Effort Meets Opportunity in Moving Forward

For more than 50 years, the nation’s space program has reflected our collective desire to look to the future and explore the unknown. It is part of the legacy we share as residents of the Space Coast. As we embark on a new year, we have the opportunity – dare I say, an obligation – to honor that spirit of exploration by leaving our own familiar “orbit” in search of new ways to sustain and grow our region’s economy.

Make no mistake – no one underestimates the significant impact of the Shuttle’s retirement on our community. Yet today, we also are much better prepared to weather the storm than we were in 1975 [when the Apollo program concluded]. While today’s transition is enormously challenging, the region’s successful efforts to diversify the economy since the 1970s will serve to mitigate the impact.

Marketing and Communications

Given the national media’s propensity toward delivering bad news, we are determined to capitalize on media coverage of the retirement of the Space Shuttle by enacting a proactive marketing and communications strategy that highlights our region’s competitive advantages and showcases the diversity of our economy.

We have developed a total communications platform that includes a national press campaign, a new brochure, advertising in select markets, direct mail to site selection consultants and corporations, email campaigns, and ads in airports and other non-traditional ad venues.

Through consistent messaging, we will be able to demonstrate that there are incredible resources on the Space Coast, including:

1) Our high-tech environment, which, with its focus in aerospace and aviation, advanced communications, electronics, homeland security, national defense, and emerging technologies, is incredibly strong;

2) Our potential as a center for the renewable energy industry, particularly solar energy; and

3) Our world-class talent, facilities and potential to be the leader in advancing America’s commercial space capabilities.

Projects in the Pipeline

In addition to our Space transition public relations strategy, the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast is at work on its core business: attracting new businesses to the Space Coast, and retaining and expanding our existing businesses.

At the end of September 2010, the EDC was engaged in more than 50 client projects, 27 of which are expected to make a decision by the end of the third quarter of calendar year 2011. Those projects represent more than 5,000 potential jobs and a possible combined capital investment of more than $1.25 billion.

If we lose projects it’s not for a lack of desire or effort on the part of all of Brevard’s economic development partners. But in today’s competitive business environment, it’s time for the Florida legislature to adopt economic development policies and programs that allow the Space Coast and other regions of our state to better compete against states with significantly more robust incentive programs.

Other ongoing initiatives of the EDC include:

Supporting Renewable Energy Legislation

The EDC continues to work with legislative partners at the state level to create an energy policy geared toward incentivizing the renewable energy market in Florida. Renewable energy presents a plausible transition for many workers displaced by the Shuttle program.

Enhancing Community Outreach

Last year, we held two “Open Door for Business” events, where community business people were able to meet with the EDC staff and ask questions. This also enables the EDC staff to better understand the operations and products of Brevard’s existing companies so we can attract their suppliers and partners and facilitate business-to-business dialog locally.

Connecting with Local, State, Federal and Military Officials

We also are focused on meeting and communicating more frequently with our elected officials at the local, state and federal levels, as well as with military officials in Washington, D.C.

Streamlining the Permitting Process

The EDC Development Council is working with local government leaders to develop a one-stop permitting package that will speed the approval and development process for new facilities. Our goal is for this package to become a model that other cities and counties will want to emulate.

I have been involved in economic development initiatives in several communities during my career, and I can tell you that I’m excited about what the future holds for Brevard County. From large companies to the small start-ups that have emerged over the years, the Space Coast continues to be a hub for terrific educational opportunities, incredible innovation and a commitment to creating a more technologically advanced tomorrow.