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Space Florida could see changes

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By Jim Turner

TALLAHASSEE — As the House begins to revamp economic-development programs, Florida’s aerospace agency would draw more direct oversight, with the governor controlling its board of directors.

The House Regulatory Reform & Economic Development Subcommittee on Thursday backed a plan (PCB RRS 23-01) that, in part, would separate the Space Florida Board of Directors from the public-private Enterprise Florida.

The bill comes as House Speaker Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, calls for eliminating Enterprise Florida, with many of its business-recruitment programs placed under the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Frank DiBello, the longtime president and CEO of Space Florida, announced Wednesday he will step down June 30 from the agency, which was created by the Legislature in 2006.

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Rep. Tyler Sirois, a Merritt Island Republican who chairs the House subcommittee, described the bill as reflecting the evolving needs of the industry, which has developed a large commercial presence since the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.“I think that we are in a position where today commercial aerospace may seem still somewhat novel, but we’re very quickly reaching a point where I believe that it’s going to be as common as commercial flight,” Sirois said. “And that’s something that our policy should start and continue to look at.”

Space Florida, which plays a key role in such things as financial incentives for aerospace companies, is governed by a 13-member board, with 12 spots filled by members of the Enterprise Florida board who are appointed by the governor, House speaker and Senate president. Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez chairs the board.

Under the bill, the governor would appoint the chair and five members representing the aerospace industry, Florida seaports, the aviation industry and the bond-financing industry and an academic experienced in aerospace or aviation. The state transportation secretary, who is appointed by the governor, would also be a member of the board, while the Jacksonville Aviation Authority and the Titusville-Cocoa Airport Authority would have non-voting members.

The proposal also would require Space Florida to work with the Department of Economic Opportunity, instead of Enterprise Florida, on economic planning.

As the current fiscal year began, Space Florida was working on 85 projects with an estimated value of $2.4 billion, according to a House analysis of the proposal. DeSantis has proposed providing $18.5 million for Space Florida during the fiscal year that will start July 1, the same as in the current year.

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