Tech hiring seen soaring on Space Coast over next five years

A mass migration is beginning to arrive in Florida. Instead of birds headed south for the winter, this flock will descend on the state over the next five years, armed with pocket protectors and the promise of six-figure salaries.

Space companies around the state are looking to hire engineers and skilled workers for jobs on the Space Coast. Harris Corporation has already begun a five-year hiring binge that will add 5,000 engineers to its ranks, at least 2,000 of those to its facility in Melbourne. Meanwhile, eight of Harris’ competitors and partners are looking to hire more than 2,500 people for jobs that include software engineers and launch technicians.

That poses a potential issue for the coming influx, notably whether there is enough housing inventory in the communities that stretch the roughly 10 miles from Satellite Beach south to Melbourne Beach.

The current inventory of homes for sale between Satellite Beach and Melbourne Beach numbers just under 500. New homes under construction or inventoried in planned communities number close to 600. That means only the first wave of those new employees would be able to settle into a house. What’s available in apartments or condominiums numbers far less, currently about 100 available units.

At least one area Realtor believes there’s already plenty of housing to go around. “If these engineers are young, fresh out of college, these are people more interested experiences than in a posh apartment,” said Gibbs Baum, a Realtor with Treasure Coast Sotheby’s International.

There is truth to Baum’s statement.

Baum said that as the space companies continue to hire, housing will continue to keep pace. “New construction is coming,” he said. “And in the next 24 months. Some home owners will age out, and some are coming in. Housing will filter in beachside.”

But will new housing be available in time? Realtors in new home communities typically advise buyers to consider their home will take a year to complete. Some of that is cushion for the builder in case of bad weather, or anticipating difficulty in getting supplies or workers.

Relocation experts will likely benefit from the influx of engineer hires at Harris. NRI, an Illinois-based relocation company, built its brand by including home-selling services for workers who were relocating to a different locality.

Attitudes about relocating for work may also be changing. Kelly Global Workforce Index for 2014 found that people don’t loathe moving for work, and instead many embrace the idea. The opposite emerged in Atlas World Group’s 2017 Corporate Relocation Survey. That data showed seven out of 10 workers were willing to turn down a job offer that required relocation.

For those workers who must relocate, there are relocation companies willing to do the work for you.

Suddath Moving Company, which has an office in Melbourne, also offers global relocation through a third-party company called Lexicon. The company did not respond to the Beachsider’s request for an interview.

Harris has more than a dozen job titles among the positions it is seeking to fill in Melbourne. And many of those jobs are available to recent engineering graduates.

According to Harris’ website, qualifications required include a bachelor’s degree in Systems, Electrical, Mechanical or Computer engineering, Computer Science, Physics, Math, Aviation or Aerospace Engineering. And the companies want candidates whose grade point average was at least a 3.0.

Some specific technical skills will also help: systems engineering, architecture, analysis and design, performance modeling, project management and model-based engineering.

Harris also includes a sobering disclaimer. Many of the company’s jobs require a security clearance from the U.S. government. The catch is that only United States citizens can be granted that clearance. Employment also comes with the possibility of a security investigation by the government.

Harris Corp. spokesman Jim Burke provided some details regarding his company’s hiring binge. “We anticipate hiring 5,000 engineers companywide over the next five years. About 40 percent of those – some 2,000 engineers – will be Brevard-based,” he said. “That hiring has already begun. We expect it to be relatively even in yearly hiring.”

The jobs will be based on at least two factors, Burke added: “The hiring is to address projected demand and to offset retirements and normal attrition.”

The 5,000 figure, in relation to new hires, may actually be low.

“We expect the total number of hires to exceed 5,000 during that period,” Burke added. “We anticipate additional hiring for non-technical positions.”

And when asked about the validity of reports saying the new engineers would draw a six-figure salary, Burke’s response was direct: “Our average engineering salary is above $100,000.”

The new employees will be fanned out among multiple projects, Burke explained. Those could include:

F-35 avionics and electronic warfare: The Lockheed-Martin fighter jet is designed for air-to-air, air-to-ground, electronic attack and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions. Its data link system, as well as the communications and navigation systems, are made by Harris Corp.

Cybersecurity: Harris Corp. manages its networks, and move 2 million air passengers each day.

Space reflectors: Two gold mesh antennas made locally by Harris were deployed during a September launch. Both are dedicated to a U.S. Navy satellite known as MUOS-4. Unfurled, they span about 46 feet.

The F-35 has become a widely popular fighter jet. In July of this year the Navy ordered 50 of the jets, according to militaryaerospace.com. A number of the planes will go to U.S. allies. The United Kingdom and Italy have ordered one each, Turkey wants four, Australia and the Netherlands are each seeking eight of the jets, Norway wants six, and the remaining 22 will go to unnamed “foreign military sales customers.”

Lastly, the order includes mission equipment for the foreign buyers as well as the U.S. Air Force, Marine Corps and Navy.

Beyond Harris, competitors seeking to fill positions include Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, SpaceX, Craig Technologies, Aerojet Rocketdyne, Moon Express, Blue Origin LLC, Boeing.

Over the past year and a half, Northrop Grumman announced several waves of hiring, necessitating more than a half-million square feet of new office space on its 157-acre campus adjacent the Orlando Melbourne International Airport to house some of its projected 1,900 new workers.

In September and October, Grumman officials announced they landed a $13.4 contract with the U.S. Army to build weapons systems, plus three separate contracts with the U.S. Navy totaling more than $37 million for aircraft targeting systems, and for cybersecurity and refueling kits for the E-2D Hawkeye aircraft. These fall 2017-announced projects will reportedly mean 400 jobs in the Melbourne area, on top of an April 2016 announcement that the firm would hire 1,500 engineers with salaries averaging $100,000 to build long-range strike bombers for the U.S. Air Force. Currently, Grumman is advertising for 191 people locally.

Lockheed has the next most aggressive effort, looking to hire 663 people, according to the Orlando Business Journal.

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