How important is it to Brevard County?

by Melissa Stains

Last year, 2.5 million overnight and an additional 2.6 million daytime tourists visited the Space Coast, impacting the Brevard County economy to the tune of $2.8 billion.  The total number of jobs directly generated by tourist activity is estimated at 9,749, with indirect employment also generated based on the spinoff activity.  Indirect employment is estimated at 9,281 jobs for a total employment of 19,030.

So how important is tourism to Brevard County?  It’s enormous!

There are four key economic engines that drive commerce in Brevard County – space, military, the Port and tourism.  Although the Space Shuttle program has completed its last mission, space still occupies great opportunities in the area.  SpaceX, Boeing and United Launch Systems (ULS) are big players in furthering our advancement into space.  Commercial space partnerships have been part of the space program since its inception but now their roles have been enlarged.

Our military plays a huge part in launching unmanned rockets and satellites.  There will be over twelve launches next year by the military, more than any single year of shuttle flights.  Space Florida is working tirelessly to bring other commercial companies to Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Station, and NASA is working to open and provide working space located onsite to facilitate the use of buildings and property.  Space exploration is moving forward.

Our area has been fortunate to have an incredibly involved 45th Space Wing commander and staff.  Under his command, the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station has opened their gates for free public guided tours of the base and the lighthouse.  Repaired and renovated beach access for soldiers and the public at large has opened the Blockhouse.  The community spirit of Patrick Air Force Base is outstanding and is posed to be bigger and better in the future.

Additionally, the Coast Guard and Navy have boosted our local economy with vessel visits, expansion of the CG base, construction of new NOTU offices and service personnel furthering their education opportunities in our area.  Brevard County is truly fortunate to have the armed services so supportive and involved in our communities.

Port Canaveral is the second busiest port on the east coast and growing by leaps and bounds under the direction of CEO Stan Payne and a dynamic commission.  The Port accounts for more than 13, 000 jobs and contributes more than $1.1 billion to the county.  The “corner cut-off” is complete, which will allow bigger cruise ships to turn around.  The construction of Cruise Terminal 6 will be completed in 2013 and the workforce for that construction is 80 percent Brevard residents.  The “Go Wide. Go Deep” initiative will focus on gaining funding from the federal government to widen and deepen the Port.

Cruising is not the only revenue generator at the Port; the cargo business accounts for 3.5 million short tons per year.  The Port operates the Foreign Trade Zone 136 and partners with 13 different countries.  Some major companies that utilize the Port’s cargo capacity are Walmart, Lowe’s, Tropicana and Melbourne International Airport to name a few.   And let us not forget the marina and recreational areas the Port supports, all without collecting taxes from the public!  What a gem with a sterling future ahead.

Let’s return to tourism.  Tourism touches every one of the economic engines.  Our area has many activities for our visitors, ranging from surfing, boating, waterskiing, kayaking, paddle boarding, fishing and kite boarding – to name just the water sports.  Plus a casino ship, world class zoo, skateboarding, zip lining, wildlife sanctuaries, dolphins, manatees and one of the best free beaches in the world.

We also have the biggest and best space attraction in the world: Kennedy Space Center, home to the Space Shuttle Atlantis.  Throughout the year we have hot rods, air shows, speedboat races, Pink Ribbon walks, minor league baseball and Spring Training for the Washington Nationals, the Art of Sand festival, Runaway Country Music concert and Chowder Cook-Offs.

You want shopping?  We have Merritt and Melbourne Square Malls, Cocoa Village, The Avenue Viera, surf shops and novelty shops. When all we offer is put down on paper the Mecca available is unbelievable.  We have the resources, we have the drive, and we have the support to move Brevard County forward.  Let’s capitalize on our many assets and promote our area as a “Paradise of a Destination!”

Melissa Stains is the president/CEO of the Cocoa Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.