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Major investments in 2021 will lead to big changes at Cecil Airport next year and beyond  (Courtesy of the Jacksonville Business Journal) —

The questions on how the Jacksonville Aviation Authority could begin to leverage Cecil Airport and Spaceport into a facility that will develop aerospace and commercial space opportunities began to be answered in 2021.

The airport broke ground on a 370,000-square-foot maintenance and repair facility for Boeing in October. The project, with a total cost of $183.6 million, will come online in 2023. When it does, it will open up leasing opportunities at Boeing’s current location on the western portion of the airport.

Jacksonville Aviation Authority CEO Mark VanLoh, Florida Lt. Governor Jeannette Nunez; Ted Colbert, CEO of Boeing Global Services and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry celebrate the groundbreaking of Boeing’s 370,000 square foot maintenance facility that will open at Cecil Airport in 2023.

Ted Colbert III, CEO of Boeing Global Services, said the new facility will allow the company to apply modern uses to data and do predictive analytics.

 “The difference is we will have a place that will allow us to streamline a lot of content and create some stability,” Colbert told the Business Journal. “The more that we use modern capabilities to do the work that we need, it creates stability for the military and that helps them with mission readiness.”

The new Boeing facility was not the only development on the northeastern portion of the facility. During a 10-day period in October and November, Cecil received a combined $9 million from Space Florida and Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Job Growth Grant Fund to build an 8,600-foot access road that will help develop hundreds of acres on the eastern portion of Cecil.

It may seem like a small thing, but the spaceport launched cecilspaceport.com in March. Doing so, JAA officials told the Business Journal at the time, allows the facility to share information on its facilities and specifications with the commercial space industry and market the spaceport.

Cecil has yet to hold its first test operation for commercial space flight. Managing Director Matt Bocchino, who was hired in August, said the first operation will not come until at least mid-2022.

When asked about his goals for the first 12-18 months of his tenure, Bocchino was clear. 

“My hope would be to have had at least one launch and to have a clear picture, a clear map and a clear outline of what we need to do to growth the business here.”

That work begins in 2022. The year that ended provided the framework for that development.

Photo courtesy of JIA