The descriptor “Space Coast” is a perpetual reminder of the role Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center have played in America’s astonishing achievements in space exploration and utilization. Because of that recognition, many do not realize Florida was primarily a launch sight. It wasn’t where aerospace design and fabrication took place. But that was something Frank DiBello and Space Florida have worked tirelessly to change.

With over 50 years in the aerospace industry, DiBello is recognized as one of the leading players in making Florida the emerging home of aerospace innovation, manufacturing and of course, launching.

“Even as a child I was fascinated by the notion that you could draw an airplane on paper and there was a process by which you could turn that concept into a metal aircraft that actually flew,” said DiBello.

DiBello recognized early on that government was a crucial partner in helping industries accomplish complex technological goals, for which there was no business model. He also knew that the “business of space” was inevitable and financing was the key. He concentrated on companies taking space and defense technology to market and begin to find solutions to the crucial questions of capitalization and how to capitalize the special facilities and equipment needed to operate.

Photography by Jason Hook

“To date we have financed over two-billion dollars of research and development labs and manufacturing facilities and equipment that enables these companies to come to Florida and to thrive,” he said. “Every state wants to attract aerospace industry. But we had a historic location and a workforce that was second to none. What we had to do was leverage what the legislature had done to create a good business environment where it was easy for companies to relocate or grow here.”

Blue Origin, Northrop Grumman, One Web, Embraer, SpaceX, Boeing and countless others all bear witness to the impact DiBello and Space Florida have had. When asked if he thought the global space industry would top a trillion dollars in 25 years, he said, “No, I think it will happen in a little over ten.”