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End of shuttle program slams Space Coast economy

Florida's Space Coast, with NASA's Kennedy Space Center as its anchor and identity, is bracing for an economic meltdown when the shuttle program officially ends later this month.

<"the shuttle="" has="" always="" been="" special="" for="" me="" because="" it="" was="" the="" first="" thing="" my="" husband="" and="" i="" shared="" together,"="" brenda="" mulberry="" says.it="" is="" also="" their="" livelihood.florida's="" space="" coast,="" with="" nasa's="" kennedy="" space="" center="" as="" its="" anchor="" and="" identity,="" is="" bracing="" for="" an="" economic="" meltdown="" when="" the="" shuttle="" program="" officially="" ends="" later="" this="" month.mulberry's="" husband="" already="" lost="" his="" job="" as="" a="" quality="" engineer="" in="" the="" april="" 8="" layoffs="" at="" the="" space="" center.="" mulberry="" owns="" space="" shirts="" and="" spaceshirts.com,="" a="" silk-screening="" business="" with="" a="" retail="" store="" full="" of="" space="" shuttle="" memorabilia="" that="" will="" suffer="" if="" interest="" in="" space="" wanes."it's="" bad,="" because="" we="" don't="" want="" to="" leave="" here,"="" says="" mulberry,="" who="" has="" two="" children="" in="" high="" school.="" "if="" we="" leave="" here,="" 13="" people="" lose="" their="" jobs.="" a="" lot="" of="" people="" lose="" if="" we="" leave."space="" shuttle="" atlantis="" is="" scheduled="" to="" launch="" for="" the="" last="" time="" friday="" as="" the="" final="" mission="" in="" the="" 30-year-old="" program.="" once="" the="" shuttle="" program="" is="" mothballed,="" more="" than="" 8,000="" people="" will="" have="" lost="" their="" jobs="" at="" the="" kennedy="" space="" center.="" a="" final="" round="" of="" layoffs="" is="" set="" for="" july="" 22,="" two="" days="" after="" atlantis="" lands.="" business="" officials="" say="" the="" layoffs="" will="" ripple="" through="" brevard="" county,="" a="" community="" already="" reeling="" from="" the="" sluggish="" economy="" and="" 10.8%="" unemployment."it's="" a="" one-two="" punch,"="" says="" marcia="" gaedcke,="" president="" of="" the="" titusville="" area="" chamber="" of="" commerce,="" which="" covers="" an="" area="" where="" about="" 40%="" of="" kennedy="" space="" center="" employees="" live.="" "everyone's="" going="" to="" feel="" it.="" you="" could="" really="" drill="" down="" to="" any="" business."many="" of="" the="" county's="" businesses="" large="" and="" small="" have="" ties="" to="" the="" space="" program.="" melissa="" stains,="" president="" and="" ceo="" of="" the="" cocoa="" beach="" regional="" chamber="" of="" commerce,="" says="" 25,000="" people="" will="" take="" a="" direct="" hit="" when="" the="" shuttle="" program="" ends."space="" shuttle="" is="" about="" 9,000="" jobs="" inside="" the="" gate,"="" of="" the="" kennedy="" space="" center,="" stains="" says.="" for="" every="" one="" person="" directly="" employed="" at="" kennedy="" space="" center,="" 2.8="" people="" "outside="" the="" gate"="" depend="" on="" business="" from="" space="" shuttle="" operations,="" she="" says.in="" may,="" the="" palm="" bay-melbourne-titusville="" metro="" area,="" which="" encompasses="" the="" space="" coast,="" had="" the="" steepest="" employment="" decline="" in="" the="" state,="" losing="" 6,800="" jobs,="" the="" florida="" agency="" for="" workforce="" innovation="" reported."it's="" a="" perfect="" economic="" storm,="" and="" we're="" in="" it,"="" stains="">Space is Brevard's lifebloodCocoa Beach and Titusville grew up around the Kennedy Space Center, booming first in the 1960s as the Kennedy Space Center opened 15 miles north of town and the Apollo program soared. Cocoa Beach became so synonymous with the space program that Hollywood set the I Dream of Jeannie sitcom there, with a dashing astronaut as its main character.The county hosts the Air Force's 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base, on the beach between Cocoa Beach and Satellite Beach, which launches the military's unmanned rockets from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.There are other key industries. Tourists and surfers are drawn to Cocoa's 13 miles of public beach. Cruise ships dock at Port Canaveral. Tourism businesses employ about 20,000 people, accounting for 8% of Space Coast employment. Tourists pump $2.8 billion into the Space Coast economy each year.But space is at Brevard's core.At the peak of the shuttle program in 1991, when NASA built the Endeavour, about 32,000 people worked at