by David Chapman, Staff Writer
Advocates of the commercial space industry see opportunities with the end of the space shuttle program and some say one of those is in Jacksonville.
“Cecil (Spaceport) is a part of that new beginning,” said Frank DiBello, Space Florida CEO.
Cecil Airport, certified as a spaceport in January 2010, hosted a two-day Cecil Spaceport Development Summit that concluded Monday. It took place at Florida State College at Jacksonville’s Cecil Center auditorium.
The event featured panel discussions, including one moderated by DiBello, and a tour for public officials and members of the commercial space industry.
George Nield, Federal Aviation Authority Commercial Space administrator and panelist, said that private industry will be relied on for funding due to national budget cutbacks in the space program. He said that once markets are established, NASA could choose the products and services it needs.
Nield said the FAA is working with 13 companies involving space tourism and said he wouldn’t be surprised if two or three of them were established within several years.
“It will be open to you,” he said of space tourism.
Jerry Mallot, president of JAXUSA Partnership, said the area has the benefit of a good climate and a tax structure that appeals to businesses.
Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll told attendees the space industry and its possibilities were “critical for our area and the state of Florida” for economic development and global competition in a targeted growth industry.
Carroll also spoke with the JAX Chamber trustees Monday afternoon at Epping Forest.
She said the space tourism industry attracts global customers who travel to an area with their families for months at a time for training and spend money.
Carroll said that requires investment in attractive infrastructure and she asked chamber members to support development within the community.
“Now is the time for Northeast Florida to get on the map,” she said of the industry’s growth.