local aerospace gets vin fizzed

August 22, 2011

A sad announcement came out of Century City last week. Northrup Grumman–the last big-name aerospace company to have its corporate offices Southern California–will be shipping its headquarters east as of today.

The move, of course, is more symbolic, than actual. Only 300 corporate positions will be moving to North Carolina and 30,000 N-G jobs will remain in Southern California. But that doesn’t mean that the move isn’t an ego bruiser. The departure of the second-largest government contractor is the last in a stream of aerospace companies that have abandoned greater Los Angeles, leaving the once sprawling military complex devoid of the powerful companies that once defined its industrial identity.

This final exodus comes at an interesting historical landmark, however: the 100th anniversary of the first transcontinental flight across the United States, which ended when Cal Rodgers landed his Wright EX plane on the Long Beach shore.

So herein lies our predicament. How can we be celebrating our historic place in aeronautics history (Rodgers’ flight put So Cal on the map for a slew of companies that later moved in) when as I type, that history is being undone by the departure of the very companies that once made it?

It just feels weird that while the Long Beach Airport undergoes its multi-million dollar update and Long Beach Public Library creates a season-long program to commemorate the transatlantic centennial, N-G is up and moving main operations to be closer to Washington D.C. I thought people wanted to be in California because we were far away from the government’s creepy stare? At least that’s what Cecil B. DeMille told me.

Oh, well. We’ll always have Boeing.

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