Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

Testing Ground


Draper, a non-profit engineering research company based in Cambridge, Mass., is building a 5.3-acre aerospace and defense campus near the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Titusville. The 37,000-sq.-ft. facility will house one of the world’s largest centrifuges and serve as the company’s test site for guidance, navigation and control technologies.

Draper designs guidance systems for the U.S. Navy and has designed and supported the guidance system for every ballistic missile deployed since the start of the program in 1955. Jerry Wohletz, the president and CEO of Draper, said in a statement that the facility will enable Draper “to continue to deliver on that legacy while preparing for major nuclear triad (land, sea and air) modernization efforts.”

The $50-million campus will be Draper’s third in Florida. In 2016, the MIT spinoff opened a rapid prototyping center in St. Petersburg. The company also operates a technical support facility for the U.S. Navy’s Trident Guidance Program at Cape Canaveral. While 50 employees will initially work at the Titusville facility, Draper already has expansion plans that include 150 workers.

According to Wohletz, the 90-year-old company has seen most of its business growth outside of its main campus in Cambridge, and the Florida market is “critical” to the company’s success. “Draper is on a mission to meet our next customers, partners and employees where they live and work. In our efforts to expand our presence, we placed great value on the talent pool, access to various markets and cultural diversity, making Florida our ideal destination.”


  • The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs Office of Aviation — also known as the Air Wing — has tapped Embry- Riddle Aeronautical University to assist in developing a curriculum and online training for its drone operators.


  • The Orlando Museum of Art is suing its former executive director and CEO, Aaron De Groft, and others associated with a scandal involving the museum’s 2022 Heroes and Monsters exhibition. In a court complaint, the museum alleges it “spent hundreds of thousands of dollars” and “unwittingly staked its reputation” on the exhibit of 25 paintings fraudulently attributed to the late artist Jean-Michel Basquiat that were seized by the F.B.I. and determined to be fakes. The museum ended up being placed on probation by the American Alliance of Museums, rendering it unable to exchange art with other member museums, and claims its 99-year legacy has been “shattered.”


  • Florida A&M University Law School in Orlando is offering free legal services to small and minority-owned businesses and non-profits. The Economic Justice Clinic, led by Associate Professor of Law Mark Dorosin and staffed by student fellows, aids with business formation, tax exemption, contract drafting, regulatory issues, property inheritance and other matters.


  • St. Augustine-based DLP Capital has completed its $22-million renovation of a two-tower Apolloera apartment complex that sits across the Indian River from Kennedy Space Center. The six-story towers at Dream Space Coast include studios and one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, some furnished and some not. DLP says it plans to price rents at less than 30% of the market’s median income. Most of the 182 units will provide unobstructed views of space launches. Riverfront bench seating behind the buildings also allows for rocket launch viewing. DLP, which acquired the property in 2018, conducted a full overhaul of every apartment unit while maintaining the historic exterior facade of the building. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places earlier this year.


  • Jamie Merrill has been named president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida. The Lake County resident most recently served as chief operating officer of Sonata Senior Living in Orlando and was previously senior vice president of operations for Brookdale Senior Living, overseeing operations for 72 senior-living communities in Florida. She succeeds Gary Cain, who retired.


  • Kore.ai, an Orlando-based company that develops conversational AI-platforms to automate companies’ interactions with their customers and employees, has named Devendra Kumar Sharma as its president and chief operating officer. Sharma has served on Kore.ai’s board of directors for more than five years and previously was CEO of Workplace- Credit and PayWallet.


  • A University of Central Florida research team and the spinoff company Hesperos — which provides human-on-a-chip technology for drug companies and others — have developed the first human model to study the effects on the body of an opioid overdose and reversal with naloxone. The research provides an accurate way to model overdoses in a lab, thereby providing a tool that can be used to screen medications that might reverse overdoses from potent synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. The aim of the project is to one day create a five-organ, human-on-chip system to understand the effects of opioid overdose and the impacts on the body of repeated use of naloxone.