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SpaceCom a Nexus for the Next Generation Space Economy

Published Jun 13, 2019 by A.J. Mistretta



Realizing the full potential of space exploration and technology in the 21st Century requires unprecedented collaboration. 

Now in its fifth year, SpaceCom is an international space commerce conference and exposition -- the only one of its kind where professionals from industry, aerospace, and governments convene to strategically explore opportunities in this age of accelerating commercial space development.

SpaceCom is hosted annually in Houston and is operating under a Space Act Agreement with NASA. In 2019, the Department of Commerce joined NASA in collaborating on the development of the show.

The international focus of the conference has top level space agency and international trade development executives with trade delegations from over 40 countries. The theme of SpaceCom 2019, slated for November 20-21, will be “Launching the one $1 Trillion Space Economy.” 

SpaceCom is part of a Houston delegation attending the Paris Air Show this month. The delegation led by the Greater Houston Partnership will host a series of events to commemorate Houston's role in the Apollo 11 mission and discuss the region's aerospace future. Other participants include the Houston Spaceport, Rice Space Institute and Space Center Houston. 

The Partnership discussed SpaceCom's origins and its path forward with Michael Heckman, senior vice president of Partnerships and Event Development for Houston First Corporation, which helps produce the event. 

Talk a little about the circumstances that led to the creation of SpaceCom. How did it come about?
Houston has long-held a place in the history of space advancement, even before manned-space travel. As the next generation of space has been ushered in, all sectors---government, industry, finance, and education---needed a place to converge and share information.  SpaceCom provides that opportunity for thought leaders, not only from the region but around the world, to meet in Houston every year as we advance towards a resilient, diversified, and global space economy.      

How has the conference expanded through the years? (exhibitors, scope, attendees, whatever you want to share).

SpaceCom supports the strategic development of the emerging space market through collaborative information sharing; networking opportunities; and education on technology advancements, trends, financing, regulation, and more. SpaceCom has become the only conference and exposition where international professionals from private industry, aerospace, and government convene to strategically explore business opportunities in this age of accelerating commercial space development. In 2018, the conference hosted attendees and exhibitors from 37 countries.

Why is this a particularly advantageous time to be looking at innovations in space exploration?  

The industry is predicted to grow rapidly with an expected net worth of, at minimum, one trillion dollars by 2040. This is due in large part to commercial space advancements such as manned space travel, but also includes terrestrial applications such as communication and observation satellites, managing space debris, creating and enforcing space law and treaties, new healthcare practices, and many other opportunities across industries. Additionally, there is already significant financial interest supporting these advancements.

As we approach the monumental anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing this summer, how will this year’s SpaceCom be different?  

The biggest change is a collaboration with the Department of Commerce’s office of Space Commerce and with the DOE and FAA. This has supplemental tailwinds from the White House, Congress, and industry that are now reflected in the conference program. Additionally, SpaceCom will continue to boast leading technical innovations used today like low earth orbit applications while also looking forward to future opportunities such as the mission to return to the moon in 5 years, going to Mars, low trajectory travel initiatives, and the continued development of commercial space travel.

What do you hope to gain by bringing SpaceCom to the Paris Air Show?    

We want to ensure that attending and exhibiting companies are familiar with the educational and networking opportunities that SpaceCom provides as the leading commercial and space conference and expo in America. There is no other place where all 10 NASA centers, aerospace, and industry come together to support the globalization of space technology, commerce, and exploration.

The Partnership is also hosting a NASA Tour and Panel Lunch event as part of its Regions and Neigbhorhoods program on June 19. Learn more about that event and sign up today. 

