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HomeBusiness & CommunityLocal Space Hub Incubation Center Gains Support from Congressman Bilirakis

Local Space Hub Incubation Center Gains Support from Congressman Bilirakis

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Plans to build a ‘Space Hub’ incubation center at Wilton Simpson Technical College took a significant step forward last week, as Congressman Gus Bilirakis officially submitted a request for funding.
The project is part of many appropriations sent by the congressman on May 17 to the Committee of Appropriations in the U.S. House of Representatives. He formerly asked the committee to provide $3.5 million to back the Hernando County School District and Hernando County government’s building of an incubation center that “seeks to create an ecosystem where businesses, entrepreneurs, researchers, and students can innovate and commercialize space technologies.”

The Space Hub incubation center will be part of the Wilton Simpson Technical College campus being constructed on the northeast corner of Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport. The Hernando County School Board was informed of the funding request at a workshop on May 14.

“I’m really pleased that Congressman Bilirakis’ office was on very good receipt of our messages and our communication about the importance of this,” said TC Wolfe, lobbyist from New Century Government Affairs, who spoke to the board by video from Washington, D.C. “Ultimately we wanted his support. That demonstrates a really good strategy and a really great team.”

Wolfe estimated the process of getting the appropriation approved will be completed in September or after the election in November.”

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“We obviously will push to have this done as quickly as possible,” Wolfe said. “This is a shovel-ready project. We’ve indicated that to the congressman and his office that we are ready to go.”

The Space Hub incubation center was previously presented by a committee put together by superintendent John Stratton as a way to capitalize on the work the district has done with Space Florida, a government agency dealing with aerospace economic development.

“The idea being that we’re doing a lot of great work with Space Florida and trying to get our academies in a place where they can attract some of that workforce,” said Sophia Watson, director of adult and technical education for the school district, at the workshop. “It seemed very natural that if we had a place where those industries and those students and researchers and local companies could come together, that we would have a complete picture here in Hernando County.”

Karin Hoffman from Key Innovative Solutions, who worked with Space Florida to lobby for Bilirakis’ support, also joined the school board workshop via video and praised the partnership with the school district and county in making the Space Hub incubation center a reality. The county owns the property where the facility will be built.

“The county has reserved that spot and when they heard about this got very excited and said, ‘You could have this part of our property. We would love to build out this concept here,’” Watson said. “Our visions aligned. It was stuff that they were looking at, things that we were looking at, so it made really great sense that we did it together.”

Chris Bernhardt
Chris Bernhardt
A resident of Spring Hill since 1986, Chris graduated from Springstead High in 1999 before moving on to earn a bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of Central Florida. In summer of 2003 he joined the staff at Hernando Today, working at the paper for 11 years as a sports reporter, the last three as sports coordinator in charge of the paper’s sports coverage. After an initial 3-year stint with Hernando Sun, he spent four years as a staff sports reporter at the Citrus County Chronicle. Follow on X @cpbernhardtjr.
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