Tallahassee’s final frontier? Launch Tally aims to acquire rocket or some other space symbol

From Tallahassee Democrat

Momentum following this year’s Launch Tally conference continues with brainstorming sessions that want to see a rocket or a symbol of spaceflight in the capital city.

At least that was the plan.

Launch Tally, an initiative kicked off in March, attracted roughly 200 to 300 industry leaders and rallied the tech sector to highlight what’s taking place in Tallahassee. Some say a bold statement is needed to punctuate what’s here.

That’s where the rocket comes in. After a series of follow-up meeting and talks, organizers pondered how to move forward. They had high hopes to bring a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket to Tallahassee.

“One of the things we have been working on is creating more awareness about what’s going on in Tallahassee,” said Ruvos CEO Gonzalez Loumiet, who’s leading the Launch Tally initiative. “The idea is to bring a rocket or booster or something that represents space, which falls in line with the theme of Launch Tally, something that is large and that kids can go up to and look at.”

The Launch Tally logo features a rocket blasting off into the air. The image of a soaring rocket represents a future that’s driven by visionary thinking, said Florida Technology Council CEO James Taylor.

After the Launch Tally kick-off, he said the group immediately reached out to the Mars Society, the world’s largest and most influential space advocacy organization, and SpaceX, a private sector spacecraft engineering company founded by Elon Musk.

“A rocket downtown across from the capital would speak volumes toward our efforts,” Taylor said. “Unfortunately, we discovered the Falcon 9 rocket is about the size of a football field.”

Logistical conundrum

The other issue was SpaceX’s perpetual reuse of its rockets.

A Falcon 9 rocket can be flown 100 times, Taylor said. As a result, the company didn’t have a rocket available to offer.

“As much as SpaceX wanted to assist, they were actually using their rockets,” Taylor said.

Denied but not deterred, the group is brainstorming what other symbols or images could represent the progress and growth for Tallahassee’s tech sector.

“We don’t have that answer yet,” Taylor said. “We’re still working on it.”

The space theme is still critical to whatever the group lands on, especially with Tallahassee being home to hundreds of tech-based companies and being the capital of Florida, the space state, the birthplace of some of mankind’s most historic launches.

Gonzalez Loumiet and others want the local link to space to be homegrown from a Tallahassee movement.

Brainstorming continues on what’s possible

Gonzalez Loumiet said the group met with groups like the Challenger Learning Center, along with a variety of aerospace organizations and agencies for guidance.

“Here, it does make sense,” said Alan Hanstein, a longtime board member for the Challenger Learning Center. “Kleman Plaza and downtown makes a lot of sense in our initial discussion … in the eye of the capital, you’ve got that 22-story building right there and from the 22nd floor and you can see all around it.”

Hainstein said a rocket or a symbol of the Sunshine State’s dominance of space downtown would be a vital reminder of what’s taking place in Florida and the Tallahassee tech sector.

Rockets, he said, are “an incredible symbol of science, they’re a symbol of perseverance, they’re a symbol of the human drive to explore.”

“All of those things are things that we love at Challenger, as far as exciting children to get into STEM and STEAM careers,” Hainstein said.

However, logistics is a challenge. The group has identified some items that may work but getting them to Tallahassee is where things get tricky.

“In addition to having a rocket of some sort or a booster or something large, other ideas that have been passed around are maybe a mural downtown that represents space and science and STEM,” Gonzalez Loumiet said. “Another idea is to buy or purchase rockets that are about six feet tall and then give them to Launch Tally members so you can have in your front door or office and it can be decorated in a certain way.”

Or a sculpture, he added. Either way, he and others aren’t scrubbing efforts to bring a rocket in some form to downtown Tallahassee.

It’s about advancing Tallahassee’s future and position in the ever-evolving tech world, Taylor says, adding many people don’t realize or doubt the strength of the sometimes-hidden tech sector.

In Florida, Taylor said the state was the second largest producer of technology-based growth in the last two years by producing 10,522 new tech jobs in 2021. Texas added 300 more jobs compared to Florida last year.

When asked what’s the group’s timeline to get something done, Taylor said, “our timeline is yesterday.”

“Fortunately with all the connections we have, the tech industry is a really tight industry,” Taylor said. “It works in a lot of verticals, but it does a great job of supporting itself. We have people who are excited about what that symbol will be. And, that’s excitement across the whole state.”