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O’Malley wants a space business incubator

The state will start an incubator for space-related businesses and take other steps to “unlock the enormous economic and employment potential of Maryland’s space sector,” Gov. Martin O’Malley said Monday.

Space follows biotechnology and cyber security as a focus for the governor’s economic development efforts. All three have centered on high-tech fields with ties to universities and federal agencies with a strong research presence in the state.

In the space sector, Maryland is home to NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration campuses and The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. The Wallops Flight Facility is located just over the state line on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

“The breakthroughs and innovations occurring in Maryland at NASA, NOAA, Johns Hopkins, APL and other institutions represent new frontiers for commercialization and business development in areas like carbon monitoring, manufacturing and life sciences,” O’Malley said in a written statement.

The Department of Business and Economic Development will house a space authority to direct the state’s efforts to nurture the industry. The space office will likely consist of two staffers and have $600,000 in annual funding starting in fiscal 2012, which begins July 1.

The incubator will open sometime that year, DBED spokeswoman Maureen Kilcullen said. The department is in discussions with Goddard, the University of Maryland, College Park and the Maryland Technology Development Corp. about the incubator.

DBED expects the facility to be located in Prince George’s County adjacent to the university or Goddard campus.

The incubator’s cost will depend on its size and location, Kilcullen said.

DBED estimates there are 18,000 space industry jobs in the state already with an average yearly salary of $110,000.

Wallops has an economic impact of $188 million and supports 2,341 jobs on the lower Eastern Shore, according to DBED.

Goddard alone spends about $1.2 billion on procurement in the state every year, and O’Malley said he and the state’s congressional delegation are pushing for the establishment of a new National Center of Climate and Environmental Information to be located in the state.

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski said the space effort is critical to “leveraging our federal investment to create jobs in space science, space flight and satellite servicing.”

“America is no longer in a space race,” she said, “we’re in a race for our economic future. To win that race, we must again work together to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build.”