Thursday, February 3, 2011

Bigelow Could Bring 2,000 Jobs to Space Coast

Bigelow Aerospace President Robert Bigelow addressed Space Coast leaders Tuesday at a Cape Canaveral hotel. Photo source: Florida Today.

Florida Today reports that Bigelow Aerospace could bring up to 2,000 jobs to the Space Coast by the end of the decade.

"If I was to say, 'Should the missions launch from Florida? The logic says 'Yeah, they ought to,' " said Robert Bigelow, president of Bigelow Aerospace, who came to Cape Canaveral to talk to about 150 community leaders Wednesday.

"Now, can the politics screw it up? You bet it can. Or maybe somebody raises more (economic development incentive money) than somebody else does and has the kind of facilities people like our company need to have in terms of executing their business."

The article reports that Bigelow called upon Florida to pony up "economic development incentives" to attract the nascent commercial space indsutry, citing as an example New Mexico's $212 million investment in Spaceport America.

I wrote on January 7 that newly elected New Mexico Republican governor Susana Martinez might be inclined to end her state's investment in Spaceport America, which would create an opportunity for the Space Coast.

Given the strong sympathies for the Tea Party in this region, I have to wonder how this open plea for taxpayer subsidies will play.

Newly elected Florida Republican governor Rick Scott's campaign web site calls for incentives "to reward success — rather than punishing it."

Local economic development offices are central to job creation and retention in our state. I will ensure these offices have the right resources and trained specialists so they can assist their local businesses obtain state and federal grants, and to comply with state and local regulatory processes in the least costly manner.

Campaign promises, of course, are meaningless once a candidate is elected, and state government spending will be determined by the Legislature, not the Governor.

For Space Florida, the event was a clear "win" for their marketing strategy. To quote from their "Vision 2020":

"Vision 2020" is Space Florida’s strategy to target 10 commercial markets in the coming years that will fully utilize Florida’s space launch and processing capabilities, existing skilled workforce, and infrastructure assets. These markets are expanding their use of space-based technologies everyday, and Florida plans to become a critical part of the launch, processing, integration and supply chain opportunities that will result.

It was reported last week that NASA may acquire a Bigelow inflatable module for docking at the International Space Station. The NASA Nautilus X project envisions a reusable cislunar and deep space vehicle based on Bigelow technology that would include a centrifuge built from inflatable modules.

If all this comes to fruition, it would launch from the Space Coast. The question is whether those trying to protect the space-industrial complex status quo are willing to let go of the past so the future can begin.

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