A Presidential task force has come up with four primary ideas to help Florida’s Space Coast adjust to the Shuttle program wind-down.
After review of the Space Coast’s economic assets, employment needs, and development priorities, as well as suggestions submitted through a public website, the task force developed four key recommendations. To sustain regional investments already underway they said retraining resources for displaced workers would be the top priority. The Space Shuttle Transition Liaison Office came next, followed by Recovery Act funding for the region, and other government programs.
The President’s Task Force on Space Industry Workforce and Economic Development, co-chaired by NASA Administrator Charles F. Bolden, Jr. and U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, released its report this week to the White House with recommendations to enhance economic development strategies along Florida’s Space Coast.
The task force was charged with developing a plan for how best to invest $40 million in transition assistance from the federal government in the Space Coast region as the space shuttle program winds down.
Bolden, Locke, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, and several other senior administration officials visited the region several times since the creation of the task force to meet with area workers and experts.
“Over the past few months, we have worked diligently with local government officials, economic development agencies and affected corporations and employees to develop a comprehensive plan that will create high-skill, high-wage jobs and a strong economic base in the Space Coast,” Locke said. “Space is a key driver of the 21st century American economy, and that’s why the President believes so strongly in empowering NASA to pursue new avenues of discovery.”
The group suggested spurring immediate opportunity by launching a new commercial spaceflight technical center, and investing $600,000 of the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) and Small Business Administration FY 2010 budget to support small businesses and industry clusters.
They also recommended holding a federal government job fair for the highly skilled displaced workers, facilitating a technology export exposition hosted by the Commerce department to increase access to international markets for small- and medium-sized businesses, and to invest in smart economic growth initiatives through a new competitive fund by establishing a fast-track competitive grant process through the EDA.
The group members suggested building lasting infrastructure for success by engaging a public-private partnership between the federal government, venture capitalists, and corporations to catalyze new, long-term business creation along the Space Coast.
The majority of the $40 million investment will be dedicated to a fast-track competitive grant process through Commerce’s EDA. $35 million in grants will be awarded to the most promising job creation and economic development programs, with competition announced September 1. The additional $5 million will fund a new Commercial Spaceflight Technical Center to support commercial space launch and reentry activities.
“For decades, the dedicated members of the Space Coast workforce have used their wide-ranging talents to safely create, launch, and maintain some of the world’s most complex aerospace and technical systems,” said NASA’s Bolden. “As we transition to a new era in our national space policy, President Obama has made it a top priority to foster innovation and create job opportunities for those who helped make America the leader in international space exploration. The investments we’re making with these Task Force recommendations are investments in our nation’s most important asset, our skilled workforce.”
In addition to funding set aside in President Obama’s 2011 budget for the Space Coast, another $60 million was set aside for other areas across the country that will be impacted by changes to the nation’s space policy, including $45 million for economic development through EDA and another $15 million for job training activities through the Department of Labor.
Earlier this year, President Obama announced a new space initiative that includes a budget increase of $6 billion over five years to support a new path of innovation and discovery that will create thousands of jobs at Kennedy Space Center, on the Space Coast, and nationwide.
In May, he established the Task Force on Space Industry Workforce and Economic Development to lead the initiative to coordinate and implement a plan to grow the region’s economy and prepare its workers for the opportunities of tomorrow as the shuttle program comes to a close. The $40 million, multi-agency initiative builds on and complements ongoing local and federal economic and workforce development efforts.
Useful website: www.nasa.gov/spacecoasttaskforce