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DiBello Named as New Head of Space Florida

In the hopes of igniting interest in the next stage of Florida’s future in space, a Brevard County-based aerospace consultant was tapped on Monday to lead efforts to retain and expand the state’s space industry after the shuttle program is grounded as expected next year.

In a brief conference call board meeting of Space Florida, directors quickly approved the appointment of Frank DiBello to fill, at least temporarily, the void left by the recent resignation of former president Steve Kohler.

Kohler resigned May 6 after mounting criticism of his three-year tenure over the use of no-bid contracts and a perceived lack of success marketing the state’s commercial potential as a portal to space.

Now with the Economic Development Commission of the Space Coast, DiBello will take over immediately as Space Florida’s president after being awarded a 90-day contract with a 30-day extension.

The board is slated to meet in June to decide how to handle a search for a permanent replacement, though DiBello will definitely remain a candidate for the $175,000 a year job.

“Frank may very well be in the mix for the position,” said Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp, chairman of the Space Florida board.

Kottkamp led the meeting from his car while returning to Tallahassee from Orlando, where he met with new Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum, who formally announced his intentions to run.

DiBello is founder and chairman of the ITV Group, a Merritt Island-based investment advisory firm for technology and aerospace companies. DiBello also served as a general partner of Aerospace Capital Partners, an infrastructure fund directed at investments in energy, aerospace and telecommunications.

DiBello is the former president and CEO of Florida’s Aerospace Finance Corporation, established by lawmakers to finance new and established companies applying aerospace technologies to space, aviation and defense markets.

Prior to that, Mr. DiBello managed KPMG Aerospace and Defense Industry Practice, where for 24 years he advised U.S. and European companies on strategic direction and execution for global market competitiveness. He is a graduate of Villanova University, where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in mathematics.

DiBello’s immediate task will be restoring legislative confidence in an agency that has been marred by distrust. Kohler came under fire for a no-bid contract with company to which he had ties, the Orlando Sentinel reported in a series of articles.

Kohler was also criticized for not working with private industry leaders since taking over in 2006 and failing to make adequate progress on a $60 million venture to rebuild a launch site at Cape Canaveral, a venture for which lawmakers have already earmarked $14.5 million.

Board members say they’re confident DiBello can restore trust in the state’s space marketing arm.

“Frank is very knowledgeable guy concerning aviation, finance and aerospace industries,” said Rep. Ralph Poppell, R-Vero Beach and member of the Space Florida Board.

The first thing we have to do is lay out some plans on what our next step is and what role the interim president needs to pay to get us there,” Poppell said.

Industry reaction to DiBello’s appointment was immediate and positive, with at least one group saying Florida may have already found its permanent replacement for Kohler.

“This Space Florida appointment undoubtedly signals to the aerospace industry that this administration understands how significant Cape Canaveral and the future of Florida-based space flight are to the future economic prosperity of our state,” said Barney Bishop, president and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida.

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