the Kennedy Space Center. By 2006, the number of jobs had dropped to 16,000. Still, the Space Center drove Central Florida's economy.A 2008 economic impact study by NASA found the space agency accounted for $4.1 billion in economic output for Florida, 40,802 jobs and $2.1 billion in income, with the majority of the impact in Central Florida.At the time of the study, the Kennedy Space Center employed 14,865 people with an average salary of $77,235. The center's payroll totaled $1.124 billion. The visitor center drew 1.6 million out-of-state visitors.Of Florida's 10,681 aerospace-related companies, 408 are in Brevard County, a study released in March by the Florida State University Center for Economic Forecasting and Analysis found. The aerospace industries employ 14,113 people and generate $416 million in annual revenue, the study found.Enterprise Florida, the state's economic development association, found that most of the space-related businesses are located near Cape Canaveral, but that their network of suppliers extends throughout the state.NASA's operations at the Kennedy Space Center won't shut down completely, NASA spokesman Allard Beutel says. About 8,000 people will continue to work there. "It's true Kennedy Space Center is most identified with launching the space shuttle, but in fact it's going to be transitioning and ramping up to a different way of doing business," he says.Commercial rockets, carrying GPS and telecommunication satellites, will continue to launch. The Air Force launches one or two rockets a month from its Cape Canaveral base.NASA's launch-services program has four launches planned this year, including a spacecraft destined for Jupiter and an SUV-sized rover to Mars, Beutel says. Forty other missions are planned for the next five years, he says."What's transitioning is human space flight," Beutel says. "We're temporarily not launching people from the Kennedy Space Center."NASA is also developing Orion, a new multipurpose crew vehicle that will be able to travel beyond low-Earth orbit to asteroids and Mars, Beutel says. As that and other spacecraft come on line, the number of employees at Kennedy Space Center will gradually grow to 10,000 over the next five years, he says.A permanent shift in focus"We're still the Space Coast. We'll always be the Space Coast," Gaedcke says. "NASA's not locking its doors. NASA will still be here. That's the one thing that people don't realize. We still have space, but we won't have the shuttle. There's a big difference."Many of the other high-tech businesses that moved to the area in the years since Apollo to take advantage of the proximity to NASA have branched out to other technologies and will remain and grow, Gaedcke says. Business-development officials are hoping to entice more of them.But they acknowledge that none will be able to replace NASA's shuttle program as a jobs generator."Commercial space is never going to employ the numbers of people that the shuttle program has employed," Gaedcke said. "We never expected we would tackle this in one fell swoop."Harris Corp. is one of the Space Coast's largest employers, with 6,500 employees at its 3.5 million square foot Brevard County headquarters, says senior vice president Jeff Shuman. The company planted its Melbourne roots with miniaturized electronic and pulse code technologies for America's new space program, but has since branched out to electronic technologies used on communication and weather satellites, among other things.The company's commercial space business is growing, and it has hired some people whose businesses slowed as the space shuttle program shrank, Shuman says. The Florida coast also has a strategic location that allows for both low- and high-orbit launches, a key component for commercial space companies, Shuman says."There are several new companies that came specifically to the Space Coast because of the talent that's here," Shuman says.Although most would have preferred to keep the shuttle program, Shuman says Brevard County will adapt, as it did after the Apollo program ended."We get a little concerned about the doom and gloom," Shuman says. "The manned side is slowing down, it's true, but there's a lot more to space than that. Commercial space is a growing area."Brenda Mulberry holds out hope for the return of a manned space program the type of human space flight that sent chills down her spine 30 years ago."America has always led in space, and now we're taking second fiddle," Mulberry says. "In the back of my mind, I'm hoping to God that people still care about space. It's been a heck of a ride, let me tell you that, even for people who stayed on the ground."/>