Tuesday, September 30, 2008


You heard, "The British are coming, The British are coming". Well Army, Navy, and Air Force are some of the new folks coming, plus there is some Defense Contractors, who will be following along.

BRAC to add transportation woes with 10,000 new people
Mona Moore
September 29, 2008 - 9:50PM

In just a few years, Okaloosa County residents will have more than 10,000 new neighbors.
As part of the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure changes, the U.S. Army's 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) will relocate to Eglin Air Force Base from Fort Bragg, N.C., and the Joint Strike Fighter Integrated Training Center will open by 2011.
County officials arranged an informational meeting on the challenges the influx of 10,000 residents will bring. State, county and city officials met with representatives from Eglin AFB and the U.S. Army on the campus of Northwest Florida State College Monday morning.
"We worked with Representative Sansom and Senator Gaetz to bring key players together to have a discussion about the primary infrastructure needs for both the Army 7th Special Forces beddown as well as the Joint Strike Fighter," said Jim Curry, Okaloosa County administrator.
Senators Don Gaetz and Charlie Clary, Rep. Ray Sansom and representatives from the offices of Sen. Bob Martinez, Gov. Charlie Crist and U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller got an overview of Okaloosa County's preparations, including the Joint Land Use Study and a growth management plan.
"As the construction begins, it's going to have an impact on families - military families, on civilian families," Sansom said. "We wanted to get on the same page so as we start moving forward and seeing projects change, permits applied for and construction started, that we have this synchronized so that it will have the least amount of impact on the citizens of this community."
Eglin sent Bob Arnold, chair of the Mission Enhancement Committee, Col. Arnie Bunch, Vice Commander, Air Armament Center; Col. Goerge Ross, JSF Task Force; Col. Rick LoCastro of the 96th Air Base Wing and Col. Dennis Yates, Commander of the 96th Civil Engineering Group to field questions and participate in the discussion.
"It was more about the identification of solutions that we can work towards because our resources are so strained at the county and the state and the federal level," Curry said. "We have to make sure that we use them in the best possible manner."
The group shared ideas about possible road expansions and the immediate need to establish sewer services for the 7th Special Forces Group complex that will be located south of Crestview.
"We're willing to listen and look at what our options are," Yates said.
The real challenge will be transportation issues, Curry said.
Long before the Army or JSF move to Eglin, the county will have to accommodate construction traffic.
Curry said the group considered a temporary traffic light on SR 85. The group also mentioned expanding the state road to six lanes.
"Those that live on the north end of the county have that morning commute. It's a very high-volume traffic," said Curry. "Six-laning Hwy 85 is one option. But unfortunately, that's hundreds of millions of dollars -resources that we just don't have."
Okaloosa county plans to study other solutions to the impending traffic problem.
"Crestview is looking at Arena Road. The county is looking at Rattlesnake Bluff Road," Curry said. "There are just a number of options that we could look at."
Retired Army Gen. Mike Ferguson attended the meeting as a civilian aide to the Secretary of the Army.
"My main focus has to be impact on families and deployed soldiers," Ferguson said. "This is a unit that has already been deployed seven or eight times."
Ferguson asked those in attendance to keep in mind that the Army will have a small window in 2011 to deploy back to the base and relocate families.
"They've got to sell homes at Fort Bragg, train, find new jobs," he said. "Time really is almost over to study decisions. It's time to make decisions."
Curry said time and resources are working against Okaloosa County.
"We want to do everything we can to have as much of those infrastructure needs in place timely with those events," he said after the meeting.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fort Walton Beach's Landmark Center Construction Inching Closer

The light is at the end of the tunnel and getting brighter everyday. This project will surely change the dynamics of the Historic Downtown Fort Walton Beach area. Thanks should be given to everyone involved, from the lending instituitions, City Government, locals, and the great staff of Emerald Coast Partners.

Landmark Center construction inching closer
Dusty Ricketts
September 27, 2008 - 9:21PM
FORT WALTON BEACH - After nearly two years of planning, designing and financing, construction on the Landmark Center is expected to begin soon.The Fort Walton Beach City Council recently approved the ground lease with developer Emerald Coast Partners where part of the 343-space parking garage will be built. Emerald Coast Partners also submitted its permit application to the Northwest Florida Water Management District this week and will submit its building permit application to the city in the next few weeks.Bruce Houle of Emerald Coast Partners said he hopes construction on the parking garage can begin in October, but said it will likely start in November."We're excited. We've been working on this for two years," Houle said. "It's going to be great for the city and it's going to be a great visual coming into the city over the Brooks Bridge."Landmark Center is a four-story, mixed-use development to be built near the intersection of U.S. Highway 98 and Perry Avenue. The roughly $27 million project will feature restaurants, shops and condominiums.Emerald Coast Partners and the city are partnering on the parking garage. The city will purchase 107 parking spaces in the garage for the public.Once construction starts, Houle said it is expected to take six to seven months to complete the five-story parking garage. As it nears completion, Houle said construction crews will slowly start to work on the actual Landmark building.Construction on the Landmark building originally was expected to take about 16 months, but Houle said he believes it could take about a year now.

