Letter to the Editor of Iosco County News: Spaceport isn’t economically feasible

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In his letter to the editor of Iosco County News- Herald, CSCLS Board President addresses the lack of economic viability of spaceports in Michigan. While CSCLS focuses primarily on the proposed vertical rocket launch site in Marquette County, we also stand with the concerned citizens of Oscoda Township, the location of MAMA’s proposed horizontal rocket launch site. 

The letter is quoted below.

I read with interest the April 26 report in the Iosco County News-Herald, with the lead line, “Bringing Spaceport and other development to Oscoda may come with a hefty price,” a price which the township’s consultant, Dave Richmond, estimates will be a $20 million cost to Oscoda Township. The idea of having a spaceport at the Oscoda-Wurtsmith Airport has been promoted by the Michigan Aerospace Manufacturers Association (MAMA), a Detroit based lobbyist. Perhaps an article published April 24 online in The New Yorker magazine, may be of interest to the Oscoda Township trustees, and to all citizens of Iosco County. Written by David Rompf, at this link, https://www.newyorker.com/news/usjournal/the-plan-to-make-michigan-the-next-space-state/amp, he reported on plans to bring spaceports to Michigan. Mr. Rompf refers to an economic study by the IQM Research Institute, an Ann Arbor think tank, which evaluated the economic feasibility of both horizontal and vertical spaceports in Michigan. The IQM report, in its “Executive Summary” and following pages, definitively shows that spaceports in Michigan (for horizontal or vertical rocket launches) will not be economically viable, will be highly risky investments, and will be of no significant economic benefit to Michigan. The study was commissioned by MAMA in December of 2019, at a cost of $187,288, using Michigan taxpayer money from the $2 million grant given to MAMA in 2019, a grant which was administered by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The IQM researchers state that although “the original intent of this study was to build a single point advocacy for spaceports in Michigan,” after two years of careful research they concluded that investments in horizontal and vertical spaceports are “not self-sustaining nor economically viable.” They additionally concluded that even if you were able to launch as many as one rocket per week from a Michigan spaceport the annual economic benefit to Michigan would be no greater than opening two additional fast food restaurants (pages 8-9). And in terms of financial risk to public entities considering allowing such spaceports, the report stated that public investment in these spaceports are a “very high financial risk” (page 15). Although IQM provided this report to MAMA in February of 2021, MAMA failed to disclose it to any of the interested governmental officials in Marquette County, where a vertical launch site is proposed, and apparently may have failed to disclose this report to Oscoda Township officials as well.

–Dennis Ferraro

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