California’s leading position as one of the top markets for aerospace related research and development cannot be maintained without significant attention from the Legislature and the Governor. California accounts for nearly 9% of the world’s aerospace R&D, but a globally competitive marketplace threatens the state’s leadership role. What California needs is an Aerospace Commission, and that’s why Senator Ben Allen’s SB 1215 is a critically important piece of legislation.
The proposal is as straightforward as it is non-controversial, California needs an Aerospace Commission to help the state maintain and expand its leadership role in aerospace related sectors. In California, the aerospace industry employs over 200,000 Californians directly, and supports more than half a million jobs in related fields.
That number is probably a conservative one, for example, AirMap (the company I co-founded) employed four people a year ago, and now employs more than twenty five. All of the leading, fast growing, drone companies are in California or have major California offices. From AirMap and Drone Base in Santa Monica, to Google, Amazon Prime Air, Airware, DJI, 3D Robotics, Kespry, SkyCatch and Skydio (among others) in Silicon Valley.
Drone start-ups aren’t traditional aerospace companies, and neither are companies who are taking a commercial approach to space, like SpaceX, Terra Bella and Planet Labs. There is a long tail of support infrastructure, suppliers and software developers behind each of these companies. Their existence here in California proves that the industry in the state has a bright future ahead of it.
Combining Silicon Valley and Silicon Beach smarts with California’s existing lead in aerospace can dramatically expand the state’s contributions to the global aerospace market. That can only happen if the state can focus on identifying and recommending changes in federal, state, and local statutes and regulations that will enhance the development of aerospace-related activities throughout California.
A California Aerospace Commission will help the state make the right decisions about how to expand California’s leadership role. As proposed in SB 1215, the Commission will report to the Legislature and Governor on economic and employment impacts, provide strategic planning documents, and make recommendations for appropriate government policy that supports and enhances aerospace-related activities.
California has an Avocado Commission, a Strawberry Commission, but no Aerospace Commission — despite the fact that the aerospace industry generates more annual revenues than the agriculture industry and as much revenue as the agriculture industry and the entertainment industry combined.
California’s aerospace present and future deserves more attention from our elected leaders in Sacramento. With the right investment and economic policies, California will continue to be a worldwide leader in research, development, manufacturing and deployment of aerospace technologies for decades to come. California needs an Aerospace Commission focused on arming elected officials with the best research and analysis, that’s why California’s SB 1215 is a must-pass bill.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.com.