Wednesday, July 30, 2008


New commercial coming to Fort Walton Beach and around the county. The Landmark Center is on the brink of starting construction with a major press release expected in the next couple of days. Come to paradise!!!!

Kohl’s site work begins
The two-story, 100,000-square-foot department store is slated for completion next spring

FORT WALTON BEACH — Kohl’s has finally broken ground in town. Site work has begun near the intersection of Beal Parkway and Hurlburt Road. The two-story, 100,000-square-foot department store is targeted for completion next spring. Earthmovers Inc. of Ocala has been doing the site work where Bay Furniture once stood next to Winn-Dixie. Elkins Constructors from Jacksonville is the general contractor, with Jason Carnes as project manager and Scott Simmons as site superintendent. Walls could be up in the next six to eight weeks, Simmons said Tuesday. Only one other two-story Kohl’s is located in Florida, and that was opened early this year in Tallahassee, according to Gordy Steadman, vice president of development for Elkins Constructors, which also built that building. All questions about cost of the project were referred to Kohl’s. The Okaloosa County GIS site lists the assessed value of the property at $2.8 million. No one from Kohl’s was available for comment. Okaloosa County commissioners approved the site plan for the store in February. Based in Menomonee Falls, Wis., the company operates more than 957 stores in 47 states, according to its Web site, The company will celebrate the opening of its 1,000th store this fall. Having a major department store such as Kohl’s build here during a bleak economic period is considered a major plus, said economic development expert David Goetsch of Northwest Florida State College. “It wasn’t uncommon when I came here 33 years ago to have people get up on Saturday mornings and drive to Pensacola to go shopping,” Goetsch said. “If you don’t have Kohl’s and Dillard’s and other service-oriented companies, then people have to take their money outside the community and spend it there. This keeps it circulating instead of draining off.”

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Upcoming Crestview Industrial Airport Meeting - August 12, 2008

If you have yet, you should put it on your calendar. Greg Donovan, Okaloosa County Airports Director, will be discussing the new FBO Award and a number of new iniatitives planned for the Crestview Industrial Airpark on August 12th, 2008 at 3:00 P.M. at the Crestview Chamber. So if you want to be in the know, I suggest you plan to attend the meeting or just wait until I report on the information in the Trust Platinum Blog. Stay tuned. Things continue to heat up in the real estate market. Are you ready?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


As noted earlier, the Air Force is making a conscientious effort to reduce the supply of government housing for a variety of reasons and with hopes the local community would be able to meet the needs of our military families. If you have any questions, don't hesitate to give me a call. Basically, Demand is going up and supply is going down.

