Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.
Earlier this year, I had the privilege of traveling to Florida’s ‘Space Coast,’ home of Cape Canaveral and the legendary Kennedy Space Center, to meet with industry and business leaders whose work is at the cutting edge of space exploration and technology. I was there as part of the Administration’s Champions of Change Series, to highlight the work people are doing every day to win the future through innovation and education.
I had a very lively discussion with nearly 20 area residents about their work. These are visionary leaders both within the government and the private sector who are working to tap the exceptional skills and resources of the Space Coast to ensure the area’s economy continues to prosper and diversify, as NASA ends the Space Shuttle program and proceeds with efforts to develop new crew transportation and space exploration systems. We discussed creative, hands-on learning programs for young students inspired by NASA’s missions. We met business owners who are transforming technology and capabilities developed for the Shuttle program into good jobs for Florida workers. We met an entrepreneur who is hiring former NASA engineers and trying to revolutionize how we build cars in America. We met NASA contractors and private launch companies, who all are doing incredible work to adapt and grow their businesses in an uncertain environment.
We also heard really good ideas about how government and industry can work together to utilize the immense brain-power, and unique capabilities and infrastructure that exists across the I-4 corridor to spur further development and growth of this important economy.
If my one hour conversation with one room of people is any indication of the creativity and potential of the space industry to continue to pioneer new frontiers in technology and innovation, I can’t wait to see what they’ll come up with next.
Carlos Monje is Special Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff of the White House Domestic Policy Council.