Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Kohler refutes Space Florida expose' - (UPDATED with Sentinel's Answer)

NOTE: Early this morning on the Orlando Sentinel's WRITE STUFF blog, Robert Block posted information regarding a letter of support purported to endorse the work of Space Florida mentioned in the general statement by Mr. Kohler below:

Space Florida uses form letter to justify "job creation"

UPDATE: T. Boone Pickens and SPACEHAB have spoken up in a new endorsement of SPACE FLORIDA, reported Thursday morning by PARABOLIC ARC.

The original statement from Steve Kohler answering the Orlando Sentinel:

It is important that Space Florida be given the opportunity to refute inaccuracies outlined in the Sunday, Feb. 15, 2009 Orlando Sentinel story headlined: "Florida's Space Boosters Failed to Launch, Critics Say."

For background, a reporter from the Orlando Sentinel began working on this story several weeks ago. The reporter spent hours in the Space Florida office reviewing and requesting documents, and was provided volumes of background data including every audited financial report since the inception of the organization, all receiving "clean opinion" status. Of the $50 million funding cited in the story, the reporter did not explain that the Space Florida enabling legislation directed that $35 million be spent to support the renovation and upgrade of the ORION project facility at the Kennedy Space Center. In a recent letter to the Lt. Governor, Brevard Workforce Development Board President, Lisa Rice noted how the State of Florida through Space Florida provided $260,000 in funding for the Aerospace Workforce Transition (AWT), stating the funding will have a positive, lasting impact on the State.

Space Florida advocated in favor of the Air Force's assignment to lease SpaceX a launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and has provided SpaceX more than $2 million in cash, facilities and in-kind support with said support continuing to this day. The launch complex is located on Air Force property where responsiveness to national security is their fundamental priority. As the liaison agency for companies that wish to launch from the Cape, Space Florida serves the 45th Space Wing in assuring companies are vetted prior to engaging with the 45th Space Wing and that processes are implemented and executed.

The reporter was provided names and contact information for eleven of Space Florida's customers with strong and positive working relationships, none of which were referenced in his article. The reporter further ignored all data we provided demonstrating Space Florida success.

Customer Satisfaction results from an outside survey completed in November 2008 and presented to the Board of Directors in a public forum were also provided. More than 100 respondents summarized their Space Florida business relationship, noting an overall customer satisfaction rating of 80% and a majority rating "a strong business advantage is seen from association with Space Florida," and their "Intent to recommend (Space Florida) is very strong." Among the many statutory requirements, one of them outlined below designed to drive Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education.

Outlined in 331.3051 Duties of Space Florida, subsection 10, it states Space Florida will:

"(10) Carry out its responsibility for creating innovative education programs by funding programs developed in conjunction with the Department of Education that target grades K-20 in an effort to promote mathematics and science education programs, which may include the Florida-NASA Matching Grant Program, aerospace-focused education programs for teachers, education-oriented microgravity flight programs for teachers and students, and Internet-based aerospace education. Funds appropriated and any in-kind or private-sector contributions may be used to carry out innovative education programs. Funding levels shall be determined by the Space Florida board of directors. " Two contracts with Zero-G Corporation worth $500,000 each, directly served 92 Florida teachers, 2700 students and 19 industry and academic researchers across 47 counties, creating an indirect impact to thousands of teachers and students, through the web-enabled teacher community and shared research projects and lesson plans. The Zero-G microgravity flights are one element of multi-faceted STEM education efforts and continue to be improved.

Space Florida allocated $250,000 in seed money to SPACEHAB for infectious disease research in microgravity which will pave the way for a new biotech industry based in Florida, and includes a payback model to help fund future Space Florida projects.

I hope this document provides you some additional information and perspective. I assure you that the team at Space Florida remains committed to aggressively and successfully attracting commercial space business to the State, and reducing our customers' costs, while assuring their access to space. We remain transparent and open to those that we serve.

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