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Uniting States for Space.

How do US States navigate complex policies and create strong space ecosystems? Find out from the Director of ASA Ross Garelick Bell.



Deep Space


Ross Garelick Bell is the Executive Director of the Aerospace States Association (ASA). ASA is an organization of state lieutenant governors, governor appointed delegates, state legislators, territorial and tribal government representatives and associate members from aerospace businesses, organizations, and academia. ASA brings together aviation and aerospace interests across each state to educate state legislators on issues specific to their state and provide networking opportunities to grow jobs and expand economic development. 

You can connect with Ross on LinkedIn and learn more about ASA on their website.

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How do U.S. states navigate complex policies and create strong ecosystems to grow aerospace in their region? Do they just go about it by themselves, or do they unify to help support the federal government? Surely, there's a one-stop-shop to help them, right? Welcome to T-Minus Deep Space from N2K Networks. I'm Maria Varmausis. To answer the question from the top of the show, the Aerospace States Association, also known as ASA, is an organization of state lieutenant governors, governor-appointed delegates, state legislators, territorial and tribal government representatives, and associate members from aerospace businesses, organizations, and academia. ASA brings together aviation and aerospace interests across each state to educate state legislators on issues specific to their state and provide networking opportunities to grow jobs and expand economic development. My guest to tell me more is Ross Garellick Bell. My name is Ross Garellick Bell. I am the executive director of the Aerospace States Association, as well as consultant for many tribes across the nation. Thank you so much for joining me today. I'm honestly really looking forward to learning more about the Aerospace States Association. Can we just start with that? Can you sort of give me the pitch for the Aerospace States Association? Sure. And thank you for having me today. Well, the Aerospace States Association is the only organization at the state level that focuses on aerospace policy at the state, tribe, and territorial level. We are made up of the governments themselves, which means that the government's paid dues to the organization. And it's usually the state lieutenant governor or state elected officials that they don't have a lieutenant governor like Arizona, a couple other states where maybe the state legislators that get involved with the governor's office to represent their views on what's going on policy-wise in the aerospace community. We've recently opened it up to tribal governments and territories as well. The basis for ASA originally from the history was kind of being able to coalesce the states together to push for federal initiatives. One of the big pushes back in the late '90s was for spaceports. You have a New Mexico and Florida and other places. And the states wanted the federal government to open that up because of the airspace issues being controlled by FAA, the new idea of commercial activity and space tourism. And so the states got together, and that's where ASA came about, to push for that federal initiative in a unified voice. Now the organization has kind of morphed into both pushing at the federal level that unified voice of either for something or stop something, whichever may be beneficial for the states and tribes, but also looking internally. Because you have term limits and other barriers to education on a complicated issue as aerospace, you do lose a lot of institutional knowledge of reelection of what the state's doing in the area. ASA has helped a lot of states reconstitute state chapters, we call it, so that the entities within a state can start communicating and also then educating the elected officials on what's going on, what actually aerospace activity there is, why they need to focus on it, what's the infrastructure issues, what are the education issues in the state. And if they're looking at, say, going for a test site, like the first issue was drone test sites back earlier 2010s. It was just yesterday. No, exactly. I know, I get it. But it was one of those where like an example I used is California, used to have the California Space Authority that kind of dissolved, there was nothing there. Then the drone test sites came up and two different areas of the state competed for the site, against places across the country. And what ended up happening is California, which had the largest drone industry in the country, didn't get a test site, kind of bumped itself out. Every state around it did. And so it became the idea that maybe they need to have an organization that gets everybody on the same page so that when an application is submitted, it's submitted uniformly with the whole support of the state, but what the government's behind it, and they can go for it. And I think they did that following on like a center of excellence to get that submitted. So the organization has kind of grown to start doing these state chapters. And then again, the educational wise, the chapters would host like an aerospace day at the Capitol, where they're highlighting what's going on in the state, whether it's a manufacturing issue or they launch or they're looking at developing new tourism or they're part of a NASA program that's going to the moon and Mars through the student government, student works at the universities. That's really cool. So that unified voice makes a lot of sense. And as someone who has only the most surface level understanding of how the US government works both at a federal and state level, I'm fascinated by this because it is much more complicated. Every time I learn a little more, I'm like, it's always way more complicated than I realize that institutional knowledge that you mentioned is