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SPACE COAST: Back to Earth

Space Coast Region of Florida

Business Aide (Melbourne)
Chester Straub

Chester J. Straud Jr.
» Chester J. Straub Jr., executive director of Florida’s Technological Research and Development Authority, a public-private partnership in Melbourne, is a driving force in helping Brevard residents launch their own businesses. Since joining TRDA in 2007 from New York, where he co-founded the Hudson Valley Center for Innovation, Straub has promoted the group’s new Business Innovation Center, which provides space for offices, light manufacturing and wet labs as well as full-time mentoring. “Our role would be focused on maintaining the level of workforce and supporting entrepreneurial activity,” says Straub. “The key is to maintain them here in the area.”
[Photo: Jeffrey Camp]

Across Florida’s Space Coast region, there’s a flurry of activity to create jobs and mitigate the effects of the residential real estate collapse and the rapidly approaching end to NASA’s space shuttle program, scheduled to shut down in 2010.

In Palm Coast and surrounding Flagler County, leaders are catching their breath after years of a residential real estate boom that led not only the state, but also the nation. Countering the housing slowdown in Palm Coast is ongoing retail development, which was slow to arrive but now includes a cadre of national retailers scheduled to open this year.

See population, income and job statistics from this region.
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Palm Coast Landing will open in July with Target, TJ Maxx, Ross Stores, PetSmart, Michaels arts and crafts store and others. Ira Corliss, the city’s economic development coordinator, says that Kohl’s has committed to open a store in the city and Wal-Mart is adding a super center. Corliss says the city wants more than retail, however, and has launched a business assistance team to give advice and information to mom and pop businesses that are struggling. Later this year, Palm Coast will tap unused space in city hall to launch a 26,000-sq.-ft. business incubator designed to house five or six technology companies. One business that has already expressed interest is Seidcon, a defense contractor that relocated to Palm Coast from San Diego last year.

Brevard County expects to lose about 3,500 jobs when the space shuttle completes its last mission in two years. The Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle, or CEV, project, NASA’s next venture, won’t get off the ground until 2015, leaving Brevard’s space activity in limbo for five years. The good news is that assembly work on the CEV, which will be built by Lockheed Martin, will be done locally and contribute more than 400 jobs.

Lynda Weatherman, president and CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, says that the EDC’s focus is matching the skills available with new aerospace demands. One key focus is attracting both the launch and manufacturing work of companies chosen to participate in NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, or COTS, program. Between 2008 and 2010, private companies chosen to participate will demonstrate their capabilities to transport cargo to the International Space Station.

The area received a blow, however, in February when Orbital Sciences, one of the companies chosen to demonstrate its supply capabilities for the space station, said it was leaning toward launches from Virginia.

Both Daytona Beach and Volusia County need industrial and manufacturing space for automotive, medical products and information technology businesses. Rick Michael, director of the Volusia County Department of Economic Development, says that his county’s push to retain and recruit manufacturing jobs has resulted in a 10.4% growth in manufacturing employment in Volusia over the past five years — in sharp contrast to the statewide 8% decline in manufacturing jobs. A planned 95-acre industrial park adjacent to Daytona Beach International Airport will encompass 312,000 square feet of manufacturing space and 296,000 square feet of class A office space and employ 2,500. Permitting and infrastructure are scheduled to be completed this year for the 120-acre Tomoka Farms Industrial Park west of Interstate 95. At the 43-acre DeLand Crossings Industrial Park, a 64,000-sq.-ft. building is under construction for Intellitec, a manufacturer of automotive electronics, and work has begun recently on an additional 62,000-sq.-ft. facility for BBK Performance, an automotive after-market products maker.

POPULATION TREND

Although population growth has slowed in all three Space Coast counties, Flagler County remains the fastest-growing county in the state. Its 5.56% average five-year growth is more than double the 2.07% statewide average. It’s the only county with a growth rate above 5%. Population growth in Brevard and Volusia counties is 1.36% and 1.64% respectively. Brevard’s growth has dropped by a half a percentage point from last year while Volusia’s drop is less than a tenth of a percentage point.

DAYTONA BEACH

Car Boom (Daytona Beach)
Lesa France Kennedy

Lesa France Kennedy
» Lesa France Kennedy, president of International Speedway Corp., leads the development of Daytona Live!, a project that will include a 2,500-seat multiscreen theater, 200,000 square feet of retail/dining/entertainment space, a 160-room hotel, 222,000 square feet of office space and 450 condos/lofts.
[Photo: Kelly LaDuke]
Questions about the impact of the economic slowdown on tourism are offset by optimism around a major expansion of the Ocean Center convention center, several new entertainment venues and the weak U.S. dollar. In February, domestic travel to Daytona got a boost when U.S. Airways began three daily round-trip flights to Charlotte, N.C., and AirTran launched daily round-trip service to New York.