Privatized military housing in works

Privatized military family housing will likely be built within the gates of Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt Field. The only question now is where. In its third draft of the Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), the Air Force suggested three alternatives: • Build up to 1,214 new military family housing units on a parcel of land that includes Old Plew and New Plew housing and an undeveloped area on Eglin’s main base. • In addition to homes in the Old Plew and New Plew housing area, build 320 new units where the existing Capehart/Wherry housing units are and in undeveloped land around Ben’s Lake. • Continue to manage and maintain existing housing. “All of the alternatives have to be weighed equally,” said Eglin environmental spokesman Mike Spaits. According to a press release from Eglin’s 96th Civil Engineering Group, the main difference between the current draft and the previous two is that all of the housing will be within the gates of Eglin AFB and Hurlburt Field. Also, the total number of housing units has been reduced. The project will include 1,340 family units at Eglin and 484 units at Hurlburt. Of the 1,824 units, 1,228 units will be new construction. “We need to get them the best quality housing we possibly can,” said Kathy Lawhon, Eglin’s housing flight chief. According to the DEIS, about 60 percent of DoD units need to be renovated or replaced. At Eglin AFB and Hurlburt Field, approximately 76 percent of housing units are more than 30 years old and do not meet current Air Force housing standards. The Air Force estimates the costs to renovate or replace the housing units to be $18.1 million for Hurlburt Field and $144 million for Eglin AFB. The military housing privatization project has taken years to develop. “This is a long-range plan, not a quick fix,” said Lawhon. Spaits said the project has been prolonged by a number of factors. “Hurricane Ivan came,” he said. “After that, we had a slew of construction going on.” The real estate bubble, increasing construction and insurance costs have also had an effect on the project. Throughout the process, the Air Force has welcomed comments from the public and taken them under consideration. Earlier drafts of the EIS were released in 2005 and 2006 and underwent public hearings. Since that time, Spaits said, the Air Force has considered the public comments and reevaluated the Proposed Action. The DEIS released this month is the first to exclude the controversial Camp Pinchot and Poquito Bayou options. The Camp Pinchot and Poquito Bayou sites were dropped because of the growing cost to build new roads and add utilities to the undeveloped Air Force land. The 2005 draft included the demolition of the Camp Pinchot Historic District. The 2006 DEIS saved the district but raised protests of the environmental impact to the Garnier Bayou. The new DEIS is also the first to exclude Eglin’s favorite alternative. “We don’t have a preferred alternative,” Spaits said. In the final EIS, Eglin will voice a preferred alternative based on the “information we get at the hearings and any additional data we get before the final EIS.” The latest DEIS is available for public review and comment online and at libraries in Mary Esther, Navarre, Shalimar, Niceville, Fort Walton Beach and Valparaiso. Spaits said a hearing will be held in late August or early September. “I feel confident this draft and hearing should be the last efforts,” he said. “We’ve gone through some fairly significant events in Northwest Florida that have driven these changes and I’m confident we’re ready to move forward.” The EIS is a requirement of the National Environmental Policy Act. It requires all federal agencies to determine the environmental consequences of proposed projects and alternatives. The Air Force plans to sign with a developer by April of 2009. In exchange for a 50-year land lease from the Air Force, the contractor selected would collect and keep rents. So far, Eglin has published a statement of need to estimate the costs of the project. No construction can start until the NEPA approves the EIS.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


More improvements being made the the Bob Sikes Airport. Some have said, it is the jewel of the County for economic growth. Great Job Airport Director.

Bob Sikes Airport proposals show ‘innovation’ and ‘vision’
New contract for Fixed Base Operator to be offered soon
By BRIAN HUGHES Florida Freedom Newspapers

CRESTVIEW — Bob Sikes Airport is a step closer to a new 30-year contract for a Fixed Base Operator. A six-member committee has reviewed the proposals and selected Sunshine Aero and Emerald Coast Aviation to make presentations Aug. 6 to airport officials and business and community leaders. Sunshine Aero is the current FBO at the airport in Crestview. Emerald Coast Aviation is the FBO for DeFuniak Springs Airport. The expiration of Sunshine Aero’s contract led to the solicitation for new proposals. At least three companies, including Sunshine Aero, expressed interest in submitting proposals when bidding opened in May. Okaloosa County Airports Director Greg Donovan said he will recommend that county commissioners offer the winning FBO another 30-year contract to encourage development of airport infrastructure. “I’m very pleased with the initial content of the proposals I’ve thumbed through,” said Donovan. “There is some innovation and vision from the proposals.” Donovan acknowledged the timing of the request for proposals could have been better, given the current economic situation. However, two viable proposals were received, he said. Because of the sensitivity of the bidding process, Donovan declined to provide any details. “Right now we’re at the point of evaluation, so I don’t want to give away any thunder,” he said. Donovan has said he hopes the new FBO contract leads to improvements such as enhanced flight instruction facilities, an upgraded fuel tank farm and a general aviation terminal.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

UWF interested in partnership with FAMU in Crestview Florida

Crestview continues to be on the leading edge of growth and the rest of the country is taking notice.

UWF interested in partnership with FAMU
Proposed pharmacy school in Crestview could offer opportunities for the schools, college official says
By KYLE WRIGHT Florida Freedom Newspapers

CRESTVIEW — The University of West Florida sees the possibility of a Florida A&M University pharmacy school here as an opportunity for collaboration, not a threat from competition. UWF Emerald Coast Vice Provost Dr. Jack Azzaretto has contacted Florida A&M officials to explore ways the two schools can partner to serve the Crestview area if the proposed pharmacy school becomes a reality. “I wanted to introduce myself, since UWF has a presence in the area and let (FAMU) know UWF is looking to cooperate — not compete — and that it would be wonderful if there could be some ways to create some areas of coordination and cooperation,” Azzaretto said. Azzaretto said he spoke with the dean of FAMU’s College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences about ways the schools can collaborate. He also told Crestview officials about the discussions. Crestview Mayor David Cadle confirmed he shared a message from Azzaretto with City Council members. Azzaretto emphasized the discussions are in the early stages. As an example, he said the proposed FAMU facility could help UWF students seeking upper-level pharmacy courses. UWF, in turn, could offer non-pharmacy electives to local FAMU students. The $2.5 million state budget allocation for the pharmacy school will be available Sept. 15. Earlier this week, the Crestview City Council voted to send a list of the city’s questions about the project to FAMU. The Crestview Main Street Association Board of Directors voted Thursday to endorse FAMU’s hopes to use the downtown Alatex building for the school.

