Board of Trade ready to lobby again in D.C.

LANCASTER – As it has for more than 50 years, the Antelope Valley Board of Trade is sending representatives to the nation’s capital this week as part of an annual lobbying and fact-finding mission. Each spring, the regional economic organization sends a delegation to Washington to speak with industry and government representatives about issues considered key to the Valleys well-being. “Our continued focus is to try to keep bringing more opportunities to our Valley,” said President Rhonda Nelson. “We’re all concerned, whether in aerospace or not, where budgets are taking us. “The annual visits have helped establish relationships with many of the government and industry entities with whom they meet, relationships that can have an impact year-round.

Making the trip this year are Nelson, Executive Director Vicki Medina, Past President Cathy Hart, director Al Hoffman, James Allen Jr. of QI- Solutions®, Donald Rhea of Clancy JG International and Trisha Tang of Northrop Grumman. Jack Stewart, a former vice-president of the board and now retired in Tennessee, will be joining the group. On the group’s agenda are meetings with supporters of Arnold Air Force Base in Tennessee, which will soon have close ties to Edwards AFB. The Arnold Engineering and Development Center is slated to be grouped with the test organization at Eglin AFB in Florida under the command of the redesignated Air Force Test Center at Edwards. The Arnold Community Council and the board will be discussing ways the two entities may work together on issues important to both groups, which share similarities in their concerns about protecting their respective bases. “Arnold has embraced us and we’re looking forward to collaborating with them,” Medina said.

Also on the list is a meeting with NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, which stems in part from the administrator’s participation in AVBOT’s Business Outlook Conference in February. The organization has already been briefed on the activities and concerns at NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards, in preparation for the meeting at NASA Headquarters. The group is scheduled to meet with representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration regarding the agency’s plans in establishing unmanned aerial vehicle test sites for integrating the vehicles in civilian airspace. The Antelope Valley already includes a designated corridor for the unmanned vehicles between the manufacturing site at Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale and Edwards, a corridor the board championed on earlier visits to Washington.

The board is still in the information-gathering stages about the FAA’s plans and hope to learn how it could impact the restricted airspace at Edwards and the established corridor, among other issues. “We thought it would be good to have that dialog with the FAA,” Nelson said. The visiting delegation will also meet with the area’s three defense companies, The Boeing Co., Northrop Grumman Corp. and Lockheed Martin Aeronautics.

Also on the agenda are meetings with officials at the Pentagon regarding issues pertaining to Edwards, and with the area’s two Congressman, Kevin McCarthy and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon. The delegation will also discuss education, transportation and other workforce and economic-related issues of concern to the area.

These lobbying trips are a two-way street, in which the board delegation gathers information from its meetings and delivers news to the representatives in Washington. “Knowledge is power,” Nelson said, adding the organization is seeking whatever information they can to help prepare for the future, “to make sure we’re on solid ground.” The in-person visits as a unified group are important, as they have a greater impact than letters in getting across the organization’s message, she said. This may be especially true in the instance of teaming with the Arnold Community Council, as they are able to present an even greater impression together, Nelson said, as well as share information and learn from each other’s experiences.