Lynda Weatherman and Bob Whelen of EDC of Florida's Space Coast

CEO Lynda Weatherman and past-chairman Bob Whelen.

2012 BUSINESS LEADER OF THE YEAR – OVERALL

 

Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast

 

The Space Coast has been at the epicenter of some of history’s greatest triumphs, where dreams became realities and actual achievements surpassed science fiction.  But recently these successes have been eclipsed by the challenges of navigating global economic uncertainty, a highly competitive business location market and the end of an era at Kennedy Space Center.

 

One organization that has been at the forefront of casting new vision, spearheading creative initiatives and marketing the county internationally – while cultivating the businesses that are here – has been the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast.  Therefore, for the first time, SpaceCoast Business is recognizing an organization as our selection for Business Leader of the Year.  Under the leadership provided by EDC Past-Chairman Robert G. (Bob) Whelen, vice president of Real Estate and Environmental Health and Safety for Harris Corporation, and EDC President and CEO Lynda Weatherman, the EDC – along with its consortium of local business investors and partners – has racked up a substantial list of accomplishments over the past 12 months.

 

An Impressive Record

The efforts of the EDC have been nothing short of amazing.  This past year alone, the county welcomed six new companies, representing over 1,000 jobs and well over $200 million in capital investment.  Plus, eight existing Space Coast companies expanded this year, representing 770 new jobs and an additional $126 million in capital investment.  As a whole, the EDC announced 1,981 new jobs this year and over $341million in capital investment.

 

These include Embraer which officially began operations on February 21 at its manufacturing facility at Melbourne International Airport.  In April, AAR Corp. began operations at facilities totaling over 128,000 square feet at Melbourne International Airport and in Palm Bay.  Plus, Midair USA has announced its plans for a location at the Airport, representing 450 jobs at full employment at a projected $30 million in capital investment.

 

These numbers place Brevard County near the top in the state for economic development activity.  In fact, new 2012 information from Enterprise Florida’s report shows that, in the past two years, Brevard County ranks first in the state in both retained jobs and projected capital investment; fifth in total number of projects; and sixth in anticipated new jobs.  The Brookings Institute, for example, ranks the Space Coast first in the country for the highest concentration of high-tech and moderately high-tech manufacturing jobs, and tenth for having the highest average manufacturing wage.

 

But There’s More

The EDC also exceeded their goal in earned media coverage, generating $1.7 million in earned media value, which included coverage from local, regional, and national media including CNN and CNBC.  The CNBC story that aired recently actually used the facts, figures, and success stories the EDC provided, resulting in an accurate portrayal of what it’s really like here on the Space Coast, without sugar coating the challenges the area continues to face (unlike another news magazine program that ran a segment last spring and chose not to use any of the data or information the EDC gave them).

 

It’s national recognition and results like this that confirm the EDC is doing the right things and, as a community, we’re moving in the right direction.

 

Not only has the EDC been responsible for attracting innovative new businesses to the area, they have provided much needed leadership to streamline the often cumbersome and stifling permitting process businesses have to go through to build in the area. This year, Cape Canaveral, Melbourne, Titusville and West Melbourne were all awarded the S.N.A.P. designation, an EDC-led initiative that recognizes excellence in building and site permitting.  In fact, over the last two years, over 90 percent of participating Space Coast municipalities have been S.N.A.P. certified.  These efforts cause architects, builders and companies who desire to locate or expand to think “Oh yes!” instead of “Oh, no!” when it comes to building in Brevard.

 

We’re Still the Space Coast

The Space Act Agreement was the continuation of the first and only such agreement between NASA and an economic development organization.  Part of this agreement calls for the EDC to promote the commercial use of underutilized facilities at Kennedy Space Center.

 

Already this is paying off, when the project team announced last year that Boeing chose the Space Coast and Kennedy Space Center to develop its CST-100 commercial crew vehicle.  Also in the past year, Sierra Nevada announced an interest in increasing its Space Coast footprint and XCOR announced that it selected KSC to establish a manufacturing and assembly center for its suborbital launch vehicles.

 

Whelen said of Weatherman, “Lynda creatively seeks new and innovative approaches for long range development for Space Coast businesses.  Her relentless pursuit for creativity, along with her forward-thinking strategies, has positioned her as a leader within the community and among her peers.”