President Donald Trump is slated to visit the Space Coast this weekend, home of an employer he has singled out for praise. OneWeb is a satellite company run by Stuart resident Greg Wyler.
Five things to know about the ambitious startup:
- Big backers. OneWeb’s investors include British billionaire Richard Branson and Japanese firm SoftBank.
- Hefty hiring plans. OneWeb itself expects peak employment of 1,200 employees, many of them at its new factory in Merritt Island. Add in employment from suppliers of solar panels and other equipment, and total employment related to the satellite system could reach 3,000, Wyler said.
- The business plan predates Trump. OneWeb committed to build an $85 million factory in Brevard County in 2015, well before Trump’s surprise victory in the Nov. 8 election. But in an interview on CNBC, Wyler said the “invigoration and excitement” created by Trump’s win emboldened SoftBank Chief Executive Masayoshi Son to place an even bigger bet on OneWeb
- An altruistic pitch. Wyler says billions of people in the developing world have no Internet access – nor do millions of people in rural America. In a world where schooling, banking and economic opportunity increasingly exist online, people on the wrong side of the digital divide risk being left behind.
- A fleet of satellites. OneWeb aims to launch 900 satellites that will circle the earth, providing steady Internet access that allows people in remote areas to log on.