Falcon Heavy 'a shot in the arm' for Space Coast businesses

By Greg Pallone, Reporter
Last Updated: Thursday, February 08, 2018, 3:11 PM EST

In a town still in comeback mode, the Falcon Heavy launch was a glimpse of what's possible.

The historic rocket launch Tuesday from Kennedy Space Center not only lit up the sky, it boosted Space Coast businesses reaping the rewards of crowds coming right to their front door.

Nearly 10,000 jobs were lost when the space shuttle program ended in 2011. That sunset rippled through the local area, with foreclosures and shuttered businesses.

But with the highly anticipated Falcon Heavy launch, shuttle-like crowds returned, ushering in hope for an area trying to rocket back to life.

"There was no doubt in our minds we needed to be prepared for the influx of people," Laura Sasaninejad of Playalinda Brewing Company said Wednesday.

Days before the Falcon Heavy blasted into the history books, the town's only microbrewery launched its own effort to be ready for the town to be flooded with people. At the business's two locations, extra staff welcomed hundreds -- people hungry for the rocket to soar to space, but also hungry for a meal or a drink.

And spending money on launch-themed goodies.

"Our cocktail was 'Three Boosters,' and our burger is the 'Heavy Lifter,' " said Sasaninejad of their specials.

The maiden flight of the most powerful rocket in the world drew hundreds of thousands to the area to scope out a spot to witness history.

"Anywhere you go today, people are talking about it," said Marsha Gaedcke, president of the Titusville Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber has been slammed, fielding phone calls and walk-ins up to Tuesday's launch. They say all the interest is a blend of those who watched the Apollo and shuttle missions.

"It's a different excitement," Gaedcke said.

The commercial spaceflight business is gaining traction, creating an economic upswing in an area still working to recover from the shuttle program shutdown.

"This was a shot in the arm," Gaedcke said. "I don't even think you can quantify what it means."

The Economic Development Commission of Florida's Space Coast has hired a company to get an accurate count of the launch crowds.

And with more of these launches on the way, expect the same, or even more, amount of people.

"I think it's a game changer for this area," Sasaninejad said. "Hopefully, we will see them (the crowds) again."