July 6 - When NASA’s 30-year Space Shuttle program officially ends on July 8th with the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, more than 7,000 people will lose their jobs at the Kennedy Space Center -- devastating Florida’s already sluggish economy. Jon Decker reports.
When NASA's 30-year Space Shuttle program officially ends on July 8th with the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis, more than 7,000 people will lose their jobs at the Kennedy Space Center-devastating Florida's already sluggish economy. Particularly hard-hit will be Titusville, a city that grew up around the Space Center and is home to thousands of NASA employees. Marcia Gaedcke is the president of the Titusville area Chamber of Commerce. (SOUNDBITE) (English) MARCIA GAEDCKE, PRESIDENT OF THE TITUSVILLE AREA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE SAYING: "The community has to go through the normal stages of grief. And for many people, we were in denial - 'oh, it's not gonna happen. There were folks that worked out there that I think thought, 'they'll never stop launching this shuttle.' Or a new Administration or new Congress or whatever - it'll never happen. And then you get into the angry stage of why does it have to happen to us? And so, I think Friday is a shock. Friday is gonna be a difficult day for many of us because it's such a big part of the fabric of our lives." In fact, for more than three decades, the Kennedy Space Center drove Central Florida's economy. It provided thousands of well-paying jobs and pumped billions of tourism dollars into the state. But at Caffe Chocolat, a popular restaurant along Titusville's main thoroughfare, manager Joe Hennis is preparing for even more hard times for the city's battered economy. (SOUNDBITE) (English) JOE HENNIS, MANAGER, CAFFE CHOCOLAT SAYING: "I know a lot of people have moved away and are just kind of letting things go. If you look at the unemployment rate around here, the housing market around here is just dying. So it's probably gonna have an impact because people are preparing and they're getting up and going." Customers at Caffe Chocolat have the same fears about Titusville's future. (SOUNDBITE) (English) KATHY WITHROW, CUSTOMER AT RESTAURANT SAYING: "Oh it's horrible. This place has become a ghost town almost. If you would drive around you would see so many places that are empty. And homes - you can't get anything out of selling a home right now 'cause there's too many on the market. And it's hard to see a town just collapse almost." (SOUNDBITE) (English) KEVIN WRIGHT, PASTOR AT FAITH CITY CHURCH SAYING: "So it's really sad because our town's made up of employees from the Space Center. And as a Pastor, I'm watching families leave my church looking for jobs in other cities and it's really tough to watch families leave your church that's been a part of your church for three years and then have to move out of state because of jobs you know." NASA officials say the layoffs from the Space Shuttle program are expected to continue thoughout the summer, devastating the Space Coast economy and Titusville a town that's also known as Space City, USA. Jon Decker, Reuters.