As you drive along Interstate 95, stopping off at exit 201, you will see a change in the area from previous years. New and re-established businesses are helping revive the area’s economics. Drive to exit 202 and you will see growth in an area that will create jobs and change the perception of what businesses can achieve on the Space Coast. At the crossroads of growth, the opportunities are abundant.
State Road 520 is an area currently experiencing an upswing in economic growth and opportunities after years of stagnation. The Space Coast Convention Center is home to many monthly events, such as city charter symposiums, weddings and even comic book conventions. On the other side of 520 lies another facility going through resurgence and a knack for adaptability: The Cocoa Expo Sports Center.
Originally the Spring Training home to the Houston Astros from 1964-1984, the facility shifted to hosting amateur events after the departure of professional baseball. After making renovations to the facility starting in 2012, the Expo is a state-of-the-art venue that has opened its doors to more events. It has hosted boxing and mixed martial arts events, as well as monster truck and motocross shows. On February 10, the Expo will host The Brevard Community Festival, Food Show and Concert. With a car show to add to the festivities, the Expo has grown into a multi-faceted community facility for Brevard County.
Expanding Into Cocoa
Behind the Cocoa Expo is a plot of land that is expanded upon seemingly every week. Once completed, Mike Erdman Toyota will be a 35-acre campus with 160,000 square feet of building space. The expansion has been in the works for close to 15 years, according to General Manager Mike Farrell. He explains that the company looked to place a dealership in Cocoa and had the property, but due to economic issues in the county, it was decided to refrain from an extension at the time.
While the dealership still looks to serve customers at the current Merritt Island location, the Cocoa expansion allows for the company to be in a more convenient location for its customers. For residents of Suntree, Viera and Rockledge, having a Cocoa location will reduce drive time as much as 50 percent. In addition to an expansive selection of Toyota and Cadillac vehicles, express maintenance area and car wash, the dealership will also have an expanded body shop and a car tower that can hold up to five vehicles.
The new facility will provide customers with a variety of car choices, but it also plans on being a place that will bring added value to the community. The dealership will have a destination facility, walking track and putting green. Phase II construction will include a fish tank within the confines of both buildings, as well as a gym. The dealership also plans on having food trucks and stations for dining, as well as hosting car shows and other community events.
“Our two manufacturers want us to get involved and create the best possible experience we possibly can, and to accomplish this we have to have an upgraded facility,” Farrell said. “That’s why we’re doing it. Nissan wants us there; Toyota wants us there … so we’re going to go out and get it done.”
For Farrell, the expansion also is symbolic of the growth of not only Cocoa, but the automotive sector as well.
“The county as a whole is very healthy right now, as is the auto industry,” he said. “Having a new facility, putting it all out there and making it the easiest, most accessible place for residents in the county to come and shop for cars will enable us to do well by the people around us.”
The new facility will provide customers with a variety of car choices, but it also plans on being a place that will bring added value to the community.
A New Center
Farther north, Cocoa continues to realize economic growth. Wal-Mart is building a 460,000-sq.-ft. distribution center and refrigerated warehouse off of State Road 524. The facility is unlike previous distribution centers, as it will provide greater support for online and in-store pickup methods. The center will employ up to 460 people in a high-tech work environment, with an average annual wage of $42,421. Wal-Mart has also agreed to a $133 million capital investment in the construction of the facility, plus an additional $15 million to equip the center.
The process of bringing in Wal-Mart involved the efforts of many organizations. The land requirements were for a square site, leaving the option for expansion upon the initial building. Looking for a place that was also close to the road, the EDC looked at the current site. However, due to the land being in an escrow period, the commission could not determine the owner, leaving the site selector firm to remove the location from the list.
As the EDC kept going farther south for location, the owner was eventually established, allowing for the parties to discuss the land. The City of Cocoa helped with traffic signaling where the center will be located, while the staff at Port Canaveral and Enterprise Florida assisted the EDC in the process. The Army Corps of Engineers also helped examine any environmental issues that arose.
With the distribution center and other businesses growing, State Roads 520 and 524 are roads that contain a bright future and are symbolic of the economic development of Brevard County.
“I think what you’re seeing is the cumulative success within the county,” said Gregory Weiner, senior director, Business Development of the Space Coast EDC. “All too often you do a project in Melbourne and think, ‘It’s just good for Melbourne,’ but that’s not true. The reason you’re seeing these things happen is because from a holistic standpoint, the level of wealth and the level of business activity in the county is rising, and that creates demand for all kinds of things.”
“The reason you’re seeing these things happen is because from a holistic standpoint, the level of wealth and the level of business activity in the county is rising, and that creates demand for all kinds of things.” – Gregory Weiner, Space Coast EDC