- Rep. Tyler Sirois proposes updating Space Florida’s structure and operations to align with the modern aerospace industry.
- Proposed changes include restructuring the board of directors, separating it from Enterprise Florida, and seeking input from stakeholders.
- The bill mandates Space Florida’s responsibilities in establishing and operating spaceport infrastructure, consulting with authorities and industry stakeholders, and submitting annual reports on its operations and economic impact.
A proposal by Rep. Tyler Sirois seeks to update the structure and operations of Space Florida, the state entity focused on aerospace industry economic development, by separating it from Enterprise Florida, restructuring its board of directors, and soliciting input from public and private stakeholders.
Sirois aims to establish a new composition for Space Florida’s Board of Directors that aligns with what he referred to as the “contemporary, commercialized economic landscape” of the aerospace industry. The Representative stated that the existing board structure, formulated in 2006, was tailored to the requirements of the Space Shuttle program, which ended in 2011, believing that the proposed changes would enable Space Florida to better serve the evolving needs of the modern aerospace sector and foster the development of emerging technologies and commercial space ventures.
“Since the retirement of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, we now have a very robust and growing commercial space presence in Florida,” said Sirois. “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.”
Currently, Space Florida is governed by an independent board of directors comprising 13 members, 12 of whom are private sector members of Enterprise Florida appointed by the Governor, President of the Senate, and Speaker of the House of Representatives. The 13th member is the Governor or their designee, presently served by Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez.
The proposed bill would separate Space Florida’s board from Enterprise Florida, establish new criteria for membership and appointment, as well as term lengths for board members, and keep Space Florida’s Board of Directors at 13 members.
Under the proposal, the Governor would serve as the chair and a voting member of the board, with the option to appoint someone else, and the state’s Secretary of Transportation or their designee would also join. Five members appointed by the Governor would need at least five years of experience in fields such as aerospace or bond financing, while the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House would each appoint a member with the same qualifications. Two ex officio, nonvoting members would represent the Jacksonville Aviation Authority and the Titusville-Cocoa Airport Authority, appointed by the Governor.
“The Board is really an effort to reflect the evolving needs of the industry and their presence in our state,” continued Sirois.
The bill also outlines the responsibilities of Space Florida in establishing and operating spaceport infrastructure and related aerospace facilities within the state, mandating that the group must regularly consult with federal, state, and local authorities, as well as industry leaders. It would also be required to seek input from the private sector, facility owners, and political subdivisions within the spaceport territory on their plans and activities.
Sirois’ bill also mandates that Space Florida must partner with the Board of Governors to foster technological advancement and economic development, and support higher education programs and workforce development initiatives to address the skills needed for aerospace and space exploration.
The group would additionally be required to submit an annual report to the Department of Economic Opportunity on their operations, including updates to the spaceport master plan and other measurable goals. The report would detail Space Florida’s performance with respect to its business plan, including finance, spaceport operations, research and development, workforce development, and education, while including information on the economic impact of the aerospace industry in Florida during the previous year, including capital investment, jobs created and retained, and annualized average wages.
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.