- Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law this week restructuring and enhancing the commercial operations of Space Florida to promote collaboration with private stakeholders and transparency in spaceport projects.
- The new legislation establishes a 13-member board for Space Florida, with the Governor serving as the chair, and requires active input from public and private stakeholders in the aerospace industry.
- Space Florida will also be required to submit an annual report detailing its operations, economic impact, and measurable goals, and will receive $18.5 million in funding from the state budget for aerospace industry development and research projects.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation this week to strengthen the commercial operations of Space Florida, the entity tasked with promoting economic growth in the state’s aerospace industry. The agency’s Board of Supervisors will also see a restructuring, removing any overlap with the now-defunct agency Enterprise Florida.
Under the legislation, Space Florida will be required to actively seek input from public and private stakeholders, including the aerospace industry, facility owners within the spaceport territory, and political subdivisions. Further, the bill mandates that Space Florida partner with the state Board of Governors to help promote technological advancements, economic development, and support higher education programs and workforce initiatives tailored to the aerospace sector.
The agency will also be tasked with seeking input from public and private stakeholders, including the aerospace industry, facility owners within the spaceport territory, and political subdivisions. The bill additionally mandates that Space Florida partner with the state Board of Governors to help promote technological advancements, economic development, and support higher education programs and workforce initiatives tailored to the aerospace sector.
Moving forward, Space Florida will submit an annual report to the Department of Commerce, which will include comprehensive details of its operations, updates to the spaceport master plan, and measurable goals. The report will also provide insights into the economic impact of the aerospace industry in Florida, such as capital investment, job creation and retention, and average wages.
During the most recent Legislative Session, lawmakers pushed for Space Florida’s restructuring, citing a growing need to meet the standards of the evolving commercial and private space industry.
“Since the retirement of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, we now have a very robust and growing commercial space presence in Florida,” said Rep. Tyler Sirois, who served as a driving force behind the proposal. “What we want to do is look at the board as an opportunity to create a nexus between all of these different operators in commercial aerospace.”
The existing Board of Supervisors, established in 2006, was primarily designed to support the Space Shuttle program. With Florida’s growing commercial space presence since the program’s retirement in 2011, lawmakers further contended that modernizing the board’s composition is crucial for Space Florida to effectively meet the industry’s changing needs and foster the development of commercial space ventures.
The legislation dictates that Space Florida’s board will be separated from Enterprise Florida and establishes clear criteria for membership and appointment, as well as term lengths for board members.
The board will consist of 13 members, with the Governor serving as the chair and a voting member. The state’s Secretary of Transportation or their designee will also join the board. Additionally, the Governor will appoint five members with significant experience in aerospace or bond financing, while the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House will each appoint a qualified member.
The board will also include two ex-officio, non-voting members representing the Jacksonville Aviation Authority and the Titusville-Cocoa Airport Authority, appointed by the Governor.
According to Space Florida’s 2022 Annual Operations Report, as of July 1, 2022, Space Florida had 85 total projects in development with an estimated value of $2.4 billion in capital investment and provided $4.3 million in funding for 30 research projects, partnerships, and grants. Moreover, the agency has had a $5.9 billion impact on Florida’s economy since 2007, with projections of a $1.1 billion annual economic impact for the current Fiscal Year.
Outgoing Space Florida President and CEO Frank DiBello announced his retirement in March after leading the organization for 14 years. Under his leadership, Space Florida played a significant role in the growth of the state’s commercial space industry following the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011.
With DiBello at the helm, Space Florida achieved a wide-ranging series of milestones and accomplishments including the development of Launch Complex 36 at Cape Canaveral Spaceport. DiBello was also instrumental in attracting new aerospace companies to Florida, such as Blue Origin and OneWeb, and has supported the growth of existing companies like Boeing and SpaceX.
In DeSantis’ 2023-24 state budget proposal, he recommended the allocation of $18.5 million for Space Florida. The figure includes provisions to provide $6 million for aerospace industry financing, business development and infrastructure, and $1 million to support research and commercialization projects.