Big new communications deal for Covington’s Globalstar illustrates region’s technology potential

Published: Sep. 4, 2023 at 6:46 PM CDT
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COVINGTON, La. (WVUE) - A north shore company is preparing to launch new communications technology into space with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, in hopes of saving lives. And economic development leaders say that Globalstar’s new $64 million contract shows the high-tech potential of this region.

A SpaceX flight next year will likely carry technology developed at Globalstar’s Covington headquarters, part of a new partnership with Apple to expand emergency communications capabilities in rural areas.

“Thirteen years ago or so, we said (to Globalstar), ‘Look, you can move from California to Covington and get lower costs, better incentives and more attention, to really create a place where you’re going to be a big fish.’ And that’s turned out to be true,” said Michael Hecht, president of the nonprofit economic development driver Greater New Orleans, Inc.

Globalstar, which employs about 200 people, has utilized local university tie-ins and hiring incentives to become a world leader in satellite technology. It just landed a $64 million contract with Apple to launch a new emergency messaging capability into space. It will allow iPhone 14 users to send emergency text messages to first responders, even in areas without cellular service.

“I think it’s incredible, especially when you have a district like mine where service is not totally covered,” St. Tammany Fire District 9 Chief Scott Brewer said.

Local first responders say they know several instances where this new technology enabled by Globalstar might have made a difference in saving lives, especially in rural areas.

“This happened at least twice that I know of -- once in the desert and once in the mountains -- where somebody got lost and they were able to text location,” Brewer said.

The future of Globalstar looks bright. The $2.4 billion company recently landed former Qualcomm chairman Paul Jacobs as its new CEO, and its Apple contract will last at least two more years.

“The fact that we are now tied up with Apple and Qualcomm says the New Orleans region is being recognized as an attractive next market for technology,” Hecht said.

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