Philanthropists Cici and Hyatt Brown have pledged $25 million to Embry-Riddle – matching $25 million in support approved by Florida legislators and Gov. Ron DeSantis – to help the university create a revolutionary new business makerspace focused on high-paying jobs for Floridians.
The remarkably generous $25 million pledge from Cici and Hyatt Brown represents the single-largest gift since Embry-Riddle’s founding in 1926.
“Cici and I are excited to make this investment to help continue the growth and development of institutional excellence at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University,” Hyatt Brown said. “Our focused mission, now and in the future, is economic enhancement of entities in Volusia County that positively affect the quality of life for all our citizens. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and other fine academic institutions are economic growth engines that augment and embellish local median family incomes.”
The new Cici and Hyatt Brown Center for Aerospace Technology will build upon the game-changing wins of Embry-Riddle’s five-year-old Research Park, by promoting even more innovation, creating high-quality jobs and bolstering Florida’s advanced technology workforce. Construction on the center – to include a 65,000-square-foot building for a makerspace and entrepreneurial activity, plus a 40,000-square-foot research-quality hangar – is expected to begin this summer.
“Everyone at Embry-Riddle is deeply grateful for the vision and phenomenal generosity of Cici and Hyatt Brown,” said the university’s Board of Trustees Chairman Mori Hosseini, who also serves as chairman and CEO of ICI Homes. “Their selfless investment in our community and the Embry-Riddle mission of education will inspire us for many years to come. The creative ecosystem of Embry-Riddle’s Research Park stimulates transformative ideas, which drive economic progress and generate lucrative career opportunities. The new center, made possible by Cici and Hyatt Brown and the State of Florida, will take Embry-Riddle’s already successful economic development efforts to a whole new level.”
In 2021, Embry-Riddle’s Research Park generated $137 million in total economic impact in Florida – up nearly 50 percent compared with 2019 – an independent economic assessment concluded.
“Embry-Riddle’s Research Park has succeeded in promoting innovation and job growth,” said the university’s Chief Operating Officer and Senior Vice President Rodney Cruise. “The new center will provide us with yet another way to effectively partner with and support businesses. By being in our Research Park – an integral part of campus – companies can much more easily win the battle for highly skilled talent – from interns to engineers.”
Through its mission of education, Embry-Riddle is also building Florida’s workforce capacity in critical sectors, including aviation, aerospace and STEM-related fields. Since the 2017 opening of the Research Park’s cornerstone facility, the “MicaPlex” (John Mica Engineering and Aerospace Innovation Complex), Embry-Riddle’s Research Park has directly created more than 120 jobs with an average salary of more than $78,000, thanks to some two-dozen affiliated companies. Since those jobs in turn support additional business enterprise, the Research Park actually supports a total of 700 jobs, both directly and indirectly.
“The new Center for Aerospace Technology will further elevate our highly effective Research Park,” said Embry-Riddle President P. Barry Butler, Ph.D. “From the beginning, the Research Park has enhanced educational opportunities for our students by pairing them with entrepreneurs from all over the world. Our uniquely collaborative research environment has supported both emerging and established companies, and we are bolstering the state’s workforce across aviation, aerospace, cybersecurity, commercial space and many other STEM-related fields. Cici and Hyatt Brown and the State of Florida have placed their faith in Embry-Riddle’s ability to make good things happen. We are tremendously thankful for, and motivated by, their support.”