Florida’s aerospace agency pushed forward with negotiations Tuesday to bring 2,100 high-paying spacecraft manufacturing jobs to Brevard County over the next three years.
The Space Florida board of directors approved a staff request to complete negotiations with a company that is expected to invest more than $300 million in a new facility at the Melbourne Orlando International Airport.
The jobs being pursued are expected to have an average wage of $84,000 a year, plus benefits.
The identity of the company has not been released, with the proposal going by the code name “Project Griffin.”
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Melbourne Mayor Paul Alfrey said he is excited to see the prospect of more high-paying jobs coming to Melbourne.
“I’m looking forward to the end result,” Alfrey said. “I’m glad that the city is on the forefront of economic development in the county.”
But Alfrey cautioned that nothing has been finalized yet.
Lynda Weatherman, president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast, also expressed excitement about the prospects of the company’s proposed Melbourne operation.
“We’re capturing and finally building momentum from years of work that this community’s done, starting from Embraer,” Weatherman said. “It’s a big project. We’re excited about it. And everything is competitive.”
Weatherman declined to divulge details on the project.
In commenting on Project Griffin, Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez said: “When you have a project of that magnitude — capital investment, equipment, machinery, the types of employees you’re going to generate — you’re always going to see a positive impact for the state and for the region.”
“Because of the taxes and high-wage jobs they’re going to bring in. Because of the economic spillover. Because of the direct and indirect economic benefits,” said Nuñez, who chairs the Space Florida board of directors.
Howard Haug, Space Florida executive vice president, treasurer and chief investment officer, said in a conference call with the Space Florida board that the agency will pursue “conduit financing” for construction and equipment acquisitions.
Staff members also will work on lease agreements between Space Florida and the Melbourne Airport Authority, along with the sublease agreements with the company for the property, Haug said.
Haug added the project is subject to funding availability and approval of a final agreement that would go before the board.
Alfrey said the proposed project has not yet been discussed by the Melbourne City Council or by the Melbourne Airport Authority, of which Alfrey is a member.
Alfrey noted the importance of job-training initiatives at local high schools that would help prepare students to fill jobs like these.
In September, satellite manufacturer Terran Orbital decided to base its new 660,000-square-foot headquarters at the Kennedy Space Center’s former Shuttle Landing Facility, now called the Launch and Landing Facility, which is operated by Space Florida.
That project — which went through negotiations under the title Project Kraken — also is expected to produce 2,100 jobs by the end of 2025 that carry an average salary of $84,000.
Nuñez said Space Florida has 70 to 75 projects in the pipeline in various stages of due diligence and development. Not all of these projects will pan out, but others will come before the board in the next 12 to 18 months.
“The amount, the intensity, the velocity of the projects is something that the state has never seen. And that is, I believe, in due part to the governor’s leadership and his vision for space,” Nuñez said.
“And also, the economic climate we’re seeing here, vis-à-vis other states,” she said.
Separately, the Space Florida board on Tuesday directed staff to negotiate a pair of deals with the Florida Department of Transportation.
The first involves a lease agreement of up to 32½ years for parking in Jacksonville, while the second, carrying a $3.2 million price tag, would make road improvements within Kennedy Space Center to accommodate large launch vehicles and spacecraft management.
Haug said the roadwork requires a private partner match, which is being provided through a “starship program infrastructure investment” at the center by SpaceX.
The parking arrangement is part of a deal before Space Florida with another undisclosed company — negotiated under the title Project Poseidon — to overhaul a facility in Jacksonville used to maintain ships in the U.S. Navy’s fleet that constitute seaborne missile-launch platforms.
“The U.S. Navy has become increasingly reliant on projects like Poseidon to maintain the vessels that serve as launch platforms in carrying out its mission of providing the military force needed to deter war and ensure the security of the United States and its citizens,” said a resolution declaring the public purpose served by Project Poseidon.
FLORIDA TODAY reporters Rick Neale and Dave Berman and News Service of Florida reporter Jim Turner contributed to this report.
Rick Neale is the South Brevard Watchdog Reporter at FLORIDA TODAY. (For more of his stories, click here.) Contact Neale at 321-242-3638 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @RickNeale1
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