Conference nears, has new venue

Mojave Spaceport, Mojave, CA. Photo by Califor...

Mojave Spaceport, Mojave, CA. Photo by Californiacondor. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By: Jim Skeen


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The first boundary being broken is the venue. The conference is being presented at the Mojave Air and Space Port, instead of the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds as in years past. The move will not only highlight the pioneering work being done by commercial space businesses in Mojave, but it also will also help recognize Kern County’s importance to the region.

“We will show we are doing great things in the greater Antelope Valley,” said Al Hoffman, the conference committee chairman. “I say ‘greater’ Antelope Valley. Part of the reason to move the conference to Mojave was to make it more inclusive. We include everyone from Acton to Ridgecrest. We rise or fall together as a region.”

An audience of about 800 people is expected to attend the Antelope Valley Board of Trade’s 2014 conference from 7:30 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. Friday in the Mojave Air and Space Port Events Center.

The conference will be in the newly renovated Events Center, a hangar-style structure dating back to World War II. The Events Center will allow Outlook Conference attendees to see displays of real aerospace and other technology hardware from some of the 45 companies working at the space port. Those companies are working on technologies in aerospace, energy, transportation and communications.

“There’s a lot of talent here in the Valley,” Hoffman said. “The future really is pretty bright.”

This year’s keynote speaker is Capt. Mark Kelly, a record-setting American astronaut, retired Navy combat pilot and husband of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords. Kelly, a New York Times best-selling author, also has written two children’s books about space exploration.

Kelly is a decorated pilot who flew combat missions during the Gulf War.

As an astronaut, he flew four space missions, including commanding the orbiter Endeavour on its final mission.

Kelly is one of only two astronauts who have visited the international space station on four occasions.

Already a celebrated American, Kelly became the center of international attention after the January 2011 assassination attempt on his wife. In the best-selling book “Gabby,” the couple shared their story of hope and resilience.

“He is going to be absolutely fabulous,” Hoffman said. “You will see a message delivered by him about the human spirit in everyday life and the human spirit as we explore space.”

Another featured speaker will be John Miller, president and CEO for Denny’s Corp., one of the nation’s largest and most durable family service restaurant companies.

Named as CEO in 2011, Miller has been credited with leading Denny’s back from recession-related setbacks and returning the company to growth and profitability.

Miller is expected to share insights into leadership, management and strategy gained from his more than 30-year career in restaurant operations.

Miller’s appearance at the conference came through an invitation from Lancaster Councilman Ken Mann, a consulting executive with Denny’s Corp.

One of the most anticipated speakers for the conference will be Christopher Thornberg, founding partner of Beacon Economics and one of California’s leading economists.

Thornberg is noted for being one of the first and most adamant predictors of the subprime mortgage market crash that began in 2007, and he also provided an early warning of the global economic recession that followed.

Thornberg was invited to return because of the high marks he received in audience surveys from his appearance at the 2008 conference.

Hoffman said Thornberg’s previous Business Outlook Conference forecast was popular because of his focus and analysis on regional economics, labor markets, economic policy and real estate.

“Christopher Thornberg will give us a forecast for 2014 and beyond. It will be tailored to the Antelope Valley,” Hoffman said.

Prior to launching Beacon Economics, Thornberg was a senior economist with UCLA’s Anderson Forecast, where he regularly authored economic outlooks for California, Los Angeles and the East Bay, as well as other areas.

Thornberg also serves on the boards of a number of business and nonprofit organizations, including the Board of Directors of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.

Maj. Gen. Arnold W. Bunch Jr., commander of the Air Force Test Center, and David McBride, director of NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, both at Edwards Air Force Base, also are scheduled to speak.

Bunch directs a $31 billion enterprise of more than 18,000 military, civilian and contractor personnel across Edwards, Eglin and Arnold Air Force bases. The flight test center provides developmental test and evaluation of experimental and research manned and unmanned air, space and cyber systems for military services, DARPA, NASA and international partners, in addition to operations of the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards.

Bunch is a graduate of the Air Force Academy and the Air Force Test Pilot School. His career has includeddevelopment testing the B-2 and B-52 bombers and serving as an instructor for both of those aircraft.

Asdirector of NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center, David D. McBride oversees all aspects of center management, strategy, and operations.

McBride was appointed director of NASA Dryden on Jan. 4, 2010, after having served as acting director since April 2009 upon the retirement of former center director Kevin L. Petersen.

George T. Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, the spaceflight company founded by Sir Richard Branson, and Kevin Mickey, president of Scaled Composites, which won the X-Prize by being the first private company to carry passengers to space and back, will also speak at the conference.

Other speakers scheduled for the event include Kern County Supervisor Zack Scrivner, Assemblywoman Connie Conway, state Sen. Jean Fuller, state Sen. Steve Knight, Assemblyman Steven Fox, Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael Antonovich, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, and Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon.

Alsoplanned are presentations from the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale.

Lancaster’s presentation will feature Mayor R. Rex Parris; Vice-Mayor Marvin Crist; Tom DiPrima, executive vice president of KB Homes – Southern California Division; Addison Marks, regional sales manager of new homes for SunPower Corp.; and John Van Scoter, CEO & president of E-Solar.

Palmdale’s presentation will be made by Mayor Pro Tem Tom Lackey.

Lancaster High School Eagle Robotics Team 399 will be honored at the conference with AVBOT’s Navigating Change Award.

AVBOT leaders said Team 399 consistently operates as a fully functioning nonprofit business enterprise and succeeds year after year through creativity and real-world entrepreneurial effort in administration, communications, design, engineering, financing, marketing, operations and production.

Team 399 also actively promotes and shares its mission with other schools throughout the Antelope Valley and beyond, AVBOT leaders said.

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