California Space Center proposal in the hands of Lompoc City Council
Lompoc City Council members are expected to vote Tuesday, May 19, on a proposed multi-million dollar space center near Vandenberg Air Force Base. Vandenberg sits adjacent to the City of Lompoc. If approved and completed, the facility could dramatically alter Lompoc's future.
The city council is set to vote on whether to enter into an exclusive negotiating agreement with the California Space Consortium. The consortium hopes to build a space center there that would include a museum, hotel, restaurant and a viewing area for rocket launches.
The agreement would give developers one year to prove they have the finances and expertise to complete a project that will end up costing hundreds of millions of dollars.
The consortium is not the first organization to propose a facility like this in Lompoc. The most recent attempt was made by the Environmental Education Group but fell apart because of a lack of funding.
Pat Wiemiller is Lompoc's City Administrator.
"It takes a demonstration that you have the finances, you have the experience, you have the expertise to deliver whatever project you're proposing," Wiemiller said.
The council vote comes about three months after Lompoc city staff recommended against moving forward with the project.
Teresa Gallavan is the city's Economic Development Director. She and Wiemiller were among those warning against the project.
“What we'll need to see through the exclusive negotiating agreement is evidence of ability. We didn't receive critical information that was needed to make that assessment. That's why it wasn't recommended moving forward," Gallavan said.
Eva Blaisdell is leading the effort to build the center. She is an entrepreneur, originally from Poland, who says her decades of experience as an investor in Silicon Valley will help move the project forward. It’s her job to show the city council she has the expertise and the connections necessary to turn this idea into a reality.
"We have a very good dialogue with the current leadership of the city of Lompoc. It's always ultimately city council that sets the tone. I believe the council of Lompoc is very progressive, visionary and committed to making a difference," Blaisdell said.
She said her proposed facility will bring more people to the area as well as create about 3,000 jobs, 1,500 of which will be high paying.
Blaisdell plans to treat this project like a startup. She calls this strategy “the Silicon Valley way.”
"We are going to transport the experience of the California Space Center into the screens of cellphones,” Blaisdell said.
She said she is already supported by powerhouse companies like Sony and has met with Apple executives including Tim Cook. Blaisdell contends that this idea is long overdue for Lompoc, an area that needs to celebrate its connection with Vandenberg.
“It's not only about the space center, it's about space valley. There's a Silicon Valley, but no one is thinking about space valley. Here we are. We can claim it. I count on the support of the community because, ultimately, you are the destination of this project,” she said.
Should the council choose to approve the project, Blaisdell says she'll solidify potential agreements that she says are already in the works.