Brevard Anticipates and Responds

On the heals of President Obama’s visit to Brevard addressing how the Space Coast is going to play into NASA’s future, about 200 local stakeholders took the first step in coming together for some community activism, regardless of the eventual outcomes of NASA’s new direction. Business leaders and concerned citizens alike came to Overcoming the Space Challenge through Regional Innovations to learn about the challenges we face, and enlist their ideas and resources into a strategic plan for Brevard’s transition.

Leaders provided insight before the group divided into panels on topics including government, worker assistance and new narratives that will define our community.  The frank discussions started with perspectives from the people on the leading edge of responsibility in the areas of schools, our economy, our aerospace industry, county services, and help for the workforce.  We’re estimating 6,000 – 9,000 direct job losses once the final shuttle mission is complete, with the potential for another 14,000 indirect jobs outside the gates.

Follow-On Employment

For employees of shuttle contractors, the first and most immediate issue is follow-on employment.  Brevard Workforce has been engaged for more than three years, developing an industry council to help craft programs and initiatives at the local, state and federal levels that will best serve the affected workforce.  We’ve reached out regionally to determine what types of jobs along the High Tech Corridor are available for those who will be dislocated, and how we can best prepare, retrain and connect them to potential jobs.

There has been a spike in registration on the Aerospace Workforce Transition website in requests for training and counseling services through the career center we’ve set up at the Kennedy Space Center.  Frontline workforce services are in place and running.  United Space Alliance, the main shuttle contractor at KSC, along with Space Florida and the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, are all working toward bringing new aerospace activities here.  Space Florida’s goal is to leverage assets we have in place – as well as those being developed – to diversify and eventually grow Florida’s aerospace industry threefold.

Adjusting the Vision

The Brevard County School District is in the midst of redistricting to balance capacity among different schools, but is holding off on Merritt Island and the north part of the county until the impacts of the job losses on enrollment become evident.  Brevard County government is bracing for impacts the layoffs will have on the people of Brevard and increased draws on services.

The panel also outlined ways that business leaders and citizens can help Brevard through the transition.  Brevard Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Binggeli suggested that parents, businesspeople, and other leaders engage as school volunteers, advocates for learning with children, and sponsors of educational programs.  Howard Tipton, the county manager, reminded the audience that having a positive attitude and staying engaged in community organizations are, especially in a community with the impressive talent and brainpower of Brevard, the best way to ensure success through the transition.  He challenged everyone to develop a ‘To Do’ list to help the organizations that assist people in our community.

Developing Strategic Synergies

With the challenges, ongoing activities and suggestions in place, the audience broke off into work groups, which were tasked with how they would start and continue to develop active networks and strategic plans around 10 areas of the transition:

  1. Aerospace 2.0
  2. NASA 2.0
  3. Entrepreneurship
  4. Talent Marketing
  5. Talent Advancement
  6. Growing Clusters
  7. Aerospace Suppliers
  8. Talent Support
  9. Government 2.0
  10. New Narratives

Groups met and discussed the first steps in pulling together people and resources that might work together to help strategize and carry out activities that could help in their respective areas.  These groups also defined some outcomes they would like to see from their efforts and developed short-term action plans.

More than a dozen action plans came out of the meeting, and are still being refined and executed via an Internet social media site set up for the community.  Groups continue to meet periodically and are becoming more engaged in activities to help keep the community moving forward.  After they were offered a clear picture of where we are, and where we are going, the groups engaged in not just ideas, but carrying out solutions.  With this kind of drive, there’s no telling where we’ll be going.