A Look at Wallops Island's Impact on the Local Economy - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

A Look at Wallops Island's Impact on the Local Economy

Posted: Feb 27, 2018 2:11 PM Updated:

By Steve Hammond

ATLANTIC, Va.- Amid the occasional roar of a rocket launch at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, there's a more subtle and quiet liftoff happening on this part of Delmarva: it's the economy. 

And Sentinel Robotic Solutions is a shining example.

"We've doubled in size in the last 18 months," said company CEO Peter Bale of S.R.S. "We plan to double again during the 2018-19 timeframe."

S.R.S. tests and makes drones for air, land and sea. Clients include NASA, the U.S. military and Department of Homeland Security. 

The company uses a long runway specifically for drones. For Bale's team of 10 at S.R.S., Wallops Island is the perfect location.

"So the vision here is all three domains: air, land and sea, predominantly being tested and proven here in this environment," Bale said. "We have great access to air space, to open ocean and we have 6,000 to 7,000 acres of land just to do ground testing."

Bale said to expect more economic growth around Wallops.

"This is the untapped jewel of the East Coast of the USA," he said. "For everything that happens here at Wallops, the NASA Flight Facility, along with the U.S. Navy, Virginia Space, the subcontractors and all the primes that are here, are expanding the envelope in anything you can imagine. From Earth science to the International Space Station re-supply, to national defense missions to unmanned systems, this is the epicenter."

And make no mistake about: there is a growing economic ripple effect happening here: more hotels and businesses on nearby Chincoteague and more housing. 

"So we're seeing a massive change in the dynamic here in investment. In Virginia along a couple of hundred million dollars into this facility over the last three to five years," Bale said. 

NASA Wallops employs nearly 1,100 people . There are roughly another 600 employed with the Navy, NOAA and private companies like S.R.S.

"They're all high-end paying technical positions here, everything from engineering to training support," Bale said. And he is trying to ensure that the next generation of his high-paid workers are local.

"We grab youngsters that are interested in the robotics and the futurist technology," Bale said. "We had young guys and gals in here writing code that we've never seen before."

"I love the fact that we've got young folks coming here year in and out that want to continue a path forward with us, and it's very important to this company," Bale said. "We probably spend 20 percent of our revenue re-investing into that intern environment."

And these young folks are all local. 

"The skill sets are here," Bale said. "We just have to attract, raise and sustain locally. This will be a different place in the next decade."




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