I've written about space policy and how it relates to Maryland before, but today's Baltimore Sun ran an editorial about Maryland's opportunity for another piece of the pie. The editorial writers have capitalized on the recent satellite launch from the Wallops' Island facility on Virginia's eastern shore, and note the following:
That distinct possibility represents an economic coup not just for Virginia but for Maryland as well. A stone's throw from Chincoteague and Assateague islands, Wallops has long been closely linked to Maryland's Eastern Shore, drawing workers from nearby Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset counties. The benefit to the region is significant — more than 1,600 jobs and nearly $400 million in economic impact, according to a 2011 Salisbury University study.
Such jobs are a prize worth pursuing. From entry-level technician to lead scientist, they are held by highly paid, highly skilled and highly educated individuals. Should Cygnus succeed and land a long-term NASA contract, the sky may literally be the only limit. The Wallops spaceport could support many more such public-private partnerships in space exploration and science.
Is Maryland doing everything possible to support this venture? Certainly, its elected officials have been helpful, particularly U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who has long championed NASA generally and Wallops and other local facilities specifically. But Maryland and the Shore counties must also take steps to attract aerospace professionals and their families by investing in the kinds of lifestyle amenities they seek — good roads and transportation, safe and attractive communities with public assets like museums and parks, quality health care and child care and first-class public schools, colleges and universities.
Rock-bottom tax rates? Lax environmental laws? "Anything goes" development policies? Not usually high on the list for highly-educated white collar professionals or their ilk.