Spotlight On: Lynda Weatherman, President & CEO, Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast

Spotlight On: Lynda Weatherman, President & CEO, Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast

2021-11-24T16:20:42+00:00November 24th, 2021|Economy, Orlando, Spotlight On|

Economic Development Commission of Florida’s Space Coast Lynda Weatherman2 min read November 2021 — In a conversation with Invest:, President and CEO Lynda Weatherman of the Economic Development Commission (EDC) of Florida’s Space Coast discussed the range of opportunities that are present on the Space Coast. She shared the growth potential that the space industry is fostering within the area, the strategies used to manage labor shortages and how corporate relocations have impacted the region.

How did your organization manage the consequences of the pandemic?

In comparison to the other metro areas in Florida, the Space Coast has nearly two to three times the concentration of manufacturing jobs. Manufacturing was considered essential-critical during the pandemic and we actually added jobs. Over the last decade, the EDC was quite successful in corporate relocation, particularly in industries tied to aviation, aerospace, space and avionics. These industries helped to minimize some of the negative economic impacts of the pandemic. 

How has demand for your services shifted as of recently? 

We were most focused on helping our essential businesses remain open. We were responding to our local businesses, showing them how they were essential. We conducted webinars and sent emails to companies weekly to help establishments navigate the situation. When the CARES Act and funding from the federal government became available, we worked to understand the elements and requirements of these programs. We promoted PPP loans to businesses as they became available. It quickly became a collaboration between us and various partners. Our efforts have become more focused on offering and maintaining a steady flow of information to local businesses. The areas wherein our services primarily lie – the relocation of corporations, remaining abreast of events occurring in the defense community, opening markets in the commercial space, doubling and tripling our launch manifest – continued to grow throughout the pandemic.

How have you assisted businesses in relocating to the area, and what has been the impact? 

We’ve worked hard to diversify the county’s economy, which makes it more resilient. We’ve attracted the production facilities of several launch-vehicle companies to the area. Along with the diversification of our defense industry, including the relocation of Lockheed Martin’s Fleet Ballistic Missile and Boeing Space Systems headquarters and several others, we’ve experienced diversification during the last decade that usually takes a generation to acquire. 

We recognize that we will have to broaden our offerings as well as align ourselves with other organizations. Workforce development, developing a curriculum and working with our tourist development commission encompasses what we must consider and incorporate moving forward. We’re remaining up to date on infrastructure activities. We want to have a competitive environment that addresses the assets in the community. We’re playing an active role in the cleaning of the Indian River Lagoon, looking at how we can work toward economic development-driven initiatives with an eye toward making the Space Coast a community of choice. 

What opportunities is the space exploration industry bringing to the community?

It has a strong impact on the area. Launch activity costs have decreased, which opens the door to other companies to identify other processes we may be able to implement in space that we have yet to identify. The upside is tremendous, whether it is satellite development and production in the near term and accessible space tourism further out.

What strategies have been implemented to mitigate labor shortages?

We’ve been focused on the labor market as it relates to manufacturing and industrial development. We’ve noted how many of those in the industry are retiring or are close to retirement, so we’ve created a program called Certified Production Technician Program to address the production side of the manufacturing industry. We’ve also developed a talent recruitment program to showcase to those across the country that there are jobs available in the engineering sector on the Space Coast. Talent attraction and retention will become a bigger and bigger part of what we do going forward.  

What legislative or regulatory initiatives are you following?

Our role as an EDC is to present resources and opportunities to our clients. We’re keeping an eye on cybersecurity. We’re also following the distribution of infrastructure funds, which will allow us the opportunity to address some of the infrastructure initiatives that we have, such as those related to the Indian River Lagoon, which factors into talent attraction because our natural environment is such a key piece of the quality of life value proposition here

What are your near-term priorities?

We will continue to be aggressive as our space industry becomes more diversified. We’re working closely with our defense contractors. We see opportunities emerging, but we need to be mindful of the fact that infrastructure has been and will continue to be impacted. The companies that have relocated to the area need support as they work to address various challenges and demands placed on them as it relates to long-term activity.

We want to maintain our focus on corporate relocations, but we also want to focus on the supply chain. We want to continue with launch vehicles, but we want to incorporate the opportunities that are being presented by the space industry. We will also market our talent recruitment programs more aggressively, highlighting how Florida is an attractive place to live and grow professionally.

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