If you are traveling on vacation in Florida and turn down “I Dream of Jeannie Lane” you can be fairly certain that you are in only one place in this world - Cocoa Beach. The television show I Dream of Jeannie, which originally aired from 1965-1970, used both Cocoa Beach as the location and a fictitious astronaut for its storyline. Decades later, both the community and the Cocoa Beach Area Chamber of Commerce have embraced the pop culture attention the show has generated. In fact, the Cocoa Beach Area Chamber actually holds a “We Dream of Jeannie Fest” on an annual basis. While the Chamber enjoys the light hearted nature of promoting the event, it takes the business of promoting space very seriously.
The Cocoa Beach Area Chamber of Commerce has actually helped organize a group called Citizens for Space Exploration. Citizens for Space Exploration participates in state and nationwide efforts to educate and inform legislators and the general public about the continued importance of space programs, which are so vital to the local economy. Each year, members join with representatives from the local community and the states of Alabama, California and Texas to visit members of the Florida legislature and U.S. Congress, reminding them of the importance of our space programs, both now and in the future.
Of course, the Cocoa Beach Area Chamber is also one of more than 30 different economic development organizations across the state helping to promote the Space Alliance Technology Outreach Program (SATOP) to small businesses in their region. In fact, the Chamber has been a part of SATOP since 2001.
“People assume that since SATOP is located on the Space Coast that everyone automatically knows about all of the different space initiatives in the area. However, the space industry is linked to practically everything here. So, a small business owner from Cocoa Beach has a totally different reaction than a small business owner from Coconut Grove when you hand them a brochure with astronaut pictured on the cover. On the space coast, you have to work much harder to grab their attention. That’s why we work with organizations like the Cocoa Beach Area Chamber of Commerce to reinforce the message,” stated SATOP Director Paul Secor.
The Chamber makes SATOP one of the primary programs for its Better Business Development Council, invites SATOP representatives to speak at business after hours events, sends out direct mail pieces to its members, and works to get SATOP related articles published in the media. During the last five years the Chamber has managed to generate more than two dozen requests from local businesses including ones from a windsurfing business, a company that manufactures liquid sprays for air conditioning filters, and an entrepreneur that created an innovative nose filter.
Kathy Schillo, President of the Cocoa Beach Area Chamber of Commerce, believes that SATOP has been extremely valuable for her organization. “SATOP is a significant benefit to our partners as well as the communities it serves. The outstanding professionalism, creative problem solving, and immediate response time is nothing more than exceptional,” she stated. “The professionals that offer their time and knowledge to benefit small business is truly a way to demonstrate how our space industry can reach out and impact our daily lives,” she added.