Friday, September 19, 2008


Something ahead of schedule. I guess they really want to this to happen. Hats off to all the responsible parties. As many know, this is just another reason Northwest Florida will be home for many more to come and be welcomed.

Bay County airport ahead of schedule
Airport Authority still facing several decisions

By PAT KELLY Florida Freedom Newspapers (850) 747-5076 pkelly@pcnh.com

WEST BAY — A small army of construction workers using huge earth-moving equipment guided by satellites cleared the land and graded the earth on 1,300 acres, preparing for the new airport just north of State Road 388. Standing on smoothed ground where the parking lot will be located, a visitor can see trucks coming and going constantly, scurrying from one end of the treelined horizon to the other, kicking up dust before depositing their loads. So far, more than 4 million cubic yards of material have been moved. When lunch came, as many as 180 workers rumbled their large equipment to the trailerstudded nerve center of the complex and wolfed down prepared meals under communal tents. “It’s a massive project,” said Roy Willett of Kellogg Brown and Root, senior project manager for construction of the Panama City-Bay County International Airport. “There is really nothing like it going on in the country today.” The Airport Authority held a media day Thursday for a tour of the airport site and a briefing on construction. An open house for the public will be from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday so residents can see the progress and ask questions of the project team. “Things are going increasingly well,” Willetts said. He said crews are four months ahead of schedule, and the bed of the 8,400-foot runway is ready for the first layer of asphalt to be poured in preparation for the 14-inch concrete cover. However, Airport Authority members still have decisions to make on the construction of the airport, which is set to open in 2010. For example, the board still is considering whether the concrete for the runway should be poured to a depth of 15 inches, which will increase durability, and whether the length should be increased to 10,000 feet to accommodate larger international flights. Also under consideration is whether or not to rebid the contract for the terminal. The current bid package, which originally came in about $14 million more than expected, must be accepted by Oct. 7. Board members have been working with terminal bidder Walbridge to “value engineer” savings into the original bid of $68.6 million for the terminal, tower and other buildings. Jeff Dealy, program manager for Kellogg, Brown and Root, said 180 workers and 130 pieces of equipment are at the site. The number of workers should increase to about 500 per day when “vertical” construction begins on the air traffic control tower, the terminal and other buildings. When the airport is completed, about 1,000 workers will have had a hand in the construction, Dealy said.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


It just keeps coming. Having had the opportunity to be brief by the General, who is in charge of this project recently, it is on the fast track and Eglin has been identified as one of the first to be selected for this new complex. As noted below, it is on the way to becoming a reality. All I can say, is the area of going to ramp up pretty fast.

