BREVARD COUNTY, Fla., December 16, 2013 (Space Coast EDC PR) — Working to strengthen the cohesion of Florida’s 29-member Congressional delegation and further build awareness of the challenges and opportunities in the space and defense industries, the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast traveled to Washington, D.C., last week to meet with key congressional leaders and staff.
In separate meetings with chiefs of staff from Florida’s Republican and Democratic delegations, as well as with staff from U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s office and U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson’s office, the EDC team began its efforts to unify all Florida representatives and senators behind issues of statewide impact.
“This was a good opportunity to talk about ways the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, other economic development organizations and the Florida Congressional delegation can work together to advance issues that are a priority for not only the Space Coast, but the entire state of Florida,” said Stuart Burns, chief of staff for Republican Congressman Bill Posey.
Kim Bowman, chief of staff for Democratic Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson, agreed that across-the-aisle support is an important factor in moving forward on key issues such as space.
“The space industry is a critical component of Florida’s economy and our Congressional Delegation should build on our long history of bipartisan support and Florida’s leadership in space,” Bowman said. “As the Kennedy Space Center transitions from the shuttle program, we need to make the most of our space infrastructure and resources, build new capacity as needed, and work together as a delegation to attract and keep high-tech, high-wage commercial space industry jobs.”
The trip was led by EDC President & CEO Lynda Weatherman and also included Jim Barfield, chair of the EDC’s Space Coast Defense Alliance; Dale Ketcham from Space Florida; and Christine Wayne, chair of the EDC’s Government Relations Council.
Business and community stakeholders in Brevard County, including participants in the EDC’s annual Community Leaders Trips to Washington, D.C., have made clear their concern over a lack of cohesion among Florida’s federal delegation, adding that to best compete with other states, these members must be unified in their focus on key areas of our economy.
“These leaders told us this needs to be done,” Weatherman said. “We cannot let the way we operated in the past continue to dictate how we do things going forward. We must speak with one voice.”
Space Florida’s Dale Ketcham agreed, adding, “Florida has a shortage of seniority in Congress compared to most of our competitor states. To better compete we must act with a visible and deliberate unity. This trip furthered that cause.”
With 11,638 aerospace-related companies in Florida employing more than 132,000 full-time employees, according to the Florida State University Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis, and more than 758,000 direct and indirect jobs defense-related jobs statewide, according to the Haas Center at the University of West Florida, the need for a unified voice emanating from the Capitol is of paramount importance across the Sunshine State.
When all 27 House members from Florida signed a letter to NASA in September urging that Kennedy Space Center be allowed to remain in control of its assets, the unity was noticed, Weatherman said.
“Industry paid attention when Florida rose to speak on the issue of KSC asset control: industry that makes decisions every day on whether to consider Florida for an economic development project; industry that weighs the effectiveness of a state’s political voice as part of its location decision analysis,” she said.
Weatherman added, “We are confident that federal agencies, competing states, and industry will pay attention again if Florida is able to voice its preferences collectively.”
Florida’s Congressional delegation is the fourth largest in the nation, and the state’s citizens need, now more than ever, a unified group that is willing to work together for the greater good, said Barney Bishop, a lobbyist and consultant in Tallahassee and former president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida.
“While we have a diverse delegation in ethnicity, political affiliation, ideology and experience, Florida needs our elected officials to commit to work as a group for the important interests of the state. Be it space, the environment, the budget or education among a host of key issues, our delegation needs to put aside differences when it comes to what’s best for our state,” he said. “I’m thrilled to learn that this could potentially happen as it will allow our delegation to grow in influence for the betterment of our great state, and I applaud the EDC for moving forward with this important effort.”
About the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast
The Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast is dedicated to attracting new business and investment and expanding existing industry throughout the Space Coast, influencing change on government laws and regulations affecting economic development, promoting the Space Coast to encourage new investment, supporting efforts of Space Coast military installations, and relaying new programs and procedures to assist manufacturing and high tech companies. The EDC is a private, not-for-profit coalition whose stakeholders are business leaders committed to the economic growth and stability of Florida’s Space Coast. Visit www.SpaceCoastEDC.org.