so important and that unified voice as well. And when I was looking at the website, it makes sense to me, but I feel like it's worth noting it's not every single state in the country that has is part of this. States only certain states, but the ones that are part of it makes a lot of sense that they're there. What we have is states that are active and states that aren't active. And a lot of that fluctuates based on who's elected and what their issues are. Every politician runs on a platform and their issues, it also depends on the lieutenant governor's job description. They may not be someone that's, their job is not focusing on that. They'd be something completely different. And so it's finding that it is a champion that's in the state that may want to push it. But every state is a member and territory. It's just whether they're active and if they've wanted to set up a chapter. So it's not a guide on our site to say, does this, if the state's not on our page active, that they don't have aerospace. You know, Texas is a very large active state. They're not as active in ASA right now. They have been in the past. It kind of just fluctuates. And it just depends on what's moving at the moment for that kind of government body. That's a very important distinction and correction. Thank you for that. That was my misunderstanding. So I appreciate that very much. So that's really good to know. And you mentioned the lieutenant governor. So that is, to me, an interesting thing that it's the lieutenant governor sort of leading this. What, what does that involvement mean exactly? Well, I'm not sure the real basis how that kind of got created with the organization besides it was some lieutenant governors that were pushing for the issue at the time. And maybe it was because in some states, lieutenant governors don't have much on their agenda because they're there to be a split vote in the, in the Senate to preside over the Senate, but they don't have much activities outside that other lieutenant governors run a whole state. I mean, they're just down to gambling. So it's just like, they just had, they just kind of got nominated because some of them had time. So that's how it is. Yeah. And so I've heard from my predecessors, that's how some of it came about, you know, but lieutenant governor is going to be governors. They go on to be senators, congressmen. And so what's beneficial for the corporation members too, to get involved is they're meeting these politicians as they're climbing higher up. And it's a good opportunity to get to know them before they go to Congress, where they can get a bubble around them of staff and everything. This is a more intimate, personal way to get somebody involved in an issue in a part of their career where they're still looking at, in most cases, climbing into a different office later on. That's really fascinating. That's a fascinating note. I never would have thought of that. It is such a long game though, isn't it? This really is how the sausage is made. That's so cool. We'll be right back after this quick break. So the ASA, I'm sure, is working on a lot of different things, coordinating on a lot of different things, policies, big, high level discussions. What are some highlights of what's a priority right now? The biggest issue that seems to be uniform among the states, and I say uniform because each state depends if they have a spaceport and stuff like that. But one of the biggest issues is workforce development. Every state that I've gone to this year on dealing with their aerospace state, their state day, they usually will have a round table with the elected officials to talk about that. And the big thing that comes up is workforce development. What does the state need to do to retain their workforce, to grow their workforce? Some states have great educational institutions, but the students are all leaving to go to jobs in other states. So how do they keep the students in their state? What's the barrier there? Well, they already have a lot of companies, but they're still seeing a lot of people leave. What does the legislature need to do? Is there a tax incentive that needs to be done? Is there quality of life issues that need to be improved to draw people to that area? Is it infrastructure problems, mobility of getting around? There's not enough bike trails. What is the driving issue to help? So one of the things that we'll be having at our annual meeting, because this is something that we've also talked to folks at the National Space Council on, is that data points. Where is the data from? How do you collect it? How many students are in these programs? Where are they going? And each state kind of has different points that they're collecting, but it's not in uniform. And so we're going to have a discussion at our meeting coming up in New Orleans with the National Space Council to get those data points uniform so that it can be seen what needs to be infused, where it needs to be infused. What are the programs that kids are going into? What point do they get interested in STEM? Like where it sticks, not just, like I was a kid, I build model rockets, it's cool. I get distracted and I get into politics. What area do they get into to be an engineer? And what do you count as somebody in the industry? Because again, it's not just an engineer. You do have your policy folks. You do have your teachers. You have even musicians and are doing stuff. And the artwork and other programs that come in in different ways to facilitate that community. So we'll be discussing that because the states, there is a need to figure out these data points and start tracking it in some way to kind of see what they need to do. If they're, of all the money they're throwing into different things is working. Hey, that's an important question to answer. I mean, that is the question, isn't it? Workforce development especially is, I mean, I feel like it's the hottest topic. And if something's not effective, why isn't it? So yes, standardizing that data, that's very important. Again, this is very