In the late 1940s Huntsville, Ala., had a population roughly equal to Sandusky's. Like the Sandusky area, it was home to an Army arsenal that almost closed when it was no longer needed.
But Huntsville had a powerful U.S. senator, John Sparkman, who helped steer the Truman Administration into picking Huntsville as the ideal site for missile research.
With that decision came Wernher von Braun and his German scientists, part of the core of the emerging United States space program. In 1960, President Eisenhower formally dedicated the Marshall Space Flight Center there.
Today, Huntsville's population is approaching 170,000, its metropolitan area nearing 370,000. It is known nationally as "Rocket City."
A similar future could be ours.
With proper support from local governments, NASA Plum Brook can move to center stage as the next generation of manned space flight gears up. Its rocket testing facility is unique in the world.
The newest European rocket is there now for tests. Soon the Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle will be too. NASA recently awarded $51.4 million to an Oklahoma company to improve Plum Brook's Space Power Facility.
There will be others, if an airport with a 10,000-foot runway can be built on site; and if the Huron and Erie county commissioners can reach an agreement to abandon the current Huron County airport. This agreement needs to make Huron County residents whole from the loss of airport revenue.
Now is the time for residents of both counties to voice strong support for this new airport. Additionally, economic development planners should look seriously at what else is needed to turn northern Ohio into an aerospace hotbed.
Much credit should go to elected officials from both parties who have worked hard for years, even decades, to keep Plum Brook and its Cleveland parent, Glenn Research Center, alive. Those efforts are poised to pay off in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Let's make the most of it.
Kurt Landefeld, President