Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Brevard County Economic Overview

I had lunch today with my realtor. She mentioned hearing a recent economic forecast for Brevard County far rosier than the gloom and doom foretold by those who claim President Obama's proposed NASA FY 2011 budget means the end of the Space Coast.

Sure enough, the president and CEO of the Economic Development Commission says that Space Coast’s diverse economy is positioned for a rally in 2010.

"Brevard County is fortunate to have a truly diversified business footprint," says Lynda Weatherman, president and CEO of the Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast. "When one sector of the market faces an uncertain future, like that of the transiting space industry, others see great growth."

Some people, however, don't seem to get the message.

The article says that District 1 Commissioner Robin Fisher still clings to the notion that the Space Shuttle program can be extended to save his local economy. As I've written before, it's too impractical to extend Shuttle. A minimum of two years' wait will be required while a new external tank is manufactured in New Orleans. It would be foolish to pay 7,000 people to sit around for two years waiting for the next launch. It's not going to happen.

It's been six years since President Bush cancelled the Shuttle program in January 2004. Six years that local officials have failed to plan for this day. Some leaders — Fisher, Congresswoman Kosmas, Congressman Posey — still tell voters they will get the billions to extend Shuttle. Their dawdling only makes a bad situation worse.

But if the Economic Development Commission is right, at least the damage caused by their dawdling will be contained.


  1. I agree, the shuttle program is nearing its end, at best they might get one more mission, but that is doubtful. I also agree that Florida's public officials fiddled while Brevard burned. When Nixon canceled the remaining Apollo missions, you could practically buy a home for pocket change. The same thing may very well happen again.

    The EDC is a cheer leading organization, so I don't put much stock in their optimism. I hope they are right. However, towards the end of year KSC will start their layoffs. Earlier today, I was looking up the median salary for Brevard county and it was about $35K (Florida is $38K). However, what made me take notice was the statistic that the median salary at KSC was about $77K. With 9000 jobs gone, that is a lot of economic buying power removed from the county over the next year or two. Various groups have predicted that for every KSC job lost that upwards of 2 jobs will be lost outside of KSC. We can argue about the exact numbers, but the economic consequences are scary. And we have not even talked about the effects on the housing market which is already depressed. I hope that the county has all of this figured into its budget for 2011.

    I am not arguing for a continuation of shuttle missions, but we should not stick our heads in the sand. Losing 7000 jobs was bad enough, adding an additional 2000 was a psychological blow to the residents of Brevard. But not to worry, the free market will take care of us, right? In the mean time just watch as the crime rate rises as people become desperate.

    Our elected officials are idiots. They have not done anything material to ease the situation. By and large they are a bunch of ideologues spouting no taxes and free market at all costs. In the meantime what happens to those people from KSC in this job market? What happens to Brevard?

  2. I'm listening right now to the BCC Space Forum on with Senator Nelson and KSC Director Bob Cabana. At least it's two people who actually know something about what's going on there now, not four ideologues with an agenda.

    I pretty much agree with everything you said. The problem is this should have been addressed over the last six years. No one did. Now everyone is apoplectic because time has run out.

    There's simply no way to avoid what's about to happen. People who think a boatload of government money is going to be magically delivered to protect their jobs are not living in the real world.

    In fact, the above question is being brought up right now in the Space Forum!

  3. FT had a piece on the EDC report. They tried to sound optimistic, but it did not appear that way to me. In fact Brevard did not fair that well compare to the other 4 areas. If I were a CEO I would look else where, Huntsville or Austin would be good choices. One thing that is important in addition to tax breaks (which they can get anywhere) are quality of life issues. With its economic difficulties that will only grow, quality of life will decline in Brevard. Schools will/are taking it on the chin, libraries will be cut back, cultural opportunities will be hurt and public transportation is practically nonexistent. All of these deficiencies will get worse as out tax base is reduced by the increased unemployment. What especially hurts is the KSC jobs are good paying jobs, above the $35K median for Brevard county. I hope that all of this does not come to pass, but I am not optimistic.

    As for other issues, I am not against China or Russia building rockets and having space programs. That would be good competition for us. What I do think is wrong is our not having a clear goal and program. There are a lot of factors that are being ignored. At one time we had pride in our accomplishments in space, where will the pride be now? A generation of people were inspired to go into science and engineering by the space program. What will inspire them now? We already have too many lawyers and MBAs. We have to import foreign students for our universities to train as scientists and engineers. Then we have to hire them because we don't have enough of our own people to fill the positions.

    There used to be an implied contract between workers and their employers: If they did their jobs well and were loyal to the company they would continue to have a job. That is no longer true. Now people are discarded like used candy wrappers. They are viewed as cost centers, not as assets. Now even our government throws people away. They tell us to retrain ourselves. I am retired since I was 56. My education cost over $100,000 in todays dollars. How do people afford that, especially when they have kids to raise and educate?

    You say that we should not spend billions for one county, well people are not stupid, they see it happening next door and they know that they could be next. Our government threw away New Orleans for all practical purposes, Brevard is next, who comes to the block after that. People are angry and frightened. Look at the reactions to healthcare. When people are scared and angry because their way of life is threatened, they are susceptible to things like racism and violence.

    There are almost always unintended consequences to decisions of this magnitude. I don't think that either Bush or Obama thought about what might happen because of their decisions. People are just statistics to them. The decisions may have been the same, but they at least owe the country the effort to think things through. After all that is what we pay them the big bucks for.