Thursday, March 3, 2016

Antelope Valley is the Silicon Sky

This is a reprint of an article from the AVPress by Jim Keen After suffering more than its fair share of down time, the Antelope Valley is on the upswing and the outlook for its leading industry, aerospace, is bright. In an essay titled "The Unfolding of Silicon Sky," economist Christopher Thornberg notes the Antelope Valley suffered through hard times in the 1990s from defense cutbacks and was hit hard than most areas in the housing market bust of the Great Recession. "The good news is that the Antelope Valley is on an upward swing and clearly recovering from the recession," Thornberg wrote in the essay, which appears in the 2016 Economic Roundtable Report produced by the Greater Antelope Valley Economic Alliance, or GAVEA. Thornberg is the founder of Beacon Economics and has been a frequent visitor to the Antelope Valley. Thornberg says signs of that upswing include home prices that are increasing at a 9% pace, falling unemployment, taxable sales growing at a healthy 5% rate, population growth holding steady at just under 1%, and overall job growth being at just above 2%. "While new construction remains subdued locally, growing unaffordability in the core areas of Los Angeles will undoubtedly create a new surge in local demand over the next few years," Thornberg wrote. The biggest bright spot is aerospace. "This isn't your father's aerospace industry, back when gutsy test pilots and bigger jet engines defined the industry," Thornberg wrote. "Today, it is all about material sciences and advanced computer technology." Thornberg notes some of the industry's recent milestones, including billionaire Paul Allen opting to build a giant airplane in Mojave to launch satellites into space, Northrop Grumman winning the contract to develop America's next bomber, and activity by the Air Force and the Navy in redesigning major weapon systems in the region. "All of these efforts require massive R&D activity and extensive high-tech supply chains - bringing in a new wave of suppliers and sub-contractors. These will be high-tech firms with highly skilled employees and represent an opportunity for the area to become a high-tech hub," Thornberg wrote. The key for the region is to make it as easy as possible for these companies and workers to come to the Antelope Valley, Thornberg said. The region will also need to make sure the area is a place where tech workers would want to live by improving education, expanding entertainment and retail options, and making space for high-end housing, Thornberg said.

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