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Economic Indicators for Florida's Space Coast

The shuttle’s demise didn’t push unemployment as high as many feared. Unmanned launches and major expansions by Harris, Boeing and other aviation-related businesses are helping.

Florida's Space Coast

Melbourne/Titusville/Brevard County

Unmanned launches
Unmanned launches will keep the Cape busy this year, helping to offset a void created by the end of the shuttle program. [Photo: Bill Ingalls/NASA]

Issues to Watch

» Space launches: While the space shuttle is gone, the actual number of rocket launches from Cape Canaveral won't decrease significantly. Brig. Gen. Anthony Cotton, commander of the Air Force 45th Space Wing and director of the Eastern Range, says the Cape will be busy throughout the year, with at least one unmanned launch nearly every month. Addressing the National Space Club Florida earlier this year, Cotton noted that in addition to several military satellites, two National Reconnaissance Office payloads as well as unmanned mini-shuttle and NASA satellite launches are planned. Suborbital flights also are increasing.

» Shuttle fallout: Although space-related job losses continue for shuttle-related employers such as contract service company United Space Alliance, the county's unemployment rate never got as high in 2011 as many feared. Some job seekers left the area, shrinking the labor pool. And now Brevard Workforce officials say they expect job growth to pick up, pushing unemployment back down. A number of big companies are expanding: Harris Corp., for example, is starting work this year on a $100-million engineering center at its Palm Bay location, creating an estimated 300 construction jobs and at least 100 permanent jobs when the facility is completed in 2014; Boeing also has plans to bring more than 500 jobs to Brevard when it ramps up space-related manufacturing. It's still a challenge to replace the shuttle jobs' high salaries, however, says Deborah Kobza, executive director and CEO of the Global Institute for Cybersecurity and Research, which is based at Kennedy Space Center and is working with the Center for Technology Innovation and other groups to retain skilled workers. "Hiring has gone a lot slower than we would have liked," says Kobza.

» Aviation: Aviation-related growth is on a roll. Melbourne International attracted Embraer's executive jet manufacturing operation, AAR Airlift Group and Midair USA's aircraft servicing operations, and Titusville-based Professional Aircraft Accessories is expanding at Space Coast Regional Airport.

» Tourism: The county is looking to tourism to fill some of the economic void left by the loss of the shuttle. The $100-million Atlantis space shuttle exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center complex is under construction. The area also is counting on a bigger boost from Port Canaveral's thriving cruise ship business: Seven big cruise liners are now based at the port, including the latest arrival, Disney's Fantasy. Passenger traffic at Port Canaveral rose 13.9% last year to 1.55 million and should rise again this year as another cruise terminal is completed and work continues on a welcome center and other amenities.

Businesses to Watch

» MC Assembly: Employment at the company's Palm Bay location grew more than 28% to more than 900 employees in 2011, and company executives say the tide has turned for its electronic contract manufacturing in a range of fields from aerospace to medicine.

» Paragon Plastics: The Cocoa-based custom heavy-gauge plastic manufacturer for the marine industry and other fields is expanding, adding 15,000 square feet to accommodate another 10 employees.

People to Watch

» Brig. Gen. Anthony Cotton: The commander of the Air Force 45th Space Wing and director of the Eastern Range, the nation's main rocket-launching region, is looking for a busy year with up to a dozen launches from Cape Canaveral.

» Mike Werner: The president of the Space Coast Economic Development Commission is also a vice president with Knight's Armament in Titusville, one of north Brevard's largest manufacturers.

» Betsy Farmer: The co-founder and executive director of Promise in Brevard, a Palm Bay group that supports people with disabilities, is heading an effort to build a $6-million independent-living complex on a 20-acre site in West Melbourne.