Monday, July 14, 2008


Take a hard look at your Florida's Investments. As you can see below, there are still many posititives to jump into the market now. Don't be the one, who said, if I only knew. Florida's HOT!!! Why do you think people still head south. Have you every shoveled snow before in January? Or would you like to enjoy the mild winters with shorts. You make the call. Better do it soon.

The upside of Florida real estate: 20 market positives
Let’s take a look at some of the opportunities and positive indicators for the future of Florida’s real estate market.
Long-term economic and demographic trends continue to favor Florida. By 2010 it has been forecast that Florida will be the third most populated state in the country. Florida’s population is expected to increase about 75 percent by 2030. Florida demonstrates a long history of strong growth. It has been one of the 10 fastest-growing states in the U.S. for each of the past seven decades, and often it has been in the top four, according to census data. Population growth will continue to provide a foundation for other economic growth such as new jobs and growing incomes. All of which is good for real estate.
People continue to move here. It’s estimated that 900 people move here every day. Based on recent trends, Stan Smith, director of UF Bureau of Economic and Business Research, said he expects Florida to add about 300,000 residents a year during the next two to three years unless there is a recession.
Five of the top 15 cities in the Milken Institute’s 2007 “Best Performing Cities” survey, which looks at sustainable economic growth, are in Florida, including the No. 1 city, Ocala. A total of 13 Florida cities are in the top 50.
Low unemployment. Almost 120,000 jobs were created in Florida in the year between August 2006 and August 2007. Florida’s unemployment rate has hovered at or under 4% for a long time; and was 4% in August 2007, according to the latest data available from the U.S. Department of Labor. That not only puts it well below the national unemployment average, it also is the lowest unemployment rate among all ten of the most populous states.
Jobs are plentiful, and that trend will continue. A recent study by Bizjournals called “Where the Jobs Are” found that 7 of the hottest 15 job markets are in Florida.
Let’s take a look at the weather. If you think the hurricanes we experienced are going to have long-term effects on the Florida real estate market, consider this tidbit from Fortune Magazine. It recently reported, “Economists and geographers who have studied how natural disasters affect real estate values have generally found there to be no lasting impact.” Example #1: When Hurricane Hugo hit Charleston, S. C., home values were actually higher one year later. Example #2: That same year, 1989, a huge earthquake made big news in San Francisco, and the same thing happened—house prices went up.
Grant Thrall, a professor of what’s called Economic Geography, explains this phenomenon this way—residents move away and home prices fall only when natural disasters start becoming regular occurrences in an area, not when they happen periodically. And while the hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005 may still be fresh in our minds, the fact is, historically it was a fluke. Eight storms hit the Florida mainland in those two years. But if you look back at the 50 years prior, only six Category 3 or higher storms hit the Florida mainland in half a century.
Gov. Charlie Crist, state lawmakers and business groups are committed to finding real solutions to the escalating costs and shortage of property insurance in Florida, as well as much-needed property tax reform. Florida Realtors will continue working closely with lawmakers to help resolve these complicated issues and keep the state’s economy moving forward. For example, 2007 FAR President Nancy Riley sits on the governor’s property tax reform commission, and 2005 FAR President Frank Kowalski served on the governor’s insurance reform commission.
Interests rates currently are still low, on a par with interest rates in the 1960s. And thanks to the Fed’s recent rate cut, we’re already seeing lower rates on home equity and mortgage loans, including jumbo loans. The Fed’s action effectively increases the number of homebuyers able to make a purchase, which should increase demand, and also help support home prices. Home prices continue to stabilize, inventory is plentiful and homebuyers have lots of options.
Homeownership has value: Realtors believe… and research supports that belief … that homeownership provides a variety of benefits, tangible and intangible, to the community as well as the individual homeowner.
Studies show that home equity is still the largest single source of household wealth, both for the individual homeowner and for homeowners as a group. Home value is the most important single aspect for homeowners.
Owning a home leads to increased personal well-being. Research shows that people who own their own homes tend to show higher levels of personal esteem and life satisfaction, which in turn helps to make homeowners and their children more productive members of society.
Studies show that children raised in homes owned by their families are more likely to stay in school and more likely to graduate high school. They’re also shown to have a higher lifetime annual income.
People who own homes have a strong financial stake in what happens to their community and tend to become more involved in community and civic affairs. Studies show that homeowners also interact with their neighbors to gain wider influence over their neighborhoods and communities.
Homeowners join up to 41 percent more civic and/or nonprofessional organizations than renters, such as the PTA or Scouts; vote in local elections 15 percent more often; enhance their neighborhoods with gardens 12 percent more often; attend church about 10 percent more often; and have a 3 percent greater chance of being interested in public affairs.
2007 Florida Association of Realtors® (FAR) President Nancy Riley says, “Florida Realtors know buying a home is a very personal investment – an investment in a family’s future. Although research shows it is the largest single investment most families make and helps to provide security for the future, owning a home isn't just a financial investment. Ownership is about having a place to call home: a place where families build a future and become part of a community.”
Over the past five years, the average homeowner has seen an increase of 50 percent in value, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). Here in Florida, the statewide median home price has shown an increase of 52.5 percent from November 2002 to November 2007, according to FAR records. NAR housing industry analysts project that prices will rise about 2 percent next year, and in coming years, average home price appreciation should return to historical averages of around 6 percent.
Florida is a great place to live and work. According to Enterprise Florida Inc., the Sunshine State has one of the nation's strongest tourism industries; it is fourth in the nation in high-tech jobs; is the third largest exporter of high-tech goods and services; and is ranked as one of the best states in the nation to be an entrepreneur.
Orlando-based economist Dr. Hank Fishkind recently said in several media reports he believes that “the worst of the so-called housing crisis has probably been mitigated by the actions of the Fed. Recovery will take a while, but it has begun.” Another economist, Dr. Lawrence Yun, chief economist with the National Association of Realtors, predicts that the Florida housing market will get stronger in 2008 and will be booming again by 2010.
And let’s not forget the things that brought people to Florida in the first place, and will continue to attract them – beautiful beaches, fabulous weather and a friendly business climate, with no state income tax. It’s no wonder that Florida’s combination of temperate climate, outstanding recreational amenities and economic opportunity has consistently put us at the top of Harris Poll’s “most desirable places to live” survey.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Just another great example for people to move to Northwest Florida!!!!!


