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Florida governor visits NASA facility to talk jobs

By John Couwels, CNN
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Wed October 19, 2011
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, left, tours NASA's Kennedy Space Center, where he addressed the center's future
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, left, tours NASA's Kennedy Space Center, where he addressed the center's future
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Gov. Rick Scott and his Cabinet visited Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday
  • They listened to the latest actions to keep highly skilled workers in the state
  • Florida lost thousands of jobs after NASA ended its shuttle program this summer
  • The state already has over 10 percent unemployment

Kennedy Space Center, Florida (CNN) -- Florida's governor sent a message to the aerospace industry Tuesday: the state supports Kennedy Space Center's future.

Gov. Rick Scott, along with his Cabinet, visited the NASA facility and listened to the latest actions to keep highly skilled workers from the shuttle program in the state since the spacecrafts were retired this summer.

Florida's Space Coast lost thousands of jobs in a state with an unemployment rate over 10 percent. Kennedy Space Center's future is vitally important to central Florida, said the governor.

In NASA's 2012 budget, President Barack Obama laid out how the space center would move toward becoming a commercial launch facility. The president allocated $4 billion over five years to modernize the decades-old facility, said Lt. Gov Jennifer Carroll.

"It's no longer your daddy's NASA," said Carroll, who also heads Space Florida, the state's aerospace advocate. "It's going to be the 21st century NASA for our grandchildren."

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She said she envisions the space center launching rocket systems in the near future for private, commercial, governmental and military customers. All but two of the state's congressional leaders don't "get it," said Carroll following a question from Scott about support from members of Congress.

"This is an industry that provides for our state -- 86,000 workers, over $4 billion revenue to our state - it's huge," Carroll said.

Scott said the state must find companies to come to Florida: "Tell them what's going on in the Space Coast -- let people know what we are doing."

Former NASA astronaut Ken Bowersox, now a vice president at Space X, maker of the Falcon rockets, agreed that the space program is important and needs support in Washington, D.C.

During a roundtable meeting at the visitor center, the governor spoke with aerospace company leaders.

Others expressed concern about how other states are harvesting the highly skilled laid-off shuttle work force, saying that Florida's congressional representatives need to fight for a share of NASA money.

"This is where we fly rockets from," said Bill Moore, Chief Operating Officer for the Kennedy Space Center visitors complex. "We suffer when we lose leadership."

Kennedy Space Center director Bob Cabana gave state leaders a tour of the Operations and Checkout Building -- where the crew capsule Orion is being developed and tested.

"This is the future, we have a great opportunity," said the governor. "We are going to make things happen."

Cabana showed the governor the future plans for the space center saying, "I always tell my people -- nobody likes change [but] we have to change things in order to make things better."

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