Florida Chamber Foundation to host defense industry summit in wake of Pentagon proposed reductions

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National and state policymakers along with defense contractors and economic development officials will gather Wednesday in Orlando for the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Military, Defense & Veteran Opportunities Summit.

The group will gather to discuss expected challenges Florida’s defense industry will face over the next 20 years. The Department of Defense’s 2015 budget request proposes a number of cuts in spending. Defense spending makes up about 9 percent of the state gross product, or about $70 billion. Economists calculate defense-related spending supports 758,112 direct and indirect jobs in the state.

“This important contribution may be in jeopardy due to current troop reductions, looming uncertainty due to the next round of sequestration and any future BRAC discussion,” said the Chamber’s Tony Caravajal.

The Summit, according to a website, will discuss goals, gaps and grand plans facing the industry in Florida.

Defense spending in the state has dropped by about $3 billion between 2010 and 2013, according to the Florida Defense Contractors Association. And, the Pentagon’s 2015 budget proposal, the first post-Afghanistan war budget calls for fewer Army and Air Force personnel.  Congressman Jeff Miller represents the 1st District in the Panhandle, opposes the proposal and is scheduled as one of the summit’s speakers.

Also on the agenda is Mike Prendergast, of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, Jesse Panuccio, of the Florida Department of Economic Development and Michael DeBock, of NextEra Energy.

“The event will bring together leaders from Florida’s military and defense industry, economic development experts and the business community to look at ways to grow and protect this vital industry,” said Caravajal.

Defense-related spending has the biggest impact in the Panhandle where it makes up about 32 percent of Northwest Florida’s gross regional product. Elsewhere in Florida, defense spending accounts for 17 percent of GRP in the Northeast, 7.3 percent for the Tampa area, 7.8 percent for East Central, 3.6 percent in the Southeast Region and 3.6 percent for the Southwest.

The summit will be at the Orlando Hyatt Regency.