While Florida schools earned more A’s and B’s than ever, school districts in Okaloosa, Walton and Santa Rosa counties boast a total of 67 A-rated schools this year. Of the 2,889 state schools graded this year, nearly 75 percent, or 2,125, are considered high performing — receiving a grade of “A” or “B.” Okaloosa had 35 A’s, 3 B’s and 1 C, giving the district the third highest score in the state. Monroe and Brevard counties were the only school districts that scored higher. “There’s a lot of good teaching and great learning going on in this school district,” said Okaloosa Superintendent of Schools Alexis Tibbetts. Santa Rosa County had 21 A’s, 3 B’s and 3 C’s. Walton County had 11 A’s, 1 B and 1 C. Freeport High School in Walton County made the most significant gains locally, moving from a D to an A this year. “I’m very proud of their performance,” said Walton County Superintendent of Schools Carlene Anderson. With more than 85 percent of Walton schools making A’s, “it shows the success of our students under our principals’ leadership,” Anderson said. Anderson said there is still work to be done to target specific subgroups, but “overall, we’re very excited,” she said. In Okaloosa, three secondary schools moved up a letter grade. Fort Walton Beach and Crestview high schools and Laurel Hill School moved from B’s to A’s. However, Choctawhatchee High School fell from an A to B. Principal Cindy Massarelli-Gates said the drop is related to not moving lowest performing students far enough ahead. For the first time in six years, the lowest performing students dropped below the 50 percent proficiency mark. “We’re of course disheartened, but we’re going to look at every student and every class,” Massarelli-Gates said. With 21 A’s, Santa Rosa County Superintendent of Schools John Rogers said he is “just proud as I can be.” “Every school in the county worked hard enough to receive an A … it was not a lack of effort,” he said. For Rogers, reviewing this year’s grades has been bittersweet. He is retiring in the fall, and even with all the pressures, “there’s a part of me that will miss all of this yet,” he said. Educators say that making “Adequate Yearly Progress” (AYP) continues to be a challenge for many schools in Florida. Florida was recently selected to participate in the federal Differentiated Accountability pilot program, which provides more flexibility for Title I schools in the type of corrective actions they need to implement. Through the program, Title I schools that consecutively fail to make AYP will be placed into three main improvement levels based on the school’s letter grade, percentage of AYP requirements met, and the number of years it has not made AYP.