Shopping center to follow retail trend of commercial developments like Destin Commons
By MONA MOORE Florida Freedom Newspapers (850) 315-4443 monam@nwfdailynews.com
EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE — Base Exchange, your days are numbered. The ode to 1972 architecture will soon be replaced by a 500,000-square-foot “shopping destination,” said Judd Anstey, a spokesperson for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service Lifestyle Center. “It’s hard to renovate a store that’s 36, 37 years old and have it be really new and contemporary,” said Joe Giuffreda, vice president of the community development initiative and plans directorate for AAFES. “The market’s changing. It’s growing and the shoppers are changing because they want a nicer offering and we want to remain competitive.” Eglin is one of five military installations pegged for the $80-million to $90-million pilot project. The base made the cut partially because of the Base Realignment and Closure recommendations. The BRAC commission named Eglin as the new home of the Army’s 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) from Fort Bragg, N.C., the Special Forces Group’s training ranges and the newly established F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Integrated Training Center. The new installations mean the base can support the 100,000 customers the Lifestyle Center will likely draw. “(Eglin is) mission gaining, picking up airmen and family members. It’s growing substantially,” Giuffreda said. “That speaks to the long-term viability. In other words, Eglin’s not going away.” Perched half a mile from the Shalimar gate along Lewis-Turner Boulevard, the proposed center will follow the retail trend of commercial developments like Destin Commons. Tentative plans for the modern outdoor shopping center feature 30 to 40 retailers including book stores, food courts and apparel stores. “There could be Bath and Body. There could be American Eagle or Hollister,” Giuffreda said. The base’s regular offerings of military clothing, fast food, barbershops, beauty salons, laundry and dry cleaning will still be a part of the Lifestyle Center. “We’re just sprinkling in some of these other tenants so it’s more convenient for customers,” Giuffreda said. “AAFES always does fast foods. One of the things we’re trying to do here is the sit-down casual dining, like a Chili’s or Buffalo Wild Wings or Olive Garden.” There’s even talk of a multi-screen theater with first-run movies. “We have never shown first-run movies before so we’re trying to break the code on that,” he said. The center will have a main street, outdoor furniture and possibly a fountain where children can play, Giuffreda said. There will be a decidedly military flare to the experience. The Post Exchange, and possibly the commissary, will anchor the center. The center will serve only military clientele. “Our mission is just to take care of our authorized customer base: the military and their family, the retirees and their family,” Giuffreda said. “They really deserve a nice, new contemporary facility. Not something that was built in the early 70’s.” Like all AAFES centers, 70 percent of the Lifestyle Center’s profits will fund military quality of life programs like the library, recreation facilities and child care centers. The remainder of the profits will fund new construction. The center will offer new jobs and a new tax base for the community. Retail stores that are not run by AAFES will charge sales tax. “We estimate it to be about 850 to 1,000 new jobs,” said Giuffreda. “We’ll have needs for suppliers and managers and subcontractors and even opportunities to open stores for local businesses. We really see it as a good partnership and win-win with the community.” The center is at least two years from breaking ground, but it has reached a milestone in the process. An environmental assessment determined that plans for the new center would not have an adverse effect on the area. The report examined the noise, land use, air quality, geological resources, water resources, biological resources, cultural resources, socioeconomic resources, environmental justice, traffic, utilities and hazardous materials and wastes. Based on the findings, the Air Force is proposing to issue a Finding of No Significant Impact. Drafts of the FONSI and EA are available at libraries in Shalimar, Fort Walton Beach and Valparaiso. Public comments and inquiries on the drafts will be accepted through Oct. 5. Written comments and inquiries should be sent to Mike Spaits at 96 CEG/CEV, 501 DeLeon Street, Suite 101, Eglin AFB, FL 32542 or emailed to spaitsm@eglin. af.mil.


The silicone valley of the East Coast. This is what some of the business leaders have said about the growth of the high-tech in this area. This is a major step in that direction with many more initiatives in the works or already starting. Strap on your seat belt it going to be a fun ride.

High Tech Business Center In Okaloosa County

FORT WALTON BEACH, FLORIDA - Two hotels, four restaurants, a graduate education center, and over a million square feet of high-tech office space.....Planners of a new research park say it's all in the works.Channel Three's Laura Hussey is in Fort Walton Beach with our second top story.Throw in over a thousand new jobs and you'll have some idea of the scope of this project, called the Emerald Coast Research And Technology Park.It's about to jump from the drawing board to reality. A research park where education, the military, and private business come together.Greg Clauson/Coldwell Banker United Realtors "It's difficult to describe in just a few words, other than mammoth, significant......unbelievable to most of us in this area"The Emerald Coast Research And Technology Park will be anchored by the University Of Florida's Engineering Education Facility, known as The Reef. On ninety-eight acres next door, there will be graduate housing, a child care center, hotels, restaurants and a conference center. All close to the airport and Eglin Air Force Base.Larry Sassano/ Economic Development Council "Eglin's growing. And as it grows, a lot of the contractors will need space"The park will provide one point two million square feet of office space. But even more important, says Larry Sassano of the Economic Development Council, is the research component. Larry Sassano/Economic Development Council "We have companies like Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and BAE Systems that have a significant amount of research being done by the parent companies, but it's not being done here. I think that's going to change" Greg Clauson At Coldwell Banker United Realty says even in the pre-leasing stage, interest is high.Greg Clauson "It's all in a walking community, a campus environment, that meets all the needs of any major defense contractor/IT/health service who would like to relocate"Larry Sassano/EDC "It's a reality, it's going to happen, yes I think there will be thousands of jobs over time"The research park will be built on land leased from the Air Force.That lease is about to be finalized, and groundbreaking is expected in the spring

Friday, September 5, 2008

Eglin 46th Test Wing to Stay at Eglin

I hope this put this issue to rest. To have both houses of government and both parties in support of the the same issue is very rare and a monumental move.

