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East Florida State College | EFSC’s Cocoa Campus project, a catalyst for economic growth

EFSC’s Cocoa Campus project, a catalyst for economic growth

Note picture: The artist rendering above shows the new main entrance to Clearlake Road and the STEM Building with science classrooms that are part of the Cocoa Campus Master Plan. See more images in our Flickr album.

July 28, 2022 – Eastern Florida State College’s plan to invest $87 million in new academic buildings at its Cocoa campus over the next decade will be a major “economic engine” that will spur growth and development in the center of Brevard County according to local government and business development leaders.

The new facilities and campus improvements included in the 10-year master plan will be a major benefit for students studying in a range of high-tech, healthcare and other fields.

The $87 million investment will also serve as a catalyst for economic growth and development in the city of Cocoa and other areas of central Brevard County, including the aerospace industry at Kennedy Space Center.

That’s the consensus of Space Coast economic development officials and City of Cocoa leaders who say the plan will train more students in state-of-the-art facilities to meet the labor needs of local industry.

This will help businesses expand their ranks and grow. It will also help attract more new businesses, as businesses will know that the Cocoa Campus creates a steady stream of skilled workers.

“One of the top priorities for businesses looking to expand or relocate to Florida’s Space Coast is workforce, especially in aerospace, engineering and advanced manufacturing,” said Lynda Weatherman, President and CEO of Florida’s Space Coast Economic Development Commission.

“In addition to attracting talent, it is essential that we cultivate talent locally. The expansion of Cocoa Campus demonstrates that our community is committed to developing a strong talent pipeline.

Announced in April, the EFSC plan is the biggest investment the college has ever made across its four campuses.

Artist Rendering Cocoa Master Plan Student Housing

Two L-shaped student housing buildings shown in this artist’s rendering would be built along the southern edge of Clear Lake as part of the $87 million, 10-year Cocoa Campus Master Plan.

It calls for a new advanced manufacturing center; new science building with classrooms and laboratories; renovated health science center; student housing; new Planetarium; and major improvements to the grounds.

EFSC President Dr. Jim Richey said the plan would transform the campus, making it a central part of Space Coast and City of Cocoa’s economic development efforts.

Others agree, including Cocoa Mayor Michael Blake.

“It’s the biggest thing Cocoa has seen in recent memory,” Blake said. “It will become one of the economic engines of the Clearlake region, generating direct and indirect jobs, and will be the backbone of the entire city. We are very supportive of that.

Currently, Cocoa’s economic development efforts are progressing steadily in the northwest part of the city and in Cocoa Village with the opening or planning of new businesses, apartments, and hotels. The Cocoa Campus plan can provide the same spark in the Clearlake area where the campus is located, Blake said.

New university buildings and student housing will attract more students to campus. This can lead to the construction of more off-campus housing and the opening of new restaurants, cafes and other businesses to support students, faculty and staff, he said.

“There are so many things that are going to change in this area over the next five years. There’s a great synergy there and the campus plays a big role in that,” Blake said.

The transformed campus could also help the city convince Brightline to build a station on Clearlake Road and State Road 524 for its Orlando-Miami high-speed rail, which the city is pushing for.

Among other benefits, prospective students from eastern Orange County could board the train at Orlando International Airport and be on campus in about 20 minutes. It’s easier than battling traffic jams in Orlando to attend UCF or other colleges in the city, said Angela Essing, the city’s director of growth and economic development.

“An expanded campus and more students potentially means more traffic,” she said.

Artist's rendering of the cocoa master plan pedestrian walkway

The master plan includes major improvements to the cocoa campus grounds, including a pedestrian walkway with small gathering and study pavilions.

Cocoa Councilwoman Lorraine Koss, whose district includes the campus, is equally enthusiastic. For example, she said the upgraded campus would fit in nicely with the more than $20 million improvements planned for Clearlake Road, which serves as the gateway to the campus.

“Nothing will make more of a difference in this sector of the city and its neighborhoods. I see the potential for a lot of development, a real renaissance there,” she said.

For Weatherman, the campus’ focus on high-tech facilities and training will be central to EDC’s work to attract new companies in commercial space, robotics, and satellite and rocket manufacturing. In addition. there are medium-sized businesses in the Cocoa Campus area that can also benefit.

“In trying to attract new business, we win or lose it depending on the workforce. The improved campus with its new buildings and expanded programs will help us make our case. It gives us the ultimate competitive advantage,” Weatherman said.

An example of this advantage can be seen in the growth of apprenticeship programs for Cocoa Campus students with local industry, including large commercial space companies at Kennedy Space Center.

Apprentices split their time between taking on-campus courses in aerospace technology, mechatronics, advanced machining and hands-on work with companies, said Brian Kamm, founder and senior adviser of the Space Coast Consortium apprenticeship program.

A dozen companies, including Blue Origin and Airbus OneWeb Satellites, are now taking part. Kamm wants to expand the number to 20 in 2023.

“To do this, we need more facilities, more equipment and more instructors. The Cocoa Campus plan advances this in a major way. As a college alumnus, I’m thrilled to see this happen. It couldn’t come at a better time,” Kamm said.

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