At Tampa Bay-Orlando "superregion" summit, a rallying call to support space industry
Wake up and good morning. The second annual "Superregion" economic summit meeting of Tampa Bay and Orlando area business and civic leaders took place Thursday at the Gaylord Palms conference center in Kissimmee where the two regions continued to hash out ideas on how to effectively manage the inevitable "merging" of the two Central Florida metro areas into one super-sized economic belt stretching along the I-4 backbone from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic.
Curiously, a cluster industry pushed aggressively as one all of Central Florida should rally around is the aerospace industry, which is under federal budget attack and review as to its vision. Space Florida, an organization created to promote Florida's space industry, represented the aerospace interests at the meeting, lead by Space Florida co-chairman and Florida Lieutenant Gov. Jeff Kottkamp and organization president Frank DiBello.
The point? While Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center may be Florida's space tabernacles, Pinellas and Hillsborough counties also employ a lot of people doing aerospace work. Hence Thursday's call for regional support, given the Obama Administration's plan to redirect space efforts -- not to mention this week's historic final flight of the Space shuttle Atlantis (photo, above). (Here's is video of its landing this week at the Kennedy Space Center after 25 years, 32 flights and 120 million miles. That's some odometer.)
Space Florida' DiBello (photo, right), a respected space consultant with experience in both civil and military space, was named to head the organization last year. His remarks Thursday focused on the importance of Florida maintaining a viable "space transportation" industry given its higher-paying jobs and its potential resurgence as the nation's interest slowly refocuses on travel to Mars.
Wow. I don't doubt DiBello's credentials. But does this guy look like Walter Cronkite -- the biggest space program booster in history -- or what?
And that's the way it is...
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist