Thursday, January 21, 2010

Space Shuttle demise hits Brevard County in Florida

Jerry Hart and Ryan Flinn

Laurilee Thompson says her Dixie Crossroads seafood restaurant near Florida’s Kennedy Space Center will lose $50,000 a year in tourist business after the space shuttle flies for the last time in September. She’s not the only taxpayer in Brevard County to feel pain.

Local unemployment climbed to almost 15 percent after Apollo lunar launches ended in 1972. Now Brevard, Florida’s 10th-most populous county, where per capita income is already 8.3 percent less than the state average, is bracing for another blow as the U.S. shifts to moon and Mars flights from orbital missions.

Contractors led by Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. will cut 7,000 Florida jobs, almost half the nationwide shuttle workforce that stretches to Alabama, Texas and California. Brevard, on the Atlantic coast, 40 miles (64 kilometers) east of Orlando, got $1.8 billion of the $2 billion the space program injected into the state in 2008, according to a National Aeronautics and Space Administration report. County borrowing costs rose about 2 percent since November after some of its bonds were downgraded by Fitch Ratings on concern over rising unemployment and falling revenue.

“It’s a perfect storm,” said Lisa Rice, president of Brevard Workforce, which administers the Aerospace Workforce Transition Program, a county retraining agency for shuttle employees facing dismissal. “You have the economy going down, the shuttle retiring and defense contracts decreasing.”

Read the feature article HERE.

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