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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Florida's $8 billion space industry at critical turning point

4,243 layoffs in the aerospace industry in Brevard County

Special Correspondent

With the space shuttle program coming to a close later this year and no clear direction on its replacement, the state of Florida is facing an economic crisis with a ripple effect that will last for years to come. More than ever, the state needs to maintain its position as the nation's No. 1 place to do space business.

The state's aerospace industry employs 84,000 workers from 1,900 statewide companies. The space industry alone represents an $8 billion business in Florida. As the space shuttle completes its final flight this year, the job losses could reach 21,000 direct and indirect employment losses that represent a highly skilled workforce across Florida.

Florida stands to reap tremendous benefits as a global powerhouse through investments in the aerospace industry. New business and employment opportunities are created by a robust launch, ground operations and supply-chain business constellations. A world-class workforce that remains in Florida and grows bolsters our economy and inspires future scientists and engineers. Additionally, cutting-edge research and development supports target business groups and sciences of global significance.

On March 1, NASA announced that Kennedy Space Center (KSC) would "lead the way in enabling commercial human spaceflight capabilities and host a program office dedicated to that work." It said KSC "will continue to provide launch services to both science missions and commercial crew providers."

Today, I will join my colleagues in the space industry to speak with state leaders in Tallahassee. It is essential that Florida's legislators, local elected officials and the business community work in a unified fashion to push for a commitment in Washington to maintain America's prominence in space exploration; attract new business by offering incentives to mitigate job loss, creating a 21st century aerospace community; and position Florida to capture innovative national and international space-related business to stimulate the economy.

What Florida gets from space is more than science. Failure for us to act now will risk the loss of a highly skilled workforce that grows economies and inspires future engineers and scientists. Florida's world-class aerospace business location is at stake.

We are at a turning point. We need your support now to prevent an economic downfall to the state and compromise one of our nation's greatest assets.

Kevin Hoshstrasser is the site director for Boeing Space Exploration Florida Operations at Kennedy Space Center. He is this year's honorary chairman of Florida Space Day 2011.

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