‘Q’ Breakfast: Space Industry Tops in Sunshine State

‘Q’ Breakfast: Space Industry Tops in Sunshine State

The roar of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds taking off briefly interrupted Volusia County Economic Development’s quarterly ‘Q’ Breakfast, serving as an apt metaphor for the message delivered by Laura DiBella.

“Our secret weapon here in Florida is Space Florida,” said DiBella, who previously served as Secretary of Commerce and President and CEO of Enterprise Florida. “Space is going to blanket every single industry we’re talking about. That’s what’s moving the world these days.”

DiBella said the aerospace and defense sector is the No. 1 industry in Florida, surpassing agriculture in 2023. And Space Florida, the state’s aerospace economic development agency, is able to keep the industry at the top of the list.

The charter that Space Florida has, has economic tools that nobody else has,” DiBella said. “The Space Florida charter allows us to take a lot of up-front capital costs away from companies.”

After reviewing the reorganization of Florida’s economic development efforts with the move from the Department of Economic Opportunity and Enterprise Florida to the newly reconstituted FloridaCommerce last year, DiBella said the Sunshine State is in position to compete for new business development.

Describing the new organization as “one large umbrella agency with a lot of divisions,” DiBella said the state’s economic development activities operate “much more efficiently as one unit.”

Rather than give a formal presentation, DiBella took questions from the audience. One of the issues raised was the state’s competitiveness in attracting businesses against other states that are able to offer large incentive packages.

“Incentives have nothing to do with the initial part of the equation,” she said, adding when companies seeking to expand or relocate bring up incentives right away, “they are not serious” about development plans.

“Incentives come into play when it is you versus another community,” DiBella said. She added there are a variety of incentives businesses are looking for, citing fast-track permitting or assisting companies with finding temporary office space while they build new facilities.

“It doesn’t always involve giving money or a rebate,” she said.

Looking at where Florida stacks up against other states, DiBella said the state gross domestic product increased last year and Florida has the 14th largest economy in the world. “Our goal is to be 10th by 2030,” she said. “We are not messing around. We are truly a force to be dealt with