by John Finotti
Updated 11 months ago
Shaken but Determined
Florida's ever-growing space coast entered the New Year with high expectations. But the loss of the space shuttle Columbia on Feb. 1 has cast a long shadow of uncertainty over the area's economy. While economic and industry - Flagler County posted a 5% gain in population from 2002-2003 -- the biggest in the state -- and is projected to have the strongest percentage gain from 2003-2008 at 4.15% a year.experts say it's too early to predict the full impact, they're concerned that the disaster and subsequent grounding of the shuttle fleet, if prolonged, could mean layoffs later this year.
"Our community is now focused on determining what we must do to support the industries along the space coast that are directly affected by the shuttle program and will do everything in our power in the coming days and weeks to assist them," says Lynda L. Weatherman, president and CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast.
In Brevard County, home of the Kennedy Space Center, the shuttle program and space-related industries employ about 18% of the county's workforce, says Linda South, executive director of the Brevard Workforce Development Board. As of mid-February, however, South said she hadn't received any layoff notifications.
Still, the economies of Brevard and neighboring counties aren't as concentrated around the space industry as they had been in previous years. In the wake of the space shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986, some 27% of the region's workforce was employed in space industry jobs.
Diversification of the space coast's economy has been bolstered by both expansions and relocations of defense-related businesses, which have been experiencing growth since the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the showdown over Iraq. "We're a much different economy than we were 17 years ago after Challenger," says Walt Johnson, executive director of the north Brevard-focused Space Coast Economic Development Commission.
KEY TREND: After several false starts, Daytona Beach's big waterfront redevelopment is back on track. The $125-million Boardwalk project includes hotels, condos, shops, restaurants and an amusement park on the pier. Meanwhile, economic development efforts and cooperation between Daytona Beach and surrounding communities are starting to gel. "We're better organized this year than we've ever been," says Peter Aluotto, development services director for Daytona Beach. Also, look for Daytona Beach and Volusia County to continue to attract medical technology and equipment manufacturers. In the past 18 months, medical-related businesses have invested $130 million in capital expansions, including Tyco Healthcare Kendall, a maker of syringes and other medical supplies, Gambro Renal Products, maker of kidney dialysis equipment, and Germfree Laboratories Inc., maker of medical sterilization devices. "We're recruiting a half-dozen other medical technology and biotech companies now," says Richard Michael, executive director of the Volusia County Department of Economic Development.
PEOPLE TO WATCH: Lesa D. Kennedy, 41, is president of International Speedway Corp., which operates NASCAR motorsports facilities. She's the daughter of ISC founder and Chairman Bill France. ... William Geary is president of Los Angeles-based Carlsberg Management Co., developer of the city's ambitious Boardwalk project.
BUSINESS TO WATCH: Healthcare Billing Systems Inc., a growing company that provides billing services and develops software for emergency rooms, is moving into a 48,000-sq.-ft. building just off Interstate 95 in Daytona Beach. The company is expected to add nearly 100 workers.
KEY TREND: Aside from the uncertainty of NASA's space shuttle program, Melbourne's economy is expected to stay aloft. Downtown redevelopment efforts will continue to spur construction and new restaurants. Elsewhere, business for defense contractors such as Harris Corp. is expected to continue picking up through the year. Across the board, from healthcare providers to accounting firms, Melbourne businesses remain optimistic for the balance of this year, says Lee Bohlmann, president of the Melbourne-Palm Bay Chamber of Commerce. "I don't see a lot of people wringing their hands and saying 'woe is me,' " Bohlmann says.
PEOPLE TO WATCH: Howard L. Lance, 47, takes over as president and chief executive officer of Harris Corp. He had been president of NCR Corp. and chief operating officer of its retail and financial group. ... Michael Melhado, owner of Island Pasta restaurant, is at the forefront of downtown renovation. ... Anthony J. Catanese has taken the reins at Florida Institute of Technology, a 4,500-student private university. He had been president of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
BUSINESSES TO WATCH: As part of defense contractor DRS Technologies' acquisition of Palm Bay-based Paravant late last year, DRS will be moving some of its other operations to Paravant's facilities. ... MIMA, Melbourne Internal Medicine Associates, will open a 40,000-sq.-ft. medical office building and an adjoining 8,000-sq.-ft. Melbourne Cancer Center in August.
KEY TREND: Located in the northern part of Brevard County west of the Kennedy Space Center, Titusville, a city of 44,000, is seeing a spurt in housing construction. Last year, builders pulled 251 housing permits, four times as many as three years earlier, says Marcia Gaedcke, president of the Titusville Area Chamber of Commerce. With relatively affordable land, Titusville is attracting home buyers from the greater Orlando area. "It's unprecedented growth for us," says Gaedcke.
BUSINESSES TO WATCH: Knight Enterprises, a manufacturer of military hardware, has taken over the 610,000-sq.-ft. facility shuttered after the Boeing and McDonnell-Douglas merger six years ago. Knight's expansion will create 450 high-tech jobs paying an average salary of $34,544. ... The American Police Hall of Fame, complete with a high-tech gun range, opens this year and is expected to draw big crowds of visitors.
BUSINESSES TO WATCH: Florida Landmark Communities, owner of Palm Coast development, will be presenting its 1,500-acre town center project to the city council for approval of a development of regional impact. The project includes a 150-acre urban core of shops and restaurants and multifamily residential units. ... Palm Coast Digital Solutions, a former subsidiary of Polaroid, was acquired by its managers and relocated to Palm Coast.
POPULATION TOTALSAnnual Percentage ChangeCounty20022003'02-'03'98-'03'03-'08Brevard494,082500,8261.36%1.64%1.77%Flagler56,51059,3375.00%5.73%4.15%Volusia459,488466,5071.53%1.74%1.75%FLORIDA16,689,00216,977,8901.73%2.08%1.75%
JOB TOTALSAnnual Percentage ChangeCounty20022003'02-'03'98-'03'03-'08Brevard194,469195,8770.72%1.69%1.48%Flagler13,99214,5393.91%4.02%3.51%Volusia147,699151,7322.73%1.38%2.35%FLORIDA7,318,6977,488,0472.31%2.45%2.16%
POPULATION BY AGEYears of AgeCounty0-1415-1920-3940-6465+TOTALBrevard17.3%6.4%22.4%34.2%19.7%500,826Flagler13.7%5.1%16.4%35.3%29.5%59,337Volusia16.0%6.3%22.8%33.1%21.8%466,507FLORIDA18.5%6.5%25.4%32.0%17.6%16,977,890
PER CAPITA INCOMEPer Capita
Income 2003Source of IncomeCountyLaborPropertyTransferBrevard$27,96459.9%21.7%18.4%Flagler$25,54343.8%31.9%24.3%Volusia$24,52651.3%26.0%22.7%FLORIDA$30,65460.2%23.7%16.1%
SOURCE: "Florida Long-Term Economic Forecast 2002," the Bureau of Economic and Business Research, University of Florida. Data are estimates or projections. Population data include military stationed in Florida and inmates. Jobs data measure civilian, nonagricultural wage and salary positions. Property income includes rent, dividend and interest payments; transfer income includes retirement, veterans and unemployment benefits, Medicare, Medicaid and income assistance.