The Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability’s analysis of Space Florida’s performance highlights the agency’s success in surpassing its job creation and research funding targets but also recommends improvements in operational efficiency and transparency.
Space Florida, the state’s aerospace development agency, has been successful in meeting its contractual performance requirements over the past decade, according to a state-conducted analysis, however, the organization is being encouraged to aim for more ambitious goals and improve its operational efficiency.
An economic analysis conducted by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA) reviewed Florida’s aerospace industry’s performance, comparing it to national trends and other states. It indicated that Florida’s aerospace and defense industry employment experienced significant growth, outperforming the national average and other states within the aerospace ecosystem. Specifically, employment in aerospace products and parts manufacturing in Florida grew by 7,781 employees, representing a 41 percent increase.
Per the report, the agency met and surpassed its contractual performance standards, as outlined in its agreement with the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO). Key achievements included surpassing the goal of creating, recruiting, or retaining 1,000 jobs annually, surpassing funding targets for research projects, and expanding partnerships and strategic initiatives as part of the Florida Strategic Plan for Economic Development. Notable collaborations included those with the United Launch Alliance and SpaceX, contributing significantly to the state’s space sector development this year.
Despite the achievements, the report urges Space Florida to set more challenging targets and enhance operational efficiency. While the agency met or exceeded its key performance indicators, feedback from partners and stakeholders suggested that there is room for improvement, particularly in project approval timelines and transparency.
“Stakeholder feedback suggests that partners were generally satisfied with Space Florida’s performance, but they noted room for improvement regarding transparency and efficiency,” the report reads. “industry representatives OPPAGA interviewed reported that working with Space Florida can include lengthy grant application processes and project approval timelines. In addition, other responses noted a lack of transparency from Space Florida. For example, they described difficulties in understanding project scoring criteria for spaceport improvement projects.”
Moreover, Space Florida faced criticism for not clearly documenting the outputs and outcomes of its partnerships in the information provided to OPPAGA.
The organization’s reports lacked specific details regarding the services offered to partners and the tangible results of the collaborations. Descriptions like “client development activities” or “cooperation in space” were deemed too vague and didn’t specify the business services provided, such as capital financing, nor did they quantify outputs like the number of bond deals or the dollar value of bonds issued.
Additionally, the categorization of activities under different partnership types was not distinct, leading to overlaps in reported efforts
“OPPAGA recommends that the organization improve the consistency and specificity of its activity tracking as it considers how it will proceed with required reporting to the Department of Commerce,” continues the report.
In response to stakeholder feedback, Space Florida is expected to consult its partners and consider steps to enhance transparency and expedite processes. The agency’s efforts to address previous audit findings on travel expenses and IT service controls are also noted as steps toward improving operational efficiency.