how the sausage is made stuff. This is where we find out that information. It is really cool stuff to be hearing about. And I know there's also work happening across the states and tribes and territories. And then there's also things happening sort of at a more micro level within the states, tribes and territories. Like what's going on there? Any highlights there? Well, there's one program I've been working on personally that I kind of find cool. And it merges two areas I've worked in for a while with aerospace and tribes. One area that we went to, just kind of was an offshoot of discussion ideas, was to figure out a way, you know, a NASA spin-off technology is big. We all know that what NASA develops ends up in the marketplace and changes our lives. But it's hard for people to get that tangible. And especially when it comes to Congress and funding. And so one of the discussions I heard and got interesting was in 3D printed buildings and structures, which is something NASA has been looking at for printing on the moon and Mars. And particularly using local resources to do that printing so that you don't have to ship everything up there. You obviously want to use the local soil and figure out what mix you need to do and then have it be able to be built by a robot first. So those facilities are there when the astronauts arrive is the concept. Then it has to be mobile. Well those things also fit in remote areas of the country like in Indian country. The idea that we brought up to NASA Marshall was can we do the testing, originally the testing of this kind of construction on a house in Indian country where there's a huge housing shortage. Because the idea also is if you can print in 3D, you can reduce the overhead by two-thirds eventually. So also now it's the third of the cost, but it's customizable so it can be printed in any design you want. So it gives homeowner pride and home ownership, but it also can be cultural understandings of say not printing corners and printing curves, which for several cultures is very important. And so you make it more culturally sensitive. It's practical. It's concrete, so it's weather resistant in a lot of ways. And so after discussing this with HUD and then bring it to the Hill and saying why don't we look at NASA Tech to work for housing authorities in Indian country, we finally have a project that's going to be coming soon hopefully to get something like that. We do have right now that's in Teglesco University. NASA Marshall has done some great stuff there with partnering up with the state to do a program to start educating students there. And so that's going to be kicking off, I understand this year. And then there's a couple other projects that may be announced very shortly. I shouldn't give away too much right now, but it's exciting to see the tech being looked at for those different projects. I think there's stuff up in Alaska too now that you're looking at the same tech as well. And so it's great to see where you're starting to see, where people can see how that aerospace kind of can be that and can be, you know, on the top of like the other side is drone technology where you're starting to see the tribes and stuff get into that as well for search and rescue and other things where they can see these different technologies their students can get into without having to leave their homes, which is big. Being able to give something that can let them stay attached to their community, but also look at good paying jobs is what we're seeing here. So there's a lot of excitement on this. And so very excited to see the technology transfer being looked at with companies that are working with NASA and the NASA being a great partner from NASA Marshall to see that these, the tribal colleges are getting these opportunities to teach these programs that they never would have looked at before without that kind of assistance. So it's, it's cool. That is so cool. That is, that is really life changing for so many people. That is super neat. Thank you for sharing about that. That's so cool. I want to make sure I give you the last word. So anything you want to leave our audience with any thing you want to tell them anything I didn't ask about you wanted to mention this is your chance. Well, I appreciate again the opportunity of, you know, speak to you today and you know, I am a political person, so I do speak a lot and I fill up the time quickly. But I know that we have our annual meeting coming up in New Orleans. That's one of those opportunities where you can sit down with the elected officials, talk about issues important. It's not like a general meeting. It's a very intimate kind of discussion between leaders, but they'll be to worry NASA, Mishu and Stennis to kind of get understanding there. But the important thing I want to leave with this, just remember that you can't get the Rockets bill. You can't get to space without going through the states. It's the state legislatures that make the technology that give the infrastructure and give the ability, give the school systems for everything that the feds do. And so a lot of folks forget that you can't get there without going through the states. And that's what we're here to make sure is the states have the tools they need. That's it for Team Ina's Deep Space, brought to you by N2K Cyberwire. We'd love to know what you think of this podcast. You can email us at space@n2k.com or submit the survey in the show notes. Your feedback ensures that we deliver the information that keeps you a step ahead in the rapidly changing space industry. Team Ina's Deep Space is produced by Alice Carruth, our associate producer is Liz Stokes. We are mixed by Elliot Peltzman and Trey Hester with original music by Elliot Peltzman. Our executive producer is Jennifer Iban. Our executive editor is Brandon Karp. Simone Petrella is our president. Peter Kilby is our publisher. And I'm your host, Maria Varmasas. Thanks for listening. We'll see you next time. [MUSIC PLAYING] (gentle music)

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