Keep Space Foundation tethered to Colo. Springs

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The U.S. Space Foundation is one of the quiet crown jewels of the Pikes Peak region.

Founded in Colorado Springs 28 years ago by (among others) Bill Hybl, Bill Tutt and Dick McLeod, the foundation was created to be “an organization that could, in a non-partisan, objective and fair manner, bring together the various sectors of America’s developing space community and serve as a credible source of information for a broad audience — from space professionals to the general public.”

Those goals now seem modest. Today, the Space Foundation occupies a unique position in the international space community, linking all sectors of the industry through education, advocacy, and information.

Every spring, the foundation hosts the National Space Symposium at the Broadmoor. Expected to draw 8,000 attendees, next year’s symposium will be sponsored by such major industry players as Ball Aerospace & Technologies, Boeing, Cisco Systems, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Aviation Week.

But the organization has long since outgrown its nondescript headquarters building, located just off Highway 24 at 14th Street. Other cities, notably Omaha, Neb., would love to lure the foundation away from the city of its birth.

Like the USOC, the Space Foundation brings both prestige and economic impact.

We need to keep it here, and the price to do so is hardly exorbitant.

The organization isn’t seeking a multimillion-dollar handout. It desperately needs new office space. Cost: about $1 million.

In better economic times, the city, the county, the Economic Development Corp., private developers and other supporters could put together a retention package within weeks.

It’s a lot more difficult to do in these straitened times, but no less important.

As the EDC’s Mike Kazmierski points out, once the economy improves, overtures from Omaha, Albuquerque or Huntsville, Ala., will intensify. We may be in the driver’s seat now, but that doesn’t mean we can sit back and wait for the economy to improve. Unless we proactively create an acceptable retention package, the foundation may simply pull up stakes and leave for greener pastures.

That would be a disaster. The Space Foundation is not only an important component of today’s local economy, but a key player in the growth and evolution of space-based technology companies. That sector may be one of the keys to regional prosperity in the years to come — unless, by failing to keep the foundation in town, we lose a key economic driver.

We need creativity, cooperation and vision to keep the organization here. Those characteristics were not lacking 28 years ago when a handful of leaders launched the Space Foundation.

Let’s hope that we can still get the job done.