Daily News Staff Writer Rachel Kyler can be reached at 863-1111, Ext. 1440.
Freeport High School showed the most dramatic improvement among local schools, moving from a grade of D to an A when Florida school grades were released Tuesday.

Monday, July 7, 2008


Just another fine example of government and private sector working together for the future of our local economy. From what I know, this will be a great stimulus for the local defense industry and other non-defense reseach projects.

Developing ‘Class A’ space
Commercial complex project involves 98 acres of Eglin Air Force Base land

Key players in a deal that would bring 1.1 million square feet of research, office, hotel and restaurant space to Air Force land say they hope to break ground by the end of this year. “I think we’ve made a lot of progress since negotiations were restarted in April,” said Chris Bicho of Eglin Properties LLC. “The site plan has not been approved by (Okaloosa) County, but it has generated a very positive response among the stakeholders. We hope to have a lease signed by the fall of ’08.” As lease negotiations near the home stretch, Coldwell Banker Commercial United Realtors in Destin has been chosen to handle marketing and leasing on what would become the Emerald Coast Technology and Research Center. The project involves 98 acres of Eglin Air Force Base land adjacent to the University of Florida’s Research and Engineering Education Facility on Lewis Turner Boulevard. If signed, the lease would be a 50-year “enhanced use” deal involving Eglin Properties LLC and the Air Force. Eglin Properties consists of DCK Worldwide from Pittsburgh and Hunt Development Group from Texas. Their goal is to build and lease 1.1 million square feet of what is called Class A space. The cost, including the lease, is estimated at $250 million. Those involved estimate 10 years for it all to be built. “The big cost for the developer is not building the buildings; it’s the land,” said David Goetsch of Okaloosa-Walton College. “And that’s why the long-term lease from Eglin is so essential. The project is a beautiful design and it’s smart.” Greg Clauson leads the marketing and leasing effort for Coldwell Banker. “The effects of this project will stimulate the local job market,” Clauson said in an e-mail. “And it will foster cooperation between the base and the private sector and introduce valuable federal property in the local economy.” Phase One involves four retail or restaurant sites. “More than likely they would all be national tenants,” Clauson said. The first office space would involve 12,000 square feet in a two-story building. Clauson said he’d like to see financial offices on the first floor and general office space on the second, Then there’s a suites hotel with 115 rooms and an adjoining conference center. “That would be another national flag,” Clauson said. The public could use all of the first phase area. “I’ve been working on this concept for about 15 years,” Goetsch said. “It’s going to put us on the map with people who don’t know we’re here yet. It’s big-time big for us.”
MARK KULAW Daily News The entrance to the University of Florida Research and Engineering Education Facility will look different if development plans are approved.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


Okaloosa County is taking the lead to make the local airports some of the best in the region. Some of the major work at the Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview is designed to attract more aeronautical company's desiring to expand. Look out Crestview.

