The Space Florida board of directors voted Tuesday to approve retired Space Force Col. Robert Long as its next president and CEO with an annual salary of $350,000.
That’s a $25,000 bump over retiring Space Florida CEO Frank DiBello, who has been leading the state’s aerospace economic development entity since 2009.
“As this meeting wraps up, Robert Long is ready to sign the contract,” said board member Rodney Cruise, who was a member of the search committee and led contract negotiations after the board identified Long as their prime choice among three finalists.
The board led by chair Lt. Gov. Jeannette Nunez met for less than 10 minutes for an update on the negotiations and unanimously approved Long’s hire.
“As we start this new era in history, I’m really excited to work closely with Col. Long … to further promote growth in Florida’s aerospace industry,” Nunez said. “We have a lot of exciting work to accomplish.”
Long was the commander for Space Launch Delta 30 and the Western Launch and Test Range at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. It’s a similar role to the Space Launch Delta 45 group leader who oversees launches from the Space Coast.
The role had him overseeing $8.4 billion in assets and a $280 million annual budget and 11,000 military, civilian, and contractor personnel, according to the Space Force. He spent 23 years with the Air Force before transitioning to the Space Force and retired earlier this summer.
During his career, he was stationed in Brevard County, where he met his wife.
Part of his pitch to become the next Space Florida leader was to grow the state’s relationship with the burgeoning Space Force presence, which includes the addition of the military branch’s training headquarters STARCOM and its warfighting and training group known as Delta 10 coming to Patrick Space Force Base.
Florida leads the nation in launches each year on pace to pass its record 57 set in 2022, but Space Florida is about expanding the economic benefit from companies’ presence in the state, even beyond launch service.
Earlier this year, DiBello reported Space Florida had brokered deals that added $2.7 billion worth of state infrastructure since 2011 and the agency’s goal is to increase that number to $10 billion by the end of the decade, which would approach $1 billion every year.
That would come from a prospective 150 projects in the works from the likes of major aerospace entities such as those already realized like the Blue Origin rocket plant in Merritt Island and the Amazon satellite processing facility for its Project Kuiper constellation under construction at the former space shuttle landing facility at Kennedy Space Center.
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