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Florida Cabinet gets update on state's space industry

CAPE CANAVERAL — Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam warned Tuesday that Florida needs to show its commitment to the Kennedy Space Center or other states with spaceports will try to steal business away in a post-shuttle era of private space enterprises.

Putnam said at a Florida Cabinet meeting in Cape Canaveral that there is no guarantee that the state will remain the nation's leader in space launches, given competition from other states such as Texas, New Mexico and the mid-Atlantic states to lure private launch businesses.

"If we're serious about keeping this in Florida, and we are, I just think we need to make it clear... that we're committed to doing whatever it takes," Putnam said.

Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll told Cabinet members that Florida has an aggressive plan to fill the gap between the end of the shuttle program and the launch of next-generation rockets. She said hundreds of millions of dollars in federal money has been allocated for improving infrastructure at the space center.

"The glass isn't half empty, it's half full," Carroll told Cabinet members Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater and Putnam.

Carroll, who chairs Space Florida, the special district charged with developing space business in the state, said she wanted to educate members of Florida's congressional delegation about the importance of the space industry to the state so that they could be effective in pushing Florida's space interests in Washington.

"I think there is a commitment from some of the members of the delegation, and I believe we have to do a better job, between the industry and myself, of educating them as to what we do and why it's important," Carroll said.

After the meeting, Putnam raised the possibility of creating an authority separate from NASA to operate Kennedy Space Center. It would eliminate the need to consult Washington whenever an important decision had to be made, he said.

"It's worth exploring options for the governance structure of this site so that we can be nimble and agile and close deals and make the most of this facility," Putnam said.

Kennedy Space Center director Bob Cabana said no changes were planned to change the governing structure at the space center in the near future. But he said someday the nation's spaceports may be operated like airports.

"Years from now when we have multiple rockets going to and from space, it's going to be more of an airport environment," Cabana said.

Florida Cabinet gets update on state's space industry 10/18/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 18, 2011 2:19pm]
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