Satellite plant may spark Volusia County economy
Daytona Beach News-Journal USA TODAY NETWORK
This week's announcement that Terran Orbital will construct a giant “Industry 4.0” satellite-manufacturing plant on Merritt Island has raised prospects for economic development in southeast Volusia County and beyond.
With Terran Orbital joining SpaceX and Blue Origin as leaders of the commercial space industry locating operations at Kennedy Space Center, the bust that came with the end of the U.S. space shuttle program has now swung back to boom. Communities such as Oak Hill and Edgewater are already seeing impacts, while Embry- Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach also figures prominently in developing the workforce and spinoff companies.
State Sen. Tom Wright, R-New Smyrna Beach and chair of the committee dealing with space, said Terran Orbital's plans to create 2,100 jobs averaging $84,000 annually by the end of 2025 will boost the chances of vendors and suppliers locating in Volusia County.
“I'm frequently asked by folks concerned about their children and grandchildren, asking 'Why can't you find jobs for our kids so they can stay here?' ” Wright said. “And here they are.”
Former Volusia County Council woman Deb Denys and Oak Hill Mayor Doug Gibson are elated at news that satellite manufacturer Terran Orbital is building a plant at Kennedy Space Center, bringing 2,100 jobs by the end of 2025. Denys and Gibson are seen here on a boat tour of the Indian River in 2019.
The Terran Orbital facility will be 660,000 square feet, or in a space larger than 10 football fields. It will use technology such as an AI-controlled supply chain and 3D printing — dubbed by some as Industry 4.0 — to design and produce satellites, plan launches, carry out mission operations and provide in orbit support.
“I think it's great for Florida and great for the Space Coast, and we're certainly a part of that,” said Embry- Riddle President Barry Butler.
ERAU offers programs in aerospace engineering, space physics, flight operations and a new master's degree in space operations for 7,600 students on its Daytona Beach campus, and more at its Worldwide Campus locations, one of which is in Brevard County. Terran Orbital's proximity is about an hour's drive for the students in Daytona Beach.
“This is the sort of business that they look to, and are excited about for the future,” Butler said.
ERAU's research park is bustling and expanding as the space economy is booming, and the Terran Orbital news will only continue that momentum, Butler said.
Growth for Oak Hill, Edgewater, Farmton
Tens of thousands of homes are on the books for development in Southeast Volusia, including Farmton, a 67,000acre area of southern Volusia and northern Brevard counties that last year won a key approval to start development of its eastern gateway — although construction isn't expected until 2026.
Edgewater is projecting itself to become Volusia County's largest city in the next 50 years, with Deering Park Center, a nearly 900-acre, mixed-use development near the intersection of Interstate 95 and State Road 442 part of that planned growth.
And Oak Hill, the closest Volusia County municipality to Kennedy Space Center, this week approved rezoning for 300 single-family houses and townhouses, which would boost the small community's housing stock by 25%.
The city's population, according to the 2020 Census, is 1,986.
The development, to be located just off U.S. 1 across from H.H. Burch Road on the city's north side, will be called Oakbridge Colony.
“You know, when you start talking about 2,100 employees, that's going to be a huge impact for both Brevard and, I think, Volusia, as well,” said Doug Gibson, Oak Hill's mayor. “If they import a bunch of people ... if employees move, they've got to have places to live, so the economic impact with this company is huge for the area.”
Well-positioned in 'Tech Triangle'
Bliss Jamison, president of the Southeast Volusia Manufacturing and Technology Coalition, Inc., has been marketing and promoting available commercial properties since 2016.
Southeast Volusia is in the center of the “technology triangle,” an area with Kennedy Space Center, Orlando and ERAU as points.
“We're sitting in the right place at the right time,” Jamison said. “People have been saying we're on the edge for a long time and I think what you're seeing with this (space expansion) the more you see, the better it gets for Southeast Volusia. The time is coming.”
Former Volusia County Councilwoman Deb Denys, who served on the Florida Space Caucus, has championed Southeast Volusia's potential for high-tech growth.
“The Space Coast doesn't start and end at a county line,” Denys said. “There are no borders on land for space.”
Denys said she is concerned that the Volusia County Council recently cut money out of its budget for enticements, or as she called them, “capital accelerators.” “We need to get the vision back,” Denys said. “Volusia needs to engage again, and I think you're going to start seeing that a lot more publicly.”
Shiloh plots still available
In 2013, two parcels were designated as future commercial launch sites. The properties, known as Shiloh, are just north of the peninsula that links Merritt Island with Volusia County, with one in Brevard County and the other in Volusia Count.
While Shiloh has yet to attract business, Wright said the geography of Kennedy Space Center suggests it's only a matter of time.
“We don't have anywhere to go. You can't go east, because of the ocean. You can't go west or south, so basically, Volusia is going to be the recipient of this continued growth,” Wright said.
Jamison, meanwhile, said Southeast Volusia has a lot of other commercial properties available, as well, including the largest contiguous industrially zoned corridor along Park Avenue in Edgewater.
“While this satellite company is going to be located down there (in Brevard County), it's just one more magnet to bring other people that work within that industry and to bring different supply chains to our area. 2025 is
not far away. It's tomorrow, in terms of planning and getting the economic infrastructure for future economic growth that will be related.”
State Sen. Tom Wright, pictured at a rally for Donald Trump in 2020, says Volusia County will benefit from Brevard County's landing of a 660,000-square-foot satellite manufacturing facility. Terran Orbital announced Monday it will be locating a plant at Kennedy Space Center that will bring 2,100 jobs by the end of 2025. MARK HARPER/THE DAYTONA BEACH NEWS-JOURNAL
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