BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Both of Florida's senators will convene Friday with industry representatives at Kennedy Space Center and discuss efforts to drive small business innovation, a segment of the economy they hope will continue with spaceflight contributions.
Republican Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott will attend a noon Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship hearing at the KSC Visitor Complex, according to News 6 partner Florida Today. Joining them will be U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz, KSC Director Bob Cabana and Andrew Rush, CEO of Made in Space, to name a few.
Rubio told Florida Today he's spearheading efforts to renew the Small Business Administration's Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs, which haven't been reauthorized in nearly two decades. Both help provide funding and grants.
"If you think about the way the programs are designed, they were designed for an economy that doesn't even exist anymore," Rubio said.
Rubio, who chairs the small business committee, said that's the first framing.
"The second framing of it is if you look at U.S. domestic industrial capacity in various sectors, it has significantly lagged because we have built our public policies on the belief that we're engaged in some sort of global free enterprise competition when in fact we are engaged with national competition," he said. "For example, Chinese firms backed and supported by a strong industrial policy that guarantees them exclusive access to a large domestic market and tremendous government funding."
Rubio cited rail as an example, noting that around 70% of the world's rail cars are built by Chinese companies due to strong government support, allowing them to underbid companies from other countries.
More support for space innovation, he said, is key for smaller companies that could one day build the next breakthrough technology – but the current state of investor mindsets is more short-term and risk-averse, two factors that directly contradict the nature of an innovative small company.
"Extend that support to the space program where there's opportunity for extraordinary innovation," he said. "To be innovative means to do something that's never been done before. You need money that allows you to take risk over an extended period of time. Banks don't lend to that and large investment companies aren't interested in 25-year returns on high-risk, high-yield propositions."