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Carlos Gutierrez Discusses USMCA, Coronavirus, China and More in Global Houston Conversation

Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez has spent decades working in global trade and international business. He was the youngest CEO in the history of the Kellogg Company when he took that post in 1999. Under President George W. Bush, Gutierrez served as Secretary of Commerce from 2005 to 2009 where he worked with foreign government and business leaders to advance economic relationships, enhance trade, and promote U.S. exports. He is currently Chair of Albright Stonebridge Group, a global business strategy group based in Washington D.C.  With the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on trade, supply chains and business around the world, Gutierrez offered his perspective on the current situation and what the future holds for the U.S. in a conversation with Partnership President and CEO Bob Harvey for our State of Houston’s Global Economy virtual event. Below are a few highlights from Gutierrez’s remarks and watch the full conversation via the video. Click here for Partnership Senior Vice President of Research Patrick Jankowski’s presentation in the virtual event.  A Soft Global Economy  Gutierrez said the world economy was strong before the pandemic struck, though growth was beginning to slow. The U.S. was a bright spot within the broader global picture. He anticipates the global economy will be soft for the foreseeable future with no sharp, dramatic rebound. “Even though businesses have reopened that doesn’t mean consumers are ready to go back to those businesses,” Gutierrez said. “The economy is reopening but it will be gradual and incremental. It will take a while to get all of those [currently unemployed] back in the workforce and get businesses growing again at the capacity they were.”  Ahead: Tackling a Major Deficit  It could be late 2021 before we see strong U.S. economic growth again, Gutierrez said, warning that at that point we will have to deal with our fiscal deficit which, when calculated as a percentage of GDP, could be the highest we’ve seen since World War II. “Tackling the deficit will be the main economic challenge coming out of this,” he said.  The Rise of Anti-Trade Sentiment  Though often positioned as good for the economy overall, Gutierrez acknowledged that public sentiment has shifted against global trade in parts of the country in recent years. Some of that shift is due in part to the repercussions from trade agreements like NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement). Job losses in manufacturing and other sectors have damaged regions of the U.S. and led to anti-trade attitudes that were amplified during the 2016 election and in the years since by the Trump Administration. Gutierrez said the coronavirus pandemic is likely to add fuel to the ideas of self-sufficiency and self-reliance among nations worldwide. “It is turning into a global trend and we will see that continue.”  The Evolving Relationship with China  Anti-China sentiment has been building for years in the U.S.—the result of everything from an ever-increasing trade deficit to intellectual property concerns. It had been U.S. policy to keep China engaged rather than isolated, despite the tremendous growth in imports and other issues. An anti-China attitude was fostered by then-candidate Trump during the 2016 campaign and has continued during his administration. Gutierrez said the U.S. has been decoupling from China in recent years, from a drop in student exchanges to a massive decline in Chinese foreign direct investment in the U.S. The question now is whether U.S. allies will do the same or use that action to gain market share or favor with China.  Staying Competitive  Gutierrez points out that the United States’ macro-economic model when it comes to trade relies on lower priced inputs and higher valued outputs. That is what has made us so competitive in trade. Now, he said, “we’re going to have to remain competitive in an environment where manufacturing will return [to our shores], which means we may see prices go up. That’s something we’re going to have to manage as we rely more on ourselves. It will require a different way of achieving competitiveness.” Gutierrez said the nation’s best opportunity to remain competitive will be through technology and productivity.  A Rough Start for USMCA  When it comes to the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement that has replaced NAFTA, Gutierrez said he’s optimistic, though there are still kinks to work out. He points to sectors such as the automobile industry where the U.S. sees certain jobs as essential and Mexico does not. That lack of synchronization can lead to cross-border supply chain issues. Gutierrez said USMCA is particularly fragile right now because of the pandemic and the supply chain and trade issues it’s causing. “We’re not yet seeing the benefits that we will see with USMCA.”  Preparing Workers for a Changing Economy  Gutierrez said the pandemic has accelerated the use of technology in an unprecedented way. “We’ve known for a long time that the digital economy will change how we work and it’s not a new trend,” he said. “This crisis has made it a step-change. We have now seen the arrival of that new digital economy at scale and that will hurt employment, it will put some workers out of a job. We need to be thinking about retraining employees and taking this a lot more seriously.” That commitment to retraining and reskilling could take the form of industry-led initiatives like the Partnership’s own UpSkill Houston effort or perhaps broader efforts at the national level. But Gutierrez said what’s clear is that the future will be less about a diploma from a specific university and more about skills. “It’s going to be training workers for skills from the shop floor to the c-suite.”  For more on the conversation between Harvey and Gutierrez, including comparisons between the Great Recession (2007-2009), which Gutierrez helped manage through, and the current situation, watch the full video above. Click here for Patrick Jankowski's economic report. 
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