April 16, 2024

Up Front - The Publisher's Column

Florida's Flight Path

David Denor | 9/1/2022

The very first cover of Florida Trend in April 1958 featured an illustration of a futuristic rocket blasting off from Cape Canaveral. Just six months earlier, the Soviets had launched Sputnik, the world’s first satellite to transmit radio signals back to Earth, sending the Space Race into overdrive. The U.S. countered with the launch of Explorer 1 from Cape Canaveral in early 1958. Harris Mullen, Florida Trend’s founding publisher, was a visionary. He could clearly see the rocket testing and launch activity at the cape was significant, but even he could not have imagined the role the Space Race would play in shaping Florida as we know it today.

It’s been a fascinating journey for our editorial team to explore the many ways Floridians are driving the new space economy as it reported on the Artemis project taking shape on the Space Coast. The stories in the cover package will provide you with a wider view of the public-private partnerships NASA has created to bring the Artemis project to fruition. The project leverages impressive talent at Florida’s private space companies and at our state’s universities. Space Florida, the aerospace economic development agency, shares that statewide, aerospace-related firms employ more than 130,000 Floridians at about 17,000 companies contributing an estimated $19 billion annually to the state’s economy.

Florida’s civic leaders in the earliest days of the Space Race knew they had something special and worked feverishly to capitalize on the opportunity — and today’s new generation of leaders is not letting up, either. The National Defense Education Act of 1958 provided federal funding to educate Floridians to work in the space industry. The University of Central Florida and Florida Institute of Technology — institutions that today are among the leaders in Florida’s larger innovation economy — trace their beginnings to those days. When President John F. Kennedy announced the goal of putting a man on the moon in a decade, the wave of new residents that engulfed Florida’s Brevard County brought unparalleled technical knowledge and expertise to the state. Their children turned the new high schools in the area into overnight leaders in producing National Merit scholars.

On the downside, our state also learned in those days how economically painful it can be when federal funding for space programs is pulled back and those highly skilled workers leave for other parts of the country. The growth of the state’s private space industry — some 130 private companies around Florida are participating in the Artemis project — leaves us hopeful that we will never experience that pain again.

But one thing is certain. Through the Artemis project, Florida is again at the forefront of an international effort to push the boundaries of innovation and exploration, with Florida’s homegrown talent and institutions leading the way. Their work is not only awe-inspiring, but also sends an undeniable message to the world about Florida’s future as a global economic force.

— David G. Denor, Publisher ddenor@floridatrend.com

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