Lunar Landing Launches Houston Aerospace Industry

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Neil Armstrong's famous first words from the moon 40 years ago could have accurately said, "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for Houston." NASA's successful mission to the moon in 1969 solidified the Houston region as a global leader in aerospace. Building upon a strong concentration of aerospace and aviation companies over the past 50 years, the Greater Houston Partnership, the region's economic development catalyst, has worked to attract, retain and grow hundreds of these companies with the lunar landing as a pivotal point.

That's one small step for man; one giant leap for Houston.

Neil Armstrong's famous first words from the moon 40 years ago could have accurately said, "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for Houston." NASA's successful mission to the moon in 1969 solidified the Houston region as a global leader in aerospace.

Building upon a strong concentration of aerospace and aviation companies over the past 50 years, the Greater Houston Partnership, the region's economic development catalyst, has worked to attract, retain and grow hundreds of these companies with the lunar landing as a pivotal point.

"Even by Texas standards, the region's huge growth in aerospace and aviation employment, companies, new degree programs, engineering and scientific innovation is truly astounding," said Jeff Moseley, President and CEO of the Partnership. "NASA and the Johnson Space Center are magnets for growth."

The Houston area-based Johnson Space Center (JSC) continues to attract the nation's best high-tech professionals and has become an aerospace hub and transfer site for NASA-developed technology. Today, NASA's largest research and development facility remains an economic driver for the Houston region, beginning with a payroll of more than $1.5 billion a year with nearly 3,400 NASA workers and more than 13,000 contract personnel supporting Mission Control. NASA's presence in the region provides a powerful base attracting a wave of brainpower through a diverse network of research, engineering and education organizations with ties to aerospace technology.

To name a few:

  • Texas Southern University's NASA Center for Bionanotechnology and Environmental Research contributes substantially to the agency's programs through multi-disciplinary scientific, engineering and commercial research efforts with minority universities.
  • Rice University's Department of Space Physics and Astronomy carries out collaborations with NASA on satellites, space craft and the Hubble space telescope.
  • The University of Houston - Clear Lake offers the nation's first academic program for management of advanced space technology, human performance and computer science applications in space.

In addition, a variety of spin-off technologies have evolved from original NASA research including Lasik surgery, improved weather forecasting, the heart assist pump known as the Ventricular Assist Device (LVAD), satellite TV and clearer MRIs. While the fruits of NASA intelligence are seen around the world, Houston ultimately benefits from the talented work force that has steadily grown over the past 40 years.

Patrick Jankowski, Vice President of Research for the Partnership, notes that 1969 was a pivotal year for growth in the Houston region on many levels. Houston Intercontinental Airport, now Bush Intercontinental, opened on June 1, 1969; Shell Oil announced that it was moving its corporate headquarters from New York to Houston; Neiman Marcus opened the door to haute couture in Houston anchoring what has grown into a mega fashion center; the one millionth telephone was installed; and Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and the Sons of the Pioneers opened the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

"Though Houston has always reached for the stars, we have not lost touch with our roots," said Jankowski.

To secure continued economic growth for the 10-county Houston region, the Partnership embarked upon a 10-year Strategic Plan in 2005. From this plan, the innovative Opportunity Houston SM lead generation and marketing program was born. The program will help grow jobs in the Houston region by more than 600,000; increase capital investment by $60 billion; and trade by $120 billion by the end of 2015. The program targets diverse industries such as aerospace and aviation; biotechnology and life science; nanotechnology; IT; and energy as the engines to build economic prosperity.

The chart attached illustrates the significant impact the lunar landing made on the Houston aerospace industry, depicting growth from 1969 to present day.

About The Greater Houston Partnership:
The Greater Houston Partnership is the primary advocate of the Houston's business community and is dedicated to building regional economic prosperity. It represents 10 counties: Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, San Jacinto and Waller. Opportunity Houston SM is an aggressive five-year marketing and lead generation program that will help grow jobs, increase capital investment and expand foreign trade for the region by the end of 2015. Visit the Greater Houston Partnership at houston.org.

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