"The Space Coast didn't boom in the last decade," says Mark Vitner, an economist at Wachovia First Union Corp. in Charlotte, N.C. "The outlook seems to be improving."
At the same time, the Space Coast, stretching from Melbourne north to Flagler County, is experiencing a boom in residential construction. The demand for housing is coming from retirees moving to Flagler, as well as development pushing east away from ever-expanding metro Orlando.
Key Trend: Signs of redevelopment abound this year. The city will select a developer for the Boardwalk development, a major $300-million mixed-use project that includes condos, a hotel and entertainment. Renovation of the city's north basin marina, including dredging, is under way. Construction has begun on Oceanwalk Village, which includes a movie theater, shops and restaurants. Also set to open this year are a new Amtrak station and a new performing arts theater at Bethune-Cookman College. "We're starting to turn the corner," says Peter Aluotto, Daytona Beach's development services director.
business to watch: Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University is leading the Southeast Small Aircraft Transportation System, or SATS, Lab Consortium, which is studying the viability of using smaller jets to serve the nation's smaller, underutilized airports. The five-year experimental program is being funded partly by NASA.
Key Trend: After the Boeing and McDonnell-Douglas merger six years ago, Titusville lost 1,300 jobs when a massive 620,000-sq.-ft. aerospace manufacturing facility was shuttered. But the facility will likely come back to life this year with a to-be-named new tenant, says Walt Johnson, executive director of the Space Coast Economic Development Commission. Meanwhile, NASA is moving its space shuttle overhaul operation from Palmdale, Calif., to the Kennedy Space Center. The move will create about 235 positions for engineers, technicians, and safety and quality specialists.
Person to Watch: In the next five years, about half of the 6,000 technicians at the Kennedy Space Center are expected to retire. Former NASA engineer Al Koller will play a big role in trying to train their replacements. Executive director of aerospace programs at Brevard Community College, Koller has been tapped to oversee BCC's newly launched aerospace professional development program. Koller hopes to have 200 students enrolled in the two-year program within the next two years.
Business to Watch: Despite a downturn in the sale of pleasure boats, Vectorworks Inc., which specializes in making molds for large motor yachts, is looking for its best year in 2002, with revenues expected to jump as much as 40%. That's because boat manufacturers retool when sales lag, says Jeff Gray, a former Kennedy Space Center manager who founded Vectorworks 10 years ago.
Key Trend: The redevelopment of Melbourne's downtown business district and the conversion of 500,000 square feet of abandoned retail space into commercial offices continue to pay off. Melbourne's downtown office and retail space is nearly 100% occupied, says Henry Hill, Melbourne's city manager. Meanwhile, a number of technology-related firms have moved into space at the former Brevard Mall and other former retail space along Babcock Street, which connects Melbourne and nearby Eau Gallie. Those companies include Submit Order.Com, DRS Optronics, e-Circuit, Percepta and Tantivy Communications Inc.
Person to Watch: As chief financial officer of construction holding company Venture Management Group, Kim Brown oversees the finances of five fast-growing subsidiaries.
Business to Watch: Communications equipment maker Harris Corp. will be hiring more engineers as it ramps up avionics work from Lockheed Martin's Joint Strike Fighter contract. Under the $2-billion contract, Harris will design and produce next-generation avionics infrastructure, image processing and digital map software, among other components for the project.
Major Challenge: A big segment of the workforce doesn't have the skills to meet the needs of the new economy, says Lee Bohlmann, president of the Melbourne-Palm Bay Area Chamber of Commerce.
Key Trend: While the eastern part of Flagler County continues to attract record numbers of newcomers, the western portion is sprouting its own growth. In the last decade, sod farming in that part of Flagler has become a major cash crop, notes Steve Marro, director of Enterprise Flagler.
Person to Watch: As the city of Palm Coast strives to balance its economy with more job-creating businesses, the fast-growing community will be looking to newly hired City Manager Richard Kelton to help in the transition.