Maybe it's a way-out-there project -- literally -- but we like the idea of a NASA Plum Brook visitor center for a lot of reasons:
-- It will showcase a regional economic asset, and magnify its value as magnet for the kinds of jobs that will have lasting value in the local econmy.
-- It will be another reason for people to visit the area and spend money here.
-- It will stimulate interest in science and technical education. We can see it being a regular destination for class field trips.
What's not to like about this project? It would be at the NASA gate on U.S. 250, but not "inside the fence," meaning you wouldn't have to go through six kinds of paperwork to get to it, and it would be developed and run by a private company, which is how NASA does business at its main tourist attractions at Kennedy, Johnson and Marshall space centers.
In fact, Lake Erie Shores and Islands Welcome Center decided to spend $20,000 to hire Air City Development of Dayton for a feasibility study. Considering Air City was already talking with NASA about opening and operating a visitor center at Plum Brook, we'd guess Air City thinks it's feasible.
It would even be a good reason to put up those NASA signs Erie County Commissioners want along the highways leading into the area.
We've long held that promoting NASA Plum Brook's presence here is our signal we're serious about getting and keeping the kind of jobs necessary in whatever the economy's going to be in the post-industrial world.
And whether Project Constellation -- NASA's project to succeed the space shuttle, return humans to the moon and send them on to Mars -- gets off the ground, the other research NASA does will help drive technology. The research of NASA's predecessor, the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics, helped shape the modern airplane, and NASA research will figure in technology the next generation won't be able to imagine doing without.
And if a NASA visitor center helps make young people wonder what it might be like to work in one of those technical jobs, then there might be more of those jobs to attract and keep here.