Catalyst needed for job-ready site near NASA Plum Brook

NASA administrators and local officials envision a vibrant technology park — with many high-paying careers — sprouting from an empty field near a world-class testing facility.
Andy Ouriel
Dec 27, 2012


For now, the invested parties need to find a commercial catalyst to help launch the project.

Nearly five years ago, Erie County commissioners began heavily pursuing the creation of a 1,200-acre job-ready site in an area next to the NASA Plum Brook Station in Perkins Township.

State workers pegged the site one of the best areas in Ohio for technological development.

"We believe that Erie County and Ohio have a wonderful opportunity to partner with NASA to leverage the existing activities to support a certified (job-ready site) complex serving the needs of NASA and related high-tech and aerospace customers," commissioners stated in a letter to NASA officials in 2008.

As a direct result of the letter, former Gov. Ted Strickland's administration awarded $5 million to the NASA Plum Brook Station for various upgrades, including bolstering the world's largest vacuum chamber, which simulates space-like conditions.

The funding also helped complete the world's largest vibratory and acoustical chambers, making Plum Brook the largest facility of its kind for one-stop testing of global spacecraft.

It's unknown today exactly how much money is needed to create the job-ready site.

In the past few years, officials have achieved little to satisfy this dream of cultivating good-paying jobs that would entice young people to find careers in Erie County and lure other professionals into the area.

Two weeks ago, the Register sought an update on the project from Jim Free, the imminent director at Cleveland's Glenn Research Center, which oversees operations and funding for Plum Brook.

Free and other NASA officials in the exclusive roundtable discussion could not provide an immediate update on the job-ready site.

In the days following, NASA spokeswoman Lori Rachul said the federal agency remains committed to developing the area into something viable and productive.

"NASA has worked with both Erie County and the state of Ohio to designate 1,200 acres of Plum Brook Station as a job-ready site," Rachul said. "No proposal has yet to reach the stage of formal negotiation with the interested parties. NASA remains ready and willing to work with its partners to foster appropriate development for the benefit of all."

NASA Plum Brook's major accomplishments in 2012
• October: Federal officials permitted administrators to shred Plum Brook's license to produce radioactive toxins. In 1999, administrators launched a $253 million mission aimed at disassembling a former on-site reactor facility operating from 1961 to 1973, along with performing an extensive environmental analysis.
• August: SpaceX, the world's fastest-growing launch service provider specializing in designing advanced rockets and spacecraft, agreed to conduct tests at Plum Brook in early 2013.
• May: The movie "The Avengers" debuts in screens across America. The movie's first scene featured Plum Brook's Space Power Facility, capable of simulating space-like conditions.¬†
• January: NASA administrators announced plans to move and upgrade the main entrance gate leading into Plum Brook. The estimated $10 million project begins sometime in 2013.¬†
• January: The European Space Agency proposed testing a sophisticated rocket engine at Plum Brook. Administrators are close to finalizing the arrangement.


2cents's picture

And in 20** someone discovers that there is no internet connectivity along the three mile stretch of the RT 250 corridor between Kalahari and McDonalds in Avery. A five lane highway zoned (I1) or industrial, 500 feet back on the east and west sides, so as to spawn technologic related businesses for NASA. Land that runs parallel to NASA and all its advanced technology is backward twenty years. We can bounce air bags in the SPF that land on Mars but we cannot download the morning newspaper any faster than 56K dialup in such an opportunic section of Erie County??

Really are you ...

Dude! NASA hook me up, I need a job. No. Not a job, a career. Where do I send the application, resume, new inventive technology? What, where, and when. Why, it will be 2013 very soon. During World War II German scientists were in search of an energy creating device that was what they called a "Devine Creation." A device that creates energy in a non destructive way. All combustion engines are destructive in nature, because of the pollution producing emissions. Nuclear radiation if let in the open air is destructive in nature. A devine creation device from what the Germans were talking about created its own energy from within itself. Hook me up, and lets catapult the United States to the forefront of technology. Hook me up and we will create very needed jobs right here in Northern Ohio.


I sincerely hope you get something. It sounds like you really could use something like this and I wish you the best.

Just a suggestion, but why not try and send something to Cleveland (James Free) with a coverletter stating you wish to be considered for a job at the Sandusky Facility when it opens. Just a thought.

car 54

5 years ago I got excited about the NASA airstrip. Fast forward 2012 and it's the same. Why not develope a green energy zone?


I know you worked with the city before...whats up with that breakwall thing at Lion's park? Can't they do something? All that money blown on a park and not a dime to the breakwall protecting it? What is up with that?

And yes, green energy would be nice at PB, but I don't think that is what NASA has in mind. They are working on Mars technology right now. IE: orbitting, landing, staying on the surface.


Actually, the Mars mission research will likely result in exactly what you're saying NASA isn't working on. How will a manned Mars base and surface vehicles be powered? Whatever it is, it'll need to be reliable, efficient, and SMALL (at least relatively speaking).

People seem to forget (or maybe never knew) that it was NASA that developed and improved fuel cell technology. NASA also makes substantial use of solar panels. Powerful and fuel-efficient propulsion systems are also a big deal for NASA, and they have almost certain earth-based spinoffs.

Really are you ...

Exactly! In modes of transportation we are ultimately limited to how far we can travel by the need to replenish a fuel supply or recharging of batteries. NASA was one of the resources I have been told who could help, but have not contacted them yet. Compared to an engine, altenator, battery, and fuel tank in an automobile or rockets on a spaceship, this is extremely small in size. Nikola Tesla had an electric car that he ran off of radio frequencies. He had a box that was filled with capacitors, they fit in nicely behind the glove box, and somehow he used those to supply enough electrical current to power the electric motor. Frequencies were sent to his vecicle by frequencies generated from his and Westinghouses Wardenclyff Tower. People called him a mad man, so he took it out of the car, and dismantled it. Dylan Ratigan use to say,"The truth will set you free, but first it will (edit) you off." There are so many things related to advanced technology that have not been brought forward or studied in debth, because they challenge the laws of thermodynamics, Faradays Law, so many others, and peoples fear of change.


I don't know what they are doing over there but they need to put it in gear and get the Hoverboard into production. It's almost 2015 and when Marty went into the future, they were all the craze.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

I wonder if it is JUST relegated to "tech"/maufacturing businesses or if it could also be opened to educational places to maintain the theme of the development? This is just theory-crafting, but I can see how commercial supplemental learning centers like Sylvan, some kind of language tutoring site, college prep/night classes, or even a K-12 private academy/public college branch (or research building kind of like what OSU has on one of the islands) could be relevant as well. One way or the other there does seem to be a lot of potential for that area and it will be exciting to see what comes of it! I can only imagine it is a lengthy and costly process, but one that should rightly be cautious so our area doesn't inadvertently host a Solyndra-type story. That will just result in the local/state/national elected officials from our area here be seen as throwing tax money into a sinkhole that the path of good intentions took and a black eye for us all.

As the 2012 Accomplishment list shows, a menu of what the center is capable of supporting to paying prospects should be the core of a marketing plan. Being a humble store owner who simply dabbles in consumer tech and enjoys sci-fi content on the side, it would be up to the developers to share that information with places like Boeing, Raytheon, maybe even musical instrument manufacturer's and/or architects who do sound design planning (referring to the acoustic chambers). I am sure there is a slew of small, medium, and large companies who would love to contract use of those facilities if they knew about it.

Oh how it makes one's mind work overtime to think about all the things that can happen...