Brevard Population: 551,910
Population Growth Rate (2008-12): 0.44%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
15.78% 6.02% 20.88% 36.23% 21.08%
Per Capita Income: $40,377

Jobs
MSA Dec. 2011 Dec. 2010 % Change Jobless Rate
Deltona/Daytona Beach/Ormond Beach 226,120 221,461 +2.1% 10.1%
Palm Bay/Melbourne/Titusville 231,220 234,086 -1.2% 10.8%
Palm Coast 27,590 28,047 -1.6% 13.9%
Source: Agency for Workforce Innovation

Homes - Single-family, existing-home sales
MSA 2011 Sales 1-Year Change 2011 Price 1-Year Change
Daytona Beach 9,010 +6% $110,400 -7%
Melbourne/Titusville/Palm Bay 6,908 +13% $102,200 -3%
Source: Florida Realtors; year-end sales, median price

Brevard County Consumer Bankruptcies
2010 2011 Change
2,951 2,450 -17.0%
Source: National Bankruptcy Research Center

Daytona Beach/Volusia County

Daytona Beach
Tourism was up last year in Daytona Beach. [Photo: iStockphoto]

Issues to Watch

» Leisure and hospitality: The sector, which carries the economy in Daytona Beach and other seaside communities, improved in 2011 and looks to build on that this year, barring bad weather or shocks to fragile consumer confidence. Daytona Beach International Airport looks to top 2011's 11% increase in passenger traffic.

» Retail: Local consumer confidence, which helps drive retail sales, remains weak as the market continues to be weighed down by the effects of foreclosures, short sales and the overhang of homes that are worth less than their mortgages.

» SunRail: On the west side, DeBary is positioned to benefit from a boost in infrastructure development that begins this year on the SunRail commuter train system linking the region to Orlando and points south, where jobs are more plentiful. Nearby Deltona also hopes to profit and is promoting the intersection of Interstate 4 and State Road 472 for restaurants and shops. A 12-screen, 50,000-sq.-ft. theater recently opened, the first in the city of 85,000 residents. Countywide, retail sales and commercial construction remain soft. Term-limited Volusia County Chairman Frank Bruno would like to see the SunRail commuter line extended past DeLand to Daytona Beach, and as the new head of the Central Florida Rail Commission Governing Board, Bruno is well-positioned to make a case if the first phase goes well.

Businesses to Watch

» Thompson Pump: The Port Orange company, named Exporter of the Year by the Volusia Manufacturers Association, has been posting double-digit increases in overseas sales, with much of the demand coming from South America.

» Epic Theatres: The newcomer hopes to do well as it opens the first movie theater in Deltona. If it succeeds, business leaders hope more retail will follow.

» Florida East Coast Railway: The company has about 180 acres in New Smyrna Beach in an area that is considered key to economic revitalization, a major goal of local business and civic leaders.

People to Watch

» Kerry Symolon: The interim president of public-private Team Volusia Economic Development Corp. looks to promote countywide unity and manufacturing.

» Kent Sharples: The president of the CEO Business Alliance, a private group of leading Volusia businesses, has a bead on companies considering relocating to the county.

» Lesa France Kennedy: The CEO of International Speedway Corp. and vice chairwoman at NASCAR is a key player in attracting businesses to Volusia.

Volusia Population: 504,456
Population Growth Rate (2008-12): 0.35%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
15.44% 6.01% 22.09% 35.03% 21.44%
Per Capita Income: $35,822

Volusia County Consumer Bankruptcies
2010 2011 Change
3,361 2,738 -18.5%
Source: National Bankruptcy Research Center

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Palm Coast/Flagler County

Issues to Watch

» Unemployment: Flagler County and Palm Coast, by far the county's largest community with more than 75,000 residents, are looking for modest improvement in the local economy this year. The county was a national leader in residential construction a decade ago, but when the housing market crashed, Flagler was among the first in Florida to tumble. Double-digit unemployment still ranks among the worst in the state, and no significant turnaround in development or hiring is forecast. But local and regional chamber officials are banking on entrepreneurial growth to lead the way as small-business formation increases.

Flagler Population: 101,522
Population Growth Rate (2008-12): 2.07%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
15.78% 5.78% 18.84% 33.49% 26.12%
Per Capita Income: $33,935