A new study indicates the Vandenberg Air Force Base is the single most powerful economic engine in Santa Barbara County, accounting for $1.7 billion in various transactions, 8,700 jobs, or 7 percent of all economic output within the county borders. Vandenberg’s performance has been exceptionally steady over the past 20 years, said Dan Hamilton, the UCSB researcher to conducted the study, in part because it’s the only base in the United States capable of sending missiles and satellites into orbit over the north and south poles.
In addition, the base plays a key role in monitoring potential military threats coming from the Pacific. Hamilton said the study proved far difficult than most undertaken by UCSB’s Economic Forecast Project because of the Air Force’s concern about secrecy. Because so much of the base is dedicated to high-tech functions, Hamilton said there was a larger percentage of officers, and they, he said, tend to be better paid. The study was commissioned by Santa Barbara County at the request of Friends of Vandenberg, which is concerned Vandenberg’s economic contributions are not adequately appreciated. The group was reportedly disappointed the final report doesn’t show Vandenberg’s economic impact in comparison to other industries like wine, or agriculture. Hamilton commented that the only other entity that comes close to Vandenberg’s economic punch is UCSB.