Celebrating the Steady Drip of New Jobs

A leaky hose can teach us a lot about economic development.

Last weekend, I was outside cleaning off the patio, watering my plants and doing a host of other chores.   I left the hose turned on to use as needed.  But the connection was crooked and it leaked enough that I felt guilty about wasting so much water.  So I placed a plastic tub under the nozzle to catch what drizzled out.  Amazingly, by the time I had finished outside the bucket was half full.

Writing this reminds me of the half full/half empty way of looking at life.  And while I’ve always hated that phrase, in this case my bucket really WAS half full.  But it got there drop by drop, not with one great cascade of water.  This is exactly how we must refill the lost jobs at Kennedy Space Center.  I am personally tired of hearing that no matter what the good news is “it’s not enough.”

For Instance…

I am sure AAR Airlift doesn’t think so; nor does Embraer.  AAR Airlift just opened a new facility on Melbourne International Airport property.  Their goal was to support 225 workers in mostly high-paying jobs.  Their company president announced they had reached that goal the day they opened.  And when I spoke to the managers who were in the process of relocating here, I found nothing but enthusiasm.  They wanted to know where to buy a boat, where to buy a house, where to take surfing lessons.  They were fully embracing their new life in what I believe truly is the most glorious place to live.  And guess what?  They’re also buying homes, new “tropical” furniture and patronizing other local businesses as they get settled in.

Embraer has a similar story.  The Brazilian manufacturer of executive jets also opened at the airport, which will house its first U.S. assembly facility for its Phenom 100 jet.  And it will, this fall, open its customer design center – bringing wealthy clients to the Space Coast.  And while they’re here outfitting their new planes, they might also fall in love with our climate, our welcoming attitude and our natural beauty.  Embraer will add some 200 workers once at capacity, and their first hires included those from the space program.

These are two of the more publicized examples of jobs coming back to the economy.  But if we do the math, that’s not even 500 jobs added to replace thousands lost.  One at a time, a few at a time, or a hundred at a time, it might be just a drop in the KSC bucket.  But these companies are seeing what we already know: that we have an amazing workforce of well-educated, fiercely loyal and dedicated professionals who want to remain in paradise and who are ready to roll up their sleeves.

Other Options

Perhaps some of them will start their own companies.  Groups such as our chamber, the economic development offices, and business development organizations are strategizing ways to create an entrepreneurial “one-stop” through Brevard Workforce to help them create the companies of the future.

And on October 11, the Melbourne Regional Chamber will hold the first TechXpo at Florida Institute of Technology to showcase the amazing diversity of technology companies we have on the Space Coast.  This will send a message, loud and clear, that the Space Coast has a lot to offer, despite the end of the shuttle program.

Realistically, we can’t expect a lottery-style windfall to magically make up for what has been taken away.  So at least we should give thanks for what is being given – precious jobs, precious drops in the bucket that will eventually fill us up.