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City Vows to Get Involved as Rocketdyne Future Shakes Out

City Vows to Get Involved as Rocketdyne Future Shakes Out By BRAD SMITH Staff Reporter Even as Boeing considers the future of the landmark Rocketdyne Propulsion and Power factory in Canoga Park, Los Angeles will do everything it can to keep the company’s 3,000 jobs in the San Fernando Valley, city officials said. And if and when Chicago-based Boeing Co.’s Rocketdyne division moves out of the Canoga Avenue facility, the city will “be at the table” in any re-development effort. “We do take this very seriously,” said Deputy Mayor Renata Simril, Mayor James Hahn’s chief deputy for economic development, who will be meeting with Boeing representatives this month. “Three thousand employees, a company of this stature, and the type of jobs this mayor is very concerned about keeping and trying to expand in Los Angeles?” Simril said. “We are all over this.” Rocketdyne, the largest manufacturer in the San Fernando Valley, could shut down local operations entirely by the end of the decade if the American space propulsion business, buffeted by changing commercial markets and government priorities, does not improve, company officials said. Rocketdyne chief executive Byron Wood has said the division will face “a cliff” as early as 2009 unless there are major changes in how the federal government deals with the aerospace industry. Rocketdyne currently designs and builds engines for the space shuttle and the Delta II and Delta IV satellite boosters, which generate an annual payroll of $320 million and a purchasing budget of $140 million from Los Angeles-area vendors. The space shuttle program may wind down by 2010, and the future of the Deltas depends greatly on NASA and Defense Department procurement. That uncertainty, and the decision by Boeing to move most programs currently at the Canoga Avenue plant to a facility on De Soto Avenue, has led to speculation about the potential for redevelopment on the 50-acre Canoga Avenue site. The larger issue of Rocketdyne’s future in the Valley is also in some question; aerospace analysts have said the current trio of spacecraft propulsion companies Rocketdyne, Hartford, Conn.-based United Technologies Corp.’s Pratt & Whitney subsidiary and Sacramento-based GenCorp Inc.’s Aerojet division are likely to consolidate into one or two survivors in the future. “We don’t control the space propulsion industry and neither does Boeing,” Simril said. “We’ve put on the table all the incentives we can provide to Boeing from a business standpoint and we are intensifying those conversations as the heat is getting turned up.” The city can offer reduced rates or guarantees regarding water and power, reductions in city business taxes, bond monies and tax credits for economic development and new equipment purchases, and subsidies for employers in or near redevelopment zones. The Rocketdyne facilities are outside the existing Canoga Park-Reseda redevelopment area, but the benefits of it can be extended. That process could take from 12 to 18 months, however. In the meantime, Rocketdyne which has already sold off portions of the Canoga Avenue site for development is in negotiations to sell about 4 acres to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. In addition, the company will be emptying the northern half of the Canoga site as it moves more about 700 employees to De Soto; how the property may redevelop is an open question. City officials, including Councilman Dennis Zine, whose district includes Canoga Park, said the city should work to attract manufacturing to the site. Other possibilities are office parks, retailing, or mixed-use projects with housing and commercial uses.

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