We have liftoff -- dare we hope?
A runway capable of taking larger planes than either Sandusky's or Port Cliinton's airport, situated on the grounds of NASA's Plum Brook Research Station, is being viewed not only as a boon for the NASA facility but for the region's overall economic engine.
The immediate benefit to Plum Brook is obvious: The facility has for several years been engaged in testing various outsized pieces of space hardware to see how well they'll function in the airlessness and temperature extremes of space. Plum Brook's role in the planned moon and Mars programs will only increase that activity.
But it's been difficult to get the hardware from the nearest airport capable of taking the planes that carry it, to the testing site.
Less immediately obvious, but plain enough, is the utility of the airstrip to other local industries, because the airstrip would be handy to firms all around the area. A study commissioned by Erie County points to the possibility of $30 million worth of economic development flying in to that airstrip every year.
Still less obvious are the benefits of regional cooperation. The Federal Aviation Administration, whose blessing is required for any progress to be made on this project, wants Erie and Huron counties to work together. Erie County is seeking a meeting, and Huron County is cautiously favorable to the idea. Keep up that attitude. Space advocates in the 1960s and 1970s used to like to say you can't see political boundaries from space; maybe you can't see them from the approach to Plum Brook either -- and, as has been proven time and again around here, problems and solutions don't recognize political boundaries.
Finally, and this is a point we've made before, NASA Plum Brook is an asset we don't utilize enough. As a region, we're trying to find something to replace the fading auto industry, and the biggest promise outside of tourism seems to be health care and high-tech. Supporting what for Ohio is a major space research facility would show the tech industries we're trying to lure that we're serious about wanting them.