Space Coast Sees Job Growth Even As Federal Budget Cuts Looms

Aug 2, 2012

The Space Florida organization will spend five-million dollars to help rebuild a site at Cape Canaveral’s Air Force base. Lynn Hatter reports The site will be used to test submarine missile systems, and the project is expected to bring up to 100 jobs to an area of the state that has been hit hard by job losses.

Governor Rick Scott says the jobs created by the missile pad updates at Cape Canaveral Air Force base will come with salaries of about ninety-thousand dollars.

“All of us are focused on this to make sure this is place where anybody in aviation, space, aerospace, defense—they want to do business.”  

Cape Canaveral, once home to the nation’s Space Shuttle Program, saw more than 7,000 people lose their jobs once the missions ended last year. Since then the area’s economic development group has been working to recruit companies and bring in more jobs to replace the ones that were lost. Last month the tech company Rocket Crafters, announced it would relocate its headquarters and research labs to the region. And Lynda Weatherman, head of the Space Coast Economic Development Commission, says Lockheed Martin, and Boeing have also announced plans to set up shop in the area.

“It would be unfair to Rocket Crafters to mitigate the whole of the job losses, not one company can do that. I think the best way to look at it is that a lot of these companies that have been attracted to this area were attracted because of the legacy of the space program, the high-tech labor force that we have and other competitive advantages we have in terms of being a pretty good value for money in terms of starting up.”  

But as the Space Coast works to recover from the loss of the Shuttle Program, it’s also one of several areas of the state that could get hit again if planned cuts to the nation’s defense budget go through at the end of the year. The cuts are a part of something called “sequestration” or “the fiscal cliff”- and it could lead to a 500-billion dollar cut to defense over the next decade unless Congress acts.

On the same day he announced new jobs for Florida’s space coast, Governor Rick Scott wrote a letter to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid urging them to come to avoid that “fiscal cliff.”

“The automatic sequester, all the budget changes, a new debt-ceiling that will have to be adopted and then a lot of tax breaks and stimulus programs will also expire in January. And if that’s disorderly that will be a problem," said State Economist Amy Baker, who warns if the cuts go through they could further stifle the state's fragile economic recovery.

Baker says if Congress doesn’t outline a clear path forward for dealing with the budget cuts and tax hikes, it could be problematic for not just Florida but for the nation as a whole. State officials are mostly concerned with planned cuts to defense, which they say could impact more than 680-thousand related jobs in the state.