Business Florida 2022 - The Regions
Brevard • Lake • Orange • Osceola • Seminole • Sumter • Volusia
Much of the world knows East Central Florida for its two most highly visible economic assets: mega theme parks and real rockets. And while there is no doubt that these industry sectors are impressive, they alone do not fully represent this dynamic region. In addition to thrill rides and T-minus countdowns, East Central boasts a workforce of 1.9 million, plus four commercial airports, one seaport, a spaceport and 118 miles of Atlantic coastline. In addition to tourism and aviation/aerospace, East Central is home to thriving technology, distribution and life sciences sectors too.
In May, the U.S. celebrated its historic return to human spaceflight as two American astronauts lifted off from Cape Canaveral for the first time since NASA retired its shuttles in 2011, aboard a Falcon 9 rocket built by the privately owned company SpaceX. Two months later, these astronauts came back to Earth, and for the first time, their splashdown took place in the Gulf of Mexico. In all, Florida hosted 31 successful space launches in 2020, the most in any single year since 1966.
In 2021, all eyes at NASA are on Artemis, with the ultimate goal of landing the first woman and another man on the moon by 2024, a feat that will be accomplished in three stages: Artemis I, an uncrewed test flight of NASA’s SLS rocket and its Orion spacecraft scheduled to take place in 2021; Artemis II, the first crewed mission with the goal of positioning Orion, with astronauts aboard, into orbit around the moon; and Artemis III, the actual landing of Orion on the moon in 2024. In April, NASA named SpaceX its sole contractor for the Artemis missions.
Many other private companies are at work supporting the systems and technologies needed for this industry sector:
• Blue Origin, the rocket company created by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, is making plans to expand its manufacturing campus on Merritt Island by 70 acres as development of the firm’s heavy-lift New Glenn rocket continues with an anticipated debut in late 2022.
• Boeing has landed a $916-million contract extension from NASA to provide support services for the International Space Station through 2024. Some of the work will be performed at Kennedy Space Center.
• Lockheed Martin opened its new 55,000-sq.-ft. Spacecraft Test, Assembly and Resource (STAR) Center at Kennedy Space Center in July 2021 to facilitate assembly of the Orion capsules that will carry astronauts back to the moon in NASA’s Artemis program.
• Melbourne-based L3Harris Technologies has won a $6-million contract from NASA to develop advanced weather imaging technology for satellites. Capable of providing immediate snapshots of potentially dangerous storms approaching Earth, the satellites are expected to begin orbiting above Earth in the early 2030s. Meanwhile, in 2020, despite the pandemic, L3Harris added 450 jobs, bringing its full footprint across Brevard County to 7,750 employees.
• German air taxi company Lilium Aviation has announced plans to bring its on-demand, electric air taxi service to Orlando by 2025 as the firm builds its first U.S.-based “vertiport” on seven acres in Lake Nona. If all goes according to plan, consumers will be able to book Lilium flights from Orlando to nearly all of Florida’s major cities using a smartphone app.
KEY PLAYERS: Blue Origin, Kent, Wa.; Boeing, Chicago, Ill.; Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, Fort Worth, Tex.; SpaceX, Hawthorne, Ca.