09/21/2021

How aerospace is making a comeback in Southern California

“When I was first hired here in the 1980s everyone was in aerospace,” said Schneider, a site manager for Aerojet Rocketdyne in Canoga Park. Thinking back to his former co-workers from that era, he said “Now everyone’s a graphic designer. This is not the vogue industry anymore.”

Since 1990, the number of people working in aerospace in Southern California has more than been chopped in half. When the Cold War was winding down, there were more than 270,000 local aerospace workers, according to the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation. In 2014, there were 85,500 in 2014. It’s a big reason why ever since, the region has had some of the weakest job growth in the entire country.

“Southern California really paid the price for the peace dividend that the nation enjoyed,” said Christine Cooper, an economist at the LAEDC.

In the last few years though, the region’s aerospace industry has been making a comeback by focusing more on technology, though it is still considerably smaller than it once was.

Aerojet was founded by four Caltech colleagues in Southern California in the 1940s, and it has survived the industry’s ups and downs. At the company’s Canoga Park factory, Schneider explained how the space has changed, going from 300,000 square feet to now 100,000 square feet. He said the company has been simply “right sizing.”

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