other exterior improvements to the Elks Lodge in Mojave
- Moving the Mojave Chamber of Commerce visitor center (in a retired caboose—appropriate for the community given its history with the railroad)
- Creating an outdoor event center and painting a mural in Rosamond
Energy, economic growth in Antelope Valley
After a slow recovery from the Great Recession in 2008-2009, Antelope Valley is showing signs of catching up to L.A. County and the rest of the state. Employment in the region rose 4.2% in 2014, when the nation’s job growth rate was 1.9% and California’s was 2.9%. City officials throughout the region are optimistic about what this means for the future.
The government sector saw the highest job growth, according to a 2016 report by the economic department for the Greater Antelope Valley Economic Alliance. Health care and social services, retail, and accommodation and food services are other major job providers—and all are poised to grow. Two new hotels, for example, are under construction in Palmdale, which are expected to bring more tourists and business travelers. Construction jobs are also expected to increase soon, with hundreds of homes and residential developments in the planning stages.
With all this growth, county and city officials are looking to build the momentum to attract more jobs and employers to Antelope Valley. They are planning to attract growing companies with affordable land and create attractive communities—with affordable housing—to bring more workers to the region.