Construction takes off at local airports
FAA to provide most of funding

CRESTVIEW — Construction projects at Okaloosa County’s three airports are ready to begin. County commissioners recently approved construction contracts at Okaloosa Regional Airport, Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview and Destin Airport. The largest project is the nearly $2.6 million rehabilitation of the northern half of runway 17-35 at Bob Sikes. The 8,000-foot runway will be repaved and new lighting and guidance signs will be installed. “It will essentially be a new airport environment (when completed),” said county Airports Director Greg Donovan. The Federal Aviation Administration is funding 77.2 percent of the project. The remaining funds will come from the Florida Department of Transportation and the county. Donovan said construction is tentatively scheduled to start late this month or in early August. Most of the work will be completed at night to reduce the impact on the industrial park’s tenants. The job is expected to be completed in December. Okaloosa Regional Airport was recently redesignated in the FAA’s Military Airport Program, which helps existing and former military airfields with civilian aviation services. Under the MAP designation, the FAA will fund 95 percent of eligible projects. The first job is the $1.6 million aircraft apron on the east side of the airport. The 250-foot-by-300-foot apron will be large enough to park a 727 aircraft and a 757 plane at the same time. With the FAA funding 95 percent of the project, the local match is less than $50,000. Construction on the cargo apron is expected to start this fall. It will connect to the 12,000-square-foot cargomaintenance building now under construction as part of the airport’s $14 million expansion. The expansion also will include offices, service bays and hydraulic lifts, automated car washes, fuel pumps and vacuum islands for five rental car companies, additional rental car parking and a consolidated fuel farm for aircraft and vehicles. Construction is expected to be completed in April 2009. Destin Airport will see an upgrade to its navigational system. MAP funding also will help that project. Donovan said the existing aids are more than 20 years old and need replacing. Like the cargo apron, the FAA will fund 95 percent of the $123,275 job. Construction is expected to start in August. Daily News Staff Writer Dusty Ricketts can be reached at 863-1111, Ext. 1448.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


It is very refreshing to see the City of Crestview take growth in stride and taking the necessary steps to prepare for the tremendous growth this city will having in the upcoming years. Great job to the Mayor and the rest of the City.

Crestview opens new public safety building
Hub City also welcomes 12 new firefighters

By CHAYNE SPARAGOWSKI Florida Freedom Newspapers

CRESTVIEW — Happy birthday, chief. The city of Crestview on Wednesday celebrated the opening of a new public safety building and the hiring of 12 firefighters. It was the perfect gift for Crestview Fire Chief Joe Traylor, who also marked his birthday Wednesday. “It gives us the ability to serve our citizens the way we’re supposed to do it,” Traylor said. The building on Brookmeade Drive includes a new fire station and an emergency operations center for Crestview and outlying areas. Traylor described the facility as “a building within a building.” The walls are reinforced concrete and the metal roof will allow the department to sustain itself in case of a Hurricane Katrina-type event. The building can also take control of all fire and police dispatching for Crestview. “This will also function as EOC during disasters where the citizens of Crestview that want to know about road closures, bridge-outs and any kind of alerts can dial in here and get that information,” Traylor said. The building has two truck bays, a kitchen, a day room with a computer and a bunk room. Another room houses the communications equipment for the EOC. The ceremony also marked the starting date for the 12 firefighters. They stood in a line to take their oaths and receive their helmets. Each has been assigned to one of the two other city fire stations to get onthe-job training over the next 90 days. “I think it’s really great we have 12 additional firefighters to serve the 23,000 people that call Crestview home and the 9,000 people that live in the surrounding metropolitan area of Crestview,” said City Councilman Charles Baugh said. Among the 12 was Brittany Shaffer — Crestview’s first woman firefighter in several years. “I’m very nervous but I’m excited,” she said. Traylor said he is happy to have her on board. “When we did the competitive hiring process, we picked the 12 best candidates, and she was one of the 12 best,” he said. The city used impact fees to pay for the new building. The initial cost for the new firefighters will be covered by a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


If "Green" was not your color, you might want to make it, if you are in business. With energy costs on the rise, it makes senses to go "Green". Many buyers are looking to make a difference for the environment and their pocket books.

2008 Industry Outlook
The trend that seems to define 2008 for Florida business is “green consciousness.”
by Florida Trend Staff

From the $1.5-billion state budget shortfall to the housing slump and insurance, industries across Florida face challenging issues in the year ahead. Tourism is grappling with increased global competition; transportation with less gas tax revenue; agriculture with water concerns; and retail with cautious consumer spending.
The trend that seems to define 2008 for Florida business, however, is “green consciousness.” For some companies, it’s just a marketing strategy, but others seem motivated more by a sense of responsibility — or recognition that going green can help the bottom line. This year’s Industry Outlook issue kicks off with a look at real “green” leaders around the state. Meanwhile, each of the 13 industry roundups includes a snapshot of green efforts in those economic sectors.

