Space technology may come to Austin

An advisory group may give the green light to try bringing space technology companies to Austin.

The Austin Chamber of Commerce set up a space advisory group this summer to research and provide recommendations on whether to try recruiting space technology companies to the city. The group will meet in September to share their verdict with the chamber.

Paul Baffes, an advisory group member and a former NASA employee, said Austin would be missing a major opportunity if the city was not open to recruiting space technology companies.

"I think we've reached a crossroads in human history where we've hit some limits, we've run out of space, we've run out of room, we've run out of resources and space offers a solution for some of those things," Baffes said. "Austin is one of the great innovation cities in the world, and if space is going to be what it has the potential to be, I think we have to connect Austin to what is changing in the space world today."

More than 30 startup companies related to space and space technology launch every year, Baffes said. With SpaceX, a rocket and spacecraft manufacturing operation, planning to relocate to Brownsville, chamber President Mike Rollins said that presents an opportunity to draw more attention to what Austin is and can do for the industry.

"I think it's going to be positive for the state of Texas because clearly there will be a lot of attention due to that launch facility," Rollins said. "We would hope to play off and leverage that if it happens."

Although Austin may not become the next Silicon Valley, it is important to continue diversifying its job market by bringing in companies such as those associated with space, Rollins said.

The space economy will soon rival the Internet economy, and Austin can be at the forefront of that with the skills its residents have when it comes to security and software technology, said Rich Phillips, an advisory group member and president of Austin-based Phillips & Co., which has a focus on space exploration.



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