Orlando vs. Cleveland

Late Friday NASA announced the three sites that will be finalists for the new NASA Shared Services Center (NSSC), a 500-person back office that will consolidate the financial, human resources, and similar tasks currently handled by the individual field centers. The three finalists—Cleveland, Huntsville, and Stennis Space Center in Mississippi—were selected from a group of six semifinalists that also included Houston, Newport News in Virginia, and Orlando.

As you might expect, that decision didn’t go over well in some of the losing cities, and politicians are speaking out. In Virginia the complaints were relatively mild, and based on a change in the site evaluation process from direct bids by cities to proposals from contractors who could choose from among the six sites. “I was very disappointed they changed the process in midstream,” Congresswoman Jo Ann Davis (R-VA), told the Hampton Roads Daily Press. “It wasn’t fair to any of the folks who put in their bids.”

The criticism was more strident from Orlando, where business leaders and politicians complained that the three finalists got a leg up by committing millions of dollars of local and state money to provide incentives. Worse, an internal NASA study had ranked Orlando the best choice among the six sites, the Orlando Sentinel reported. That upset Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL). “He feels that the decision was influenced, to some extent, by politics, since NASA itself had indicated that it wanted the center in Orlando, and that NASA’s own wishes were ignored,” Nelson spokesman Dan McLaughlin told the Sentinel. “It’s a sad day that the administration has yanked the rug out from under Orlando.” (Of course, if the administration was really involved, it would have meant that President Bush would have “yanked the rug out from under” his brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, as well.)

That comment, though, is nothing compared to a statement by Congressman Ric Keller (R-FL), relayed to the Sentinel through a spokesman: “I can’t believe the rocket scientists at NASA think a family would rather live in Cleveland than in Orlando.” Maybe that will make the upcoming games between the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic a little more interesting…

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