Richard Branson’s space flight had a key Tampa Bay business connection

Sunday capped a roller coaster of a month for Rick Homans.

In late June, Homans was in Santa Fe, N.M., as his 95-year-old mother passed away. Three weeks later, he was down near the Mexican border to celebrate what he calls his “legacy project”: Sunday’s historic space flight by billionaire Richard Branson.

Homans, the president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Partnership, was a key figure in the development of Spaceport America, the world’s first commercial space terminal near Truth or Consequences, N.M., and the site of Branson’s launch. As the state’s economic development secretary, and later the spaceport’s executive director, Homans was among those who recruited Branson’s Virgin Galactic to make the terminal its home base.

That led to a personal invite to the launch from Branson himself. And Homans was going to do whatever it took to be there.

“It’s the biggest and most exciting project I’ve worked on in my life,” Homans said. “No…

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