Recognizing Our Economic Progress

by Robert Whelen

While the economy continued to fluctuate this year, the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast continued to produce results. Some paint a cautionary tale of a stagnant economy with no signs of life. We like to think there is still an abundance of opportunity out there; you just have to be more creative in your approach than ever before. It’s no secret that companies aren’t expanding or relocating at the same pace they once were in ‘boom years’, but movement is most certainly occurring.

The EDC Coalition, a combination of staff, Board of Directors, Investors and community partners, has converted a significant number of opportunities into reality over the past year. Not only are our efforts measurable in terms of new or retained jobs, we have also been successful in easing business restrictions, strengthening Brevard’s position in the media, securing funding for local infrastructure projects, proactively working alongside legislators as we navigate a monumental transition in the aerospace industry, and providing support to local companies to aid future growth.

Project Announcement

There were companies that garnered national press for choosing Brevard and some that chose to stay and grow close to home. Regardless of size or location, the impact generated from these announcements will help to propel Brevard’s economy for years to come. Two of the larger stories this year involved the relocations of AAR Corporation and MidAir, aviation companies that now join the growing cluster of established and emerging companies at Melbourne International Airport. Brevard-based companies also saw growth this year including SolTec Electronics, Executive Wings, Professional Aircraft Accessories and others.

Policy Changes

When we launched our current strategic plan, we knew that changing policies to be more pro-business would help set us apart from the competition. This is an area that has gained significant traction over the past two years with measurable results that have turned prior limitations into competitive advantages. Together with our community partners, we identified the areas that we could influence and set about to make change.

Our S.N.A.P (Simplified, Nimble, Accelerated Permitting) program has helped streamline the permitting process at municipalities throughout the Space Coast. It lifts the red tape and makes doing business in Brevard more accessible. The EDC was also part of the efforts to establish designated areas for business growth including the Titusville Brownfield Districts.

Innovative Marketing Approaches

Our marketing efforts this year focused heavily on our community’s impact from the recently dismantled Shuttle program. To mitigate the negative attention Brevard received, we seized the opportunity to tell our own story of a community with the infrastructure, ingenuity and most importantly, the talent to support the country’s next great initiative. Over the year, we focused on the positives through a Space Transition Public Relations Strategy, development of an aerospace workforce direct mail campaign, and we entered into a Space Act Agreement with Kennedy Space Center.

National/International Recognition

Our Community of Distinction Council’s efforts to brand the community as a place of innovation and our identification of targeted clusters are working to capture the right kind of attention for Brevard. These national rankings lend credibility to our marketing messages and confirm we can compete alongside larger, more well-known cities. Recognitions from Expansion Management magazine, Trip Advisor and the Tech America Foundation highlighted Brevard for its high concentration of technology, work/life balance and family vacation friendliness. Our public school system was also recognized in the top 4 percent nationally.

Awards

Accolades among industry and community partners are important for our organization – not so much to shine a light on the award or person itself, but for the opportunity these recognitions provide to gain national attention from site selectors and corporate America. Rankings that will help make the case for business cultivation include Area Development Magazine’s recognition of Brevard as a ‘location to watch,’ Florida Economic Development Council’s Deal of the Year for AAR’s relocation to the Space Coast, and various awards from the International Economic Development Council.

National numbers show the exact areas in which our economy has lost steam over the past few years. But, economic development isn’t just about what the numbers say. Our conversations with local industry leaders continue to provide reason for optimism and the companies we speak with across the nation are starting to express interest in relocating again. Signs of life are emerging again in key segments. As we wrap up this year and look toward the next, we are confident this renewed confidence in the marketplace will help develop new opportunities for the Space Coast and strengthen our standing in the nation and world.


Robert Whelen is corporate vice president – Real Estate and Environmental, Health & Safety for Harris Corporation and chairman of the board for the Economic Development Commission.