In-Depth Report

New York Space Economy: Potential Growth Under Threat

Patrick Chase
Jun 28 2022
(Image Source)

Space means business for New York.

Initial analysis from Empire Space reveals over 160 companies in space, aerospace, and related defense fields that employ at least 40,000 people across the state. These companies specialize in everything including rocketry, satellites, space habitat design, electronics, tourism, and a wide range of manufacturing specializations. These companies inhabit every corner of the state, from the tip of Long Island to the shores of the roaring Niagara Falls.

We constructed the Empire Space Census database from publicly available sources, all of which we have provided throughout our data tables. We are constantly on the hunt for new data sources to better refine the information we provide.

We encourage you to dive into this data and learn about what’s going on in your region, or find potential partners for your organization. This database is still under construction, and we are continuously updating and refining our datasets to present a more accurate picture of the New York space ecosystem

New York’s Space Economy

One primary measure of New York’s space ecosystem is simple: jobs.

Empire Space tracks roughly 40,000 jobs that are sustained by the space ecosystem in every corner of the state, a diverse array of companies and facilities that includes rocketry, tourism, software, robotics, engineering, and flight simulation. While some of these facilities are satellite operations of much larger global conglomerates, New York is home to a significant aerospace manufacturing network throughout Long Island in addition to other homegrown companies Upstate.

Another metric to study the New York space economy is company revenues. Global combined revenue of companies with at least 1 space, aerospace, or space & defense facility in New York is over $150 billion, although exact comprehensive figures are still difficult to come by. While a significant fraction of this revenue is generated out of state, this demonstrates the heft of the space sector companies operating here.

This network is statewide, with companies employing people in every corner of the state. Some form of aerospace related manufacturing occurs in all 10 regions of the state, and almost every region is home to at least 1 innovative design or research company operating in the space or aerospace sectors. The regions with the greatest employment include Western New York (>14000), Long Island (>9000), the Southern Tier (>7500), the Finger lakes (>5000), and New York City (>3000).

The reality is that Long Island is the historical center of gravity for the private sector component of the New York space ecosystem. With roughly 100 companies listed, Long Island entries are approximately half of the companies Empire Space has documented so far, an impressive ratio. This ecosystem is the still breathing legacy of the region’s heyday, when the Apollo Lunar Landers were being developed and built right here in New York. Yet the days of mass employment by giant aerospace firms are behind us, and the next chapter of private sector growth in the space sector is still being written.

Defense and military contracting plays a critical role in the state’s space private sector network, with 70+ companies playing vital parts in the nation’s national security establishment. The crown jewel of this network is actually not a private company but the Air Force, who’s Regional Information Directorate campus in Rome now serves the US Space Force. Part of the rapidly growing space and aerospace hub centered on the Griffiss Institute, this potent economic engine warranted inclusion on the private companies table due to its significant regional economic impact and creation of almost 1,000 jobs in the Mohawk Valley and Central New York.

NASA also plays a role with a number of these companies in a wide range of fields including optics, architecture & design, precision machining & metalworking, electronics, and rocketry. These NASA connected companies collectively employ over 800 people throughout the state, and parts made in New York have flown in numerous NASA missions around the Solar System. NASA is engaged with the New York private sector, a critical connection that must be nurtured and expanded in the years ahead.

There is also a small but growing space tourism sector in New York. A number of New York City travel firms and one prominent Finger Lakes firm have licensed Virgin Galactic travel agents, and DePrez Global has facilitated ZeroG flight experiences in the state.

Companies don’t exist in a vacuum, and these space ecosystem employers are plugged in with universities, museums, and schools in communities small and large. It is existentially important for the future health of the space ecosystem in New York for these companies to network and grow with these academic and civic partners, building up critical new pools of talent and deepening their roots in the neighborhoods they support.

Why Space Matters

New York has the ability to use this existing economic foundation for future growth in the space ecosystem, bringing new jobs and income to communities throughout the state. Many economic forecasters predict the global space economy to approach $1 trillion in revenue around 2040, and if New York wants to take part in that growth we need to begin planning for it NOW. Development in space also has led to hundreds of incredibly beneficial spinoffs in every imaginable industry, including many developed right here in New York!

Investing in space is quite literally investing in the future. New York should be ahead of that curve, but sadly the story is very different.

Challenges Ahead

So far we have painted a picture of the companies that have successfully made New York their home. Sadly this isn’t always the case, as numerous space and aerospace firms have left the state in recent years, and significant work is necessary to ensure private sector job growth in the space sector moving forward.

In just the last few years a number of active space and aerospace companies have relocated from New York to other regions, stark examples of the pressure and competition other states offer, constantly seeking to lure New York space and aerospace companies to growing space hubs throughout the US.

FlightSafety International, an industry leading flight simulator with a long history in New York, moved its headquarters from Long Island to Columbus, Ohio and opened a multi-million dollar facility at the new Houston Spaceport. Launcher, a New York based rocket company, closed shop in 2021 and relocated to Hawthorne, California to be closer to critical supply chain and customer connections. These relocations cost New York hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars worth of investments and are just some of the more prominent examples of the pressures facing the New York space ecosystem.

Other States Offering Competition

Economies do not grow in a vacuum, and other states are racing ahead of New York to support their domestic space economies. Here are the highlights of the various efforts underway nationwide, courtesy of the extensive analysis of SpaceNews reporter Debra Werner:

> Washington has doubled its space economy in just the last 4 years, focusing on a multi-disciplinary approach across academic and the private sector.
> Colorado is leveraging years of community networking and military ties to take their space economy to a global audience.
> Virginia is benefiting from years of steady development and bi-partisan government support, with an active spaceport facility and growing space startup culture.
> Michigan is leveraging dominance in manufacturing with top universities to build a space ecosystem from scratch.

These are simply a few examples of the intense competition New York faces from other states when it comes to attracting the necessary talent and resources to grow a successful space economy. Sustainable growth in New York will not be possible without greater awareness of these competitive efforts and an ability to incorporate them into our long-term economic planning.

The Path Forward

New York has a significant space economy, with tens of thousands of jobs supported in every region of the state in a wide range of fields from rocketry to architecture. While this is a solid foundation and a valuable contributor to the present New York state economy, there are challenges in the way of future growth, including intense competition from other states.

Future economic growth in New York requires a comprehensive, focused strategy from business, government, and academic leaders in space and aerospace sectors throughout New York. Co-operative action, development of shared goals, and pooling of available resources are critical for New York to attract the talent necessary to grow our space economy.

We thank you for this exploration of the New York space economy, and we hope you found our databases and other resources informative and thought provoking.

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