The impending retirement of the space shuttle program–now no sooner than mid-2011 assuming STS-135 is added to the manifest–has been feared by local and state officials because of the thousands of layoffs that will result and the concomitant impact on the region’s economy. For example, state senator Mike Haridopolos, who represents the Space Coast and recently became president of the Florida Senate, worried last month that “20,000 jobs” would be lost (which would be on the very high end of estimates); Haridopolos, a Republican and potential 2012 US senate candidate, put the blame on current Senator Bill Nelson. Another state Republican, though, sees the end of the shuttle program in less dire terms.
“You can look at it as a problem or an opportunity. The opportunity is, look at all the talent that is now going to be freed up to be part of companies,” said Florida Gov.-elect Rick Scott, at the beginning of a week-long swing through the state to talk about jobs. “We’re going to put a lot of effort into talking to companies that make sense for that workforce to work there. We’re going to talk to people all around the world to relocate plants, open plants there, because we have a ready work force.”
Frank DiBello, president of Space Florida, is optimistic that several thousand shuttle jobs can be replaced within the next few years. DiBello estimates that 6,000 jobs will be lost when the shuttle program ends, but that 2,000 to 3,000 can be replaced with “the completion of deals that are under way”, he told Florida Today. He added that he met with Scott and “foresees no problems” working with the new governor on these issues.