Shades of GreenBy Cynthia Barnett
Built by railroad magnate Henry Plant, the Belleview Biltmore Hotel spans 21 acres overlooking Clearwater Bay. It’s one of the largest wooden structures in the world. The 110-year-old Victorian landmark was in danger of being demolished until management asset firm Legg Mason bought it last year for $30 million.
The firm has committed to renovating the hotel according to U.S. Green Building Council LEED standards, and the $100-million facelift will maintain the hotel’s National Register of Historic Places designation while meeting goals to save water and energy and reduce the carbon emissions that lead to global warming.
Gov. Charlie Crist, who unveiled his “climate friendly initiatives” last year, lauded Legg Mason for its “tremendous leadership” on green building. Indeed, across the state, the commercial real estate industry leads Florida businesses on the green path, says Charles Kibert, a building-construction professor at the University of Florida and leading expert in the field.
Florida governments, too, are embracing green, making buildings and vehicles more energy efficient. So are private companies, particularly those that can achieve significant economies of scale. Delray Beach-based Office Depot overhauled lighting and energy in 600 stores, contributing not only to the bottom line, but also to a 10% decline in the release of heat-trapping emissions. Lakeland-based Publix has cut its use of electricity by an average of 7% overall and 23% in its new stores.
But while many Florida business and governments are undergoing environmental tuneups to meet consumer demand and forthcoming mandates, others are backing away from green initiatives in response to economic conditions. Some home builders, struggling to survive mounting financial losses and a glut of unsold homes, are axing green-building programs to shave costs. Bonita Springs-based WCI Communities, a green champion during the state’s real estate run-up [“Green Greens,” page 18], had more homes certified green than any other builder in the state, according to the Florida Green Building Coalition. But after posting a third-quarter loss of $70 million last year, WCI backed off plans to certify more homes and slashed its green-building staff as it laid off more than 500 employees.
Meanwhile, too many companies still see green as just a marketing tool rather than a commitment to keeping Florida — and the planet — livable. Witness the mounds of press releases for green products, green public relations, even a green insurance agent, with little hint of what makes the companies sustainable. One national home builder has a “buy green” ad campaign in Florida even though its houses have few discernible green features. “There’s certainly an effort to take advantage of the greening of our society. It’s caveat emptor, buyer beware,” says Tim Center, director of the Council for Sustainable Florida, a public-private alliance that encourages sustainable development practices.
During a speech last fall at the University of Florida, L. Hunter Lovins, founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions, who is helping multinational corporations from Wal-Mart to Royal Dutch Shell become more sustainable, defined “green-washing” as “spending more time and money on talking about sustainability than doing it.” Still, she says, talking is often the first step.
How to discern the green-washers? Center says companies and governments with the most serious conservation efforts often have an online sustainability report that consumers can look to for data, from reductions in water and energy use to investments in clean technology. With the green movement in full swing, this year’s Industry Outlook edition focuses on green trends, starting with a look at a dozen efforts, large and small, private and public, that could make a real difference.
» Florida Atlantic University’s Center of Excellence in Ocean Energy Technology, Dania Beach
FAU won a $5-million grant from the state to test whether the powerful Gulf Stream off the coast of south Florida — the planet’s largest ocean current — might someday generate electricity for Florida homes and businesses. As early as next month, FAU scientists will direct a large turbine into the Atlantic Ocean to conduct tests — lasting from less than a day to more than a month — to monitor energy-harvesting potential, environmental impacts and other issues.
» Green Power Systems, Jacksonville
Green Power’s planned garbage-to-electricity plant in Tallahassee could significantly reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills. The 200,000-sq.-ft. energy plant will convert 1,000 tons of Leon County municipal solid waste daily into 42 megawatts of electricity. The city will in turn buy 35 megawatts, enough to supply electricity to 22,000 homes. The system relies on a technology called plasma gasification vitrification. Plasma torches heat the organic matter in a 5,000-degree-Celsius reactor to produce a synthetic fuel. Founder Ingo Krieg says he hopes construction will begin in August and that the plant will be online in August 2010. Along roughly the same time frame, St. Lucie County is working with an Atlanta firm called Geoplasma to build a $425-million plasma gasification facility that county officials hope will someday empty their landfill and power homes in the county.
