It was a bit of a case of the Eagle has Landed as Rocket Lab Mahia Lunch Complex 1 manager Chuck Dowdell opened a universe of opportunity to aspiring technology and business leaders in Napier.
Even though his origins have often been assumed to be American, since he joined the space industry three years ago – thanks to the name "Chuck" – he was back in his home town, speaking, along with Auckland-based senior communications advisor Muriel Baker, at the Hawke's Bay Business Hub in Ahuriri.
Now 52, he's a former Napier Boys' High School student with 22 years' experience in the military and was highways manager for the NZ Transport Agency at the time he first thought of the dramatic career change.
That it was at Mahia, a stomping ground of sunny Hawke's Bay days of the past, was only part of the picture which is now one of a "you can do anything" approach being as Rocket Lab pitches more opportunity at the local employment market.
A classic example is the Nuhaka man they hired to mow the grass, and who now holds a position as "pad tech".
With 14 launches from Mahia since the first in May 2017, with No 15 due in the next few weeks as Rocket Lab continues expansion and innovation with goals which were once the stuff of fiction.
By the end of the year Rocket Lab hopes to do a mid-air recovery of an Electron booster, having already done tests demonstrating that its parachute would deploy as expected and slow the booster after re-entry, and be recovered by helicopter before being returned to the planet from which it had launched.
Then there are the recently announced plans for robotic astrobiology mission to second-rock-from-the sun Venus in 2023, along with stepping-up the frequency of launches to at least one a fortnight.
The company has 19 fulltime positions at Mahia and at present is expanding to 23, complementing staff in Auckland and the Rocket Lab base in the US.
The oldest currently is 67, the youngest was 17 when she started, says Baker, adding: "The good thing is that there was no space industry before in New Zealand, so everyone has no history in the space industry."
"From humble beginnings going on to become a world leader, it's an exciting business, but a very complex business," says Dowdell, the man in the jacket and tie – as it happens the only one so-attired among the gathering of about 30 at the business hub in Ahuriri.
The emphasis is on the "exciting" as Rocket Lab takes the next steps after lobbing 55 satellites into orbit, including on the most recent launch of August 31 the first of its own in the new field of satellite production.
The Venus project is one of dreams, highlighted by Rocket Lab CEO, founder and New Zealand innovator Peter Beck who said recently: "I'm madly in love with Venus."
Baker seems to be talking more than just the PR line as she says: "I'm absolutely sold on it. It's a fantastic place to work. If you're interested, come and have a chat."