Fighting for Florida
Yesterday, Senator Rubio along with Senator Bill Nelson and Representatives Bill Posey and Sandy Adams met with Bob Cabana, the Kennedy Space Center Director, Frank DiBello, President of Space Florida, and Lynda Weatherman, President & CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, to discuss the importance of the space program to Florida. We wanted to share some pictures from the meeting and an article from the Orlando Sentinel describing the “powwow.”
OS: Florida Leaders Powwow on the Space Coast’s Future
October, 5 2011
WASHINGTON — With employment at Kennedy Space Center expected to reach historic lows next year, Florida lawmakers from both parties met Wednesday to powwow on ideas to help thousands of workers displaced by the end of the space shuttle era.
Their conclusion: back the new rocket unveiled by NASA last month and hope that economic groups like Space Florida can mitigate job losses until the new Space Launch System comes online later in a few years.
“We have to grudgingly accept the fact there is going to be some transitional disruptions as a result of where we are in the space program,” said U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, one of the four lawmakers who met for an hour in the office of U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida. “But the sooner we can establish an exciting vision the better.”
Employment at KSC is expected to fall to roughly 8,200 by next summer — down from 15,000 in 2008 and its lowest level since before the Apollo program blasted astronauts to the moon more than 42 years ago.
Adding to the woe is that the new Space Launch System won’t approach full employment for years. A first launch isn’t planned until at least 2017 and KSC jobs won’t start returning until about 2013, KSC center have said.
In the interim, groups such as Space Florida and the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast have pressed other industries to relocate to the Space Coast.
They’ve had some luck – snaring an estimated 1,200 jobs with thousands more potentially in the pipeline – but that still leaves a significant share of ex-shuttle employees out of work.
None of the lawmakers reached after the meeting, however, had much new to add to the mix of potential solutions.
“I would say we are all looking toward how we can … work on these issues,” said U.S. Rep. Sandy Adams, R-Orlando.
Still, there were signs the issue was getting some attention on Capitol Hill. Staff members from the offices of 15 Florida House members also met Wednesday to raise awareness of the Space Coast unemployment and lay the groundwork for state officials to work together as a delegation.
“It was really a good opportunity for all the Space Coast people to get together,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge. He said officials like Frank DiBello of Space Florida “haven’t been sitting idly by” and that he expected some “encouraging news to look forward to in the future.”