SpaceX launch marks Florida region’s rebirth as a more diverse aerospace economy

Launch pad 39A … has been refurbished by commercial launch company Space Exploration Technologies Corp., or SpaceX…The pad’s rebirth illustrates the economic rebound of Florida’s Space Coast as it transitions to a more diverse aerospace economy with a significant commercial sector, from one powered by government investment dating back to the Kennedy administration. Of the more than 9,000 aerospace workers laid off as a result of the shuttle program’s end in July 2011, nearly 5,400 were employed at the end of 2014, according to CareerSource Brevard, which helped retrain and place them. In the past six years, the area’s economic development agency has announced projects bringing in $1.4 billion in capital investment and generating an estimated 7,900 jobs. That includes 1,800 new jobs announced by Northrop Grumman Corp.

“The Space Coast is kind of on fire right now,” said Greg Wyler, founder of OneWeb Ltd., which aims to use hundreds of satellites to provide internet access in rural and emerging markets. In a venture with an Airbus SE division, OneWeb is building a high-tech manufacturing facility at Exploration Park, which borders the space center and is managed by Space Florida, the state’s aerospace development authority. Other commercial space companies investing on the Space Coast include Blue Origin, started by Chairman Jeff Bezos, Moon Express Inc., and Brazilian aircraft maker Embraer SA (which already employs 650 people in the area).

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