» Publix, Lakeland
Publix has achieved significant energy and recycling goals over the past five years, though the company has kept them fairly quiet, with nary a press release crowing about results. In 2001, the company launched Get into a Green Routine, its program to engage all 143,000 associates in reducing energy use and increasing recycling. Since then, it has reduced electricity costs by 7% in all stores and 23% in new stores. A more aggressive program is planned this year; adding doors to open-air milk and dairy cases will save 75% of energy used per case. Changing just the wattage of lighting on the sales floors will net a 10% energy savings per store with no additional cost. The company also has committed to stocking its stores with local foods when possible — it spent $700 million on fresh Florida foods last year — and has put 75 hybrids on the road, with more to come.
» Office Depot, Delray Beach
Office Depot made an initial financial commitment of more than $20 million toward energy efficiency in 2006, including retrofitting its entire chain to T5 high-output fluorescent lighting. The company saved $6.2 million in electricity costs the first year alone. “This far exceeded our expectations,” says spokeswoman Melissa Perlman. Meanwhile, the company has switched out its fleet of delivery vehicles from box trucks to ultra-low-emission “sprinter” trucks, which are 40% more fuel-efficient. This and other transportation initiatives have reduced transportation costs and fuel consumption 30%, with a 10% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
» ASR Systems, Gainesville
Aquifer Storage Recovery (ASR) is a method of storing water during floods to recover later during times of water shortage. Water is stored deep underground through wells, eliminating the need for large, costly (some say environmentally destructive) reservoirs. ASR Systems President David Pyne literally wrote the book on ASR and helps install systems around the world. Florida has been storing water in ASRs since 1983, but the practice remains controversial here. Nevertheless, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan calls for more than 300 ASR wells. If Pyne and his colleagues prove their technology safe for Florida, ASR could go a long way toward solving the state’s water-supply problems — as well as the global water crisis.
» AquaFiber, Winter Park
This biotechnology company uses algae, a proprietary flow-way system and ozonation to remove harmful nutrients from water. AquaFiber last year won a pay-for-performance contract, the first of its kind for the St. Johns River Water Management District, to remove phosphorus from Lake Jesup in central Florida. The company will receive $500,000 annually if it can remove at least one metric ton of phosphorus a year from the impaired lake for the next five years. CEO Tom Bland says ongoing tests at Lake Apopka indicate the company will be able to do much better. Besides cleaning up pollution, applications for AquaFiber’s technology could include urban water supply and environmental restoration. Meanwhile, AquaFiber is studying its algal byproduct as a potential biofuel, as well as for carbon sequestration — the long-term storage of carbon to keep it out of the atmosphere.
» Miami
To say that Miami lacks a green reputation is an understatement. The city has one of the worst air-pollution rankings in the country and is among the most wasteful water consumers in the state. In response, Mayor Manny Diaz has laid out a plan for Miami to become one of the greenest cities in America. His Miami 21 vision encompasses more public transportation, green building, a green fleet of vehicles for the city, a climate-protection agreement and an Office of Sustainable Initiatives, among other projects. A new water-conservation program is under way, as is an effort to restore the city’s tree canopy cover by a minimum of 30% by 2020.
» Pinellas County/St. Petersburg
The densest county in Florida, with little land left on which to grow, has a well-deserved reputation for environmental stewardship. The county has a model water-reuse program. St. Petersburg tracks sustainability indicators, including water use, energy use and solid-waste generation, to measure progress over time.
Home Builders
» Mercedes Homes, Melbourne
Despite Florida’s housing downturn that has some competitors backing off green building, Mercedes Homes is pushing ahead to build water- and energy-saving homes. A new home in Brevard County’s Eagle Harbor has the highest rating from the St. Johns River Water Management District’s Florida Water Star Program; it will use 40% to 60% less water than the average Florida home.
» K2 Urban Corp., Tallahassee
Builder and developer David Wamsley, CEO of K2 Urban Corp., has pledged that going forward all of his company’s homes will meet strict new standards unveiled in November by the U.S. Green Building Council. The company is in the second phase of its $80-million Evening Rose development, a classic infill project inside Tallahassee’s Capital