June 19 (UPI) -- Defense contractor and aerospace giant Boeing said Wednesday it will move its space and launch division headquarters to Titusville on Florida's Space Coast from Arlington, Va.
Although the move is expected to include only a few executive jobs, Florida officials instantly praised the announcement as further evidence that the state is taking the lead in a new era of space exploration.
In recent years, companies establishing a new presence in the area include SpaceX, Blue Origin, OneWeb and Firefly Aerospace. The Boeing announcement comes as Florida politicians have been trying to make a case that the planned U.S. military's new Space Command should be headquartered in the state, rather than in Colorado.
"The more of these companies clustered together the better for our economy and for making the case to more space or defense companies to move here," said U.S. Rep. Bill Posey, R-Fla., who represents the area.
Posey once worked at Kennedy Space Center, which is near Titusville, as an inspector for the Apollo space program. After that, and again after the shuttle program ended, the local economy suffered. He's now in real estate and has seen the market recover.
"The Titusville job base was always very dependent on federal job numbers at Kennedy. There just wasn't private industry in Titusville, historically," he said. "Having a Boeing division headquarters adds to the diversification of space-related companies here, which helps Titusville tremendously."
The headquarters move will have no impact on Boeing's space operations in other states, including California, Texas, Alabama, Colorado and Louisiana. Cash or tax-break incentives were not provided to Boeing for the move, according to Space Florida and the local Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast.
"The only incentive we provided was a vibrant landscape where business is growing and history is being made," said Dale Ketcham, vice president of government and external affairs for Space Florida, the state's marketing and economic development agency for space activity. "If there are opportunities to collaborate on specific projects in the future, we will of course be happy to talk with them."
"This great announcement affirms our state's position as a national leader in innovation and job growth and will bring increased investment to the Space Coast," Gov. Ron DeSantis posted on Twitter.
Boeing already has an office building on U.S. 1 just across the NASA Causeway from Kennedy Space Center's main entrance.
In August, the company is planning to launch its Boeing Starliner capsule, which is designed to carry people eventually, in an unmanned test flight launching from Florida. Boeing co-founded leading launch company United Launch Alliance with Lockheed Martin in 2006. ULA launches frequently from the region's launch sites.
"Looking to the future, this storied Florida space community will be the center of gravity for Boeing's space programs as we continue to build our company's leadership beyond gravity," Leanne Caret, president and CEO of Boeing's defense, space and security business unit, said in a statement.
Jim Chilton, senior vice president of of Boeing's space division, said customer proximity is important for the move to Florida. Chilton and members of his executive leadership team and support staff will be based in Titusville after the headquarters move.
The moves are to begin in late summer and be completed by the end of 2019, the company said.
Other Florida activities cited by Boeing in its move to the Sunshine State include:
- The Boeing-made X-37B uncrewed, reusable space vehicle, which performs long-duration missions for the U.S. Air Force.
- Collaboration with Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base.
- Boeing construction on the first two stages of NASA's massive planned rocket and capsule, the Space Launch System to send astronauts to the moon and eventually to Mars
Florida's two U.S. senators, both Republicans, also applauded the move on Twitter.
"It is no surprise that Boeing would choose our great state where the economy is booming and taxes are low," tweeted U.S. Sen. Rick Scott.
"Very happy Boeing has chosen to move their Space & Launch headquarters to the Sunshine State," U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio posted.