LEADER

» Larry Fornari, chairman of the Halifax Area Advertising Authority, is active in promoting Daytona tourism. He serves on the board and is a past president of the Hotel Motel Association of Volusia County. For the past year, since selling the Palm Plaza Oceanfront Resort and Beachside Motel, he has been a hospitality consultant. Of Daytona’s redevelopment, he says, "We’re seeing a lot of renovation of older product into newer product."

HOUSING TREND / DAYTONA BEACH

Condo prices in Daytona Beach held their own in 2007, rising 2%, compared with a statewide decline of 3%. While prices were up, condo unit sales were down, falling to 1,015 units in 2007, down 12% from 2006, according to the Florida Association of Realtors and the University of Florida Real Estate Research Center. Single-family home sales were down 24%, a little better than the 29% sales drop statewide. The median sales price was down 9% to $197,300, putting the city in the bottom half of Florida metropolitan areas in terms of single-family housing prices.

EMPLOYMENT TRENDS / VOLUSIA COUNTY
Industry 2007 2015* Percent change
Professional and business services 21,914 28,819 3.94%
Education and health services 30,709 37,720 2.85
Leisure and hospitality 21,684 24,851 1.83
Other services 8,639 9,883 1.80
Information 3,019 3,404 1.59
Government 24,376 27,314 1.51
Trade, transportation and utilities 33,709 37,101 1.26
Financial activities 8,376 9,184 1.21
Construction 13,618 14,614 .91
Manufacturing 10,692 11,020 .38
Agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting 2,136 2,305 -0.59
* Projection Source:
Florida Agency for Workforce Innovation, Labor Market Statistics, September 2007

MELBOURNE / PALM BAY / TITUSVILLE

The area is shaped by the ups and downs of the space industry, and the increasing constraints on the federal budget leave many pessimistic. President Bush’s 2009 budget proposal recommends a 2.9% increase in NASA’s budget, an amount less than the rate of inflation.

LEADERS

» As president and CEO of 2-year-old Space Florida, Steve Kohler is on the front line of maintaining Florida as the center of the nation’s space activities, both government and commercial. His mission is to create opportunities for the space workforce, including supporting commercial ventures to transport crew and cargo to the International Space Station.

» Howard Lance leads the area’s biggest high-wage job-creation engine, defense and communications powerhouse Harris Corp. In 2007, the company added about 850 jobs in Brevard, giving it just over 7,000 workers in Melbourne and Palm Bay. That’s up from 5,200 five years ago. The company plans to add 850 this year. Job openings are at all levels, from new grads to experienced technical and engineering professionals. One focus is computer engineers and other high-paying professions.

HOUSING TREND / MELBOURNE- TITUSVILLE-PALM BAY

Single-family home sales in the Melbourne, Titusville, Palm Bay area fell to 5,181 in 2007, down 19%, according to the Florida Association of Realtors and the University of Florida Real Estate Research Center. That was far better than the statewide drop of 29%. Median sales price, on the other hand, was off by 12%, the second-largest drop in the state after Punta Gorda, which was down 14%.

Condo sales were down 26%, about in line with the 27% drop statewide. Melbourne, Titusville and Palm Bay condo prices dropped 11%, much greater than the 3% statewide drop but not as bad as the 21% and 16% condo price declines in Fort Myers-Cape Coral and Naples-Marco Island respectively.

PALM COAST

The city’s growth has put a burden on infrastructure, particularly water and public transportation. The St. Johns River Water Management District projects that by 2025, groundwater supplies in the district as a whole will have to be augmented by 200 million gallons a day of "alternative" water. Palm Coast opposes the district’s plan to tap water from the St. Johns River, Crescent Lake and the Oklawaha River on environmental and financial grounds.

Palm Coast’s only access to public transportation is Flagler County’s on-demand system of small buses and vans. It is so oversubscribed that the county is not accepting new riders. "That’s the hot button," says Ira Corliss, the city’s economic development coordinator. Residential areas, she adds, do not have a lot of interconnecting roads and natural transportation hubs.

LEADER

» Jon Netts, mayor of Palm Coast since November, advocates seawater desalination, estimating it would cost $3 to $4 per thousand gallons compared to $5 to $6 per thousand gallons for river and lake water. To jump-start the idea, Netts, a 16-year resident of the area, helped develop the Coquina Coast Cooperators, a group that includes Flagler, St. Johns and Volusia counties as well as a number of other municipalities in the region. Over the next three to six months, the group is looking at the technical pros and cons of land-based vs. ship-based seawater desalination and also what type of governing body would oversee such a project.

POPULATION AND PROPERTY - Palm Coast
Year Poulation Property value per resident
2002 35,443 $50,035
2003 38,348 51,730
2004 42,850 56,108
2005 50,484 61,556
2006 58,216 76,351
2007 67,832 91,992
2008 70,376 99,581
Source: City of Palm Coast