How can the space industry benefit Michigan's economy?
Brown: The opportunity that the space industry offers the state of Michigan would be comparable to building eight assembly facilities in the automotive world. So we're looking at a growth of about 40,000 jobs. There's 4,000 satellites in space. It's projected to be over 70,000 by 2030. So if you look at the growth, it's exponential. If you look at the revenue that will be generated, it's exponential.
And it's very natural for us to look at the automotive world and autonomous vehicles. And the growth of that is contingent upon consistent broadband connectivity, 5G, for those vehicles to operate. So we have the ability to not only enter into this, but to be the leaders if we so choose, and that will bring a transformational effect to our state.
Can you give a little history lesson on Michigan's past convergence of aerospace and automotive?
Brown: Yes, there was a time when Michigan actually played a very large role. I'll take even a step further back, in World War II at the Willow Run plant with the production of [the B-24 Liberator] plane. We once had a very dominant aerospace industry in the state of Michigan, and it did progress in the early Apollo-Mercury days. What happened is, as Cape Canaveral grew and the auto industry grew in the '60s, I think there was a conscious decision by the automotive makers to focus on the automobile and get out of the rocket industry. So in doing so, you can chart the growth of other rocket launch-capable companies in the '60s, '70s. But we got out of it, I think, primarily because of the focus on the automotive world.
And I think what is now happening is we are seeing that they're complementary and coming back to where they can ... play together. I think what we can do is be a leader in satellite engineering, manufacturing and assembly. We can be dominant in demonstrating how those can be manufactured and assembled in a cost-value proposition because of those efficiencies that we have actually developed and put into play here in the state of Michigan for the automotive world.
Any closing thoughts?
Brown: I oftentimes get asked, "Why Michigan?" And it's a very good question. I think the reason we get asked that is because we have been so auto-centric.
We no longer have to look at one industry as being the driver of our growth in employment and jobs and standard of living.
But we can now enter into the space industry, complement the growth we have in automotive and be a leader once again that the rest of America looks at as a technological manufacturing engineering powerhouse that complements the other states' efforts. And so it's natural to look at Michigan and say not "Why Michigan?" but "Why not Michigan?"