Sen. Nelson: 46th Test Wing to stay at Eglin
By MONA MOORE monam@nwfdailynews.com

FORT WALTON BEACH — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson says Air Force Chief Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz has confirmed that Eglin Air Force Base’s 46th Test Wing will not move or report to a new base. “As soon as I got (the news) last week, I knew you’d want to hear it,” Nelson told those gathered at the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce for a town hall session Thursday. Leaders at the Air Force Materiel Command had considered stripping the test wing from the Air Armament Center’s chain of command to form one Air Force Developmental Test and Evaluation Center. “I simply was not going to let this happen,” Nelson said. Nelson is a member of the Senate’s Armed Services, Budget, Commerce, Foreign Relations, Intelligence and Aging committees. As the only senator who is a member of all three of the senate’s committees on national security, he used his leverage to get answers. At confirmation hearings before the Senate Armed Services committee, Nelson withheld the approval of Michael Donley as Secretary of the Air Force before the Senate’s August recess. “He could not answer my questions. I put a hold on him,” he said. “I told him I wanted some answers.” Nelson said he used the same tactic two years ago when the test wing’s realignment came up “to get their commitment they would come to Eglin.” He met with officials from the Air Force’s Materiel Command and said he and Miller acted like “two prosecuting attorneys,” firing questions that did not get answered. “They wanted to close down the (McKinley) climatic lab,” Nelson said. “We held the defense bill up and bought a year, making them produce a report (the RAND Corp. study). We got the Air Force to back off and we thought it was a done deal.” In May, Nelson said he sent a letter to the Air Force’s chief of staff. “They came back with Air Force answers and the answers didn’t give justification,” he said. Nelson had better luck after withholding the Donley nomination. In an e-mail dated Aug. 28, the Air Force answered two questions Nelson had asked. When asked for an update on the status of any Air Force Test and Evaluation reorganization, Maj. Reginald L. Bullock of the Air Force Senate Liaison Office answered: “No planning activities or actions have occurred or are occurring concerning reorganization or modification to the Air Force T&E enterprise. The Air Force is currently working with the other services and AT&L (Acquisition, Technology and Logistics) in developing a uniform financial management system for DOD T&E facilities as required by the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2003, PL 107-314. That activity is currently focused on processes and does not involve the reorganization or movement of personnel.” Nelson also asked for details of any plans to reorganize or modify any units or missions that might affect the base. “Air Force T&E is not currently pursuing any actions that would involve reorganizing or modifying any units or missions that would affect the military or civilian workforce at Eglin AFB,” wrote Bullock. On other issues, Nelson repeated that he would not support drilling for oil or natural gas off Florida’s coast. He said drilling looked like a “seductive and simple” solution when gas reached $4 per gallon, but that it is not the answer because it would compromise the military’s mission, he said. “I’ve been standing up for the U.S. military for 25 years now on this issue,” he said. “This isn’t just the Air Force. This is the entire defense preparedness for this country.” Daily News Staff Writer Mona Moore can be reached at 863-1111, Ext. 1443.

Monday, September 1, 2008


It could not have been said any better by Fred Leopold. This defense contractor is setting itself up for the growth planned by the expansion of both the defense industry and civilian aerospace targeted in this area.

Certified Manufacturing poised to expand
Encouraging business forecast spurs decision to add 32,000 square feet
By THOMAS J. MONIGAN tmonigan@nwfdailynews.com

When Certified Manufacturing Inc. became the first tenant in the Holt Industrial Park eight years ago, it brought about 10 employees from Crestview. So why were local officials so pumped up? “It’s really a stepping stone for what might come,” said banker Fred Leopold, who was chairman of the Okaloosa Community Development Corp. Maintaining the atmosphere and structure of an extended family has enabled CMI to begin realizing its potential as it enters its 11th year of existence. Recently, owner Pamela Bechtold and about three dozen employees broke ground on what should become three buildings that will triple the company’s space. Financing from DestinFirst Bank and a small business loan from the federal government have proven crucial, said Bob Bechtold, Pamela Bechtold’s husband and the company’s vice president. “We wouldn’t be where we are without our bank,” he added. The cost of the project is estimated at $3 million, which means family-owned CMI is taking what it hopes is a well-calculated risk. So far, it has enjoyed considerable sub-contracting success with products and services that are used by all branches of the military and Homeland Defense. “When the big companies are considering you, they like to see you have the facilities, capabilities and personnel,” Bob Bechtold said. “With an expansion like this, at some point you have to make a decision based on your forecast and the business environment. We made the decision on the excitement our customers have and the bid backlog. We feel we have a robust enough future forecast to take this step.” K&J Construction of Baker is the general contractor. Completion of the first building (12,000 square feet) is targeted for the end of this year. The other two buildings (10,000 square feet each) have should be finished by the end of March. Overall, it breaks down to 4,000 square feet of offices and 28,000 square feet of manufacturing space. There’s also room on the 6.5-acre site for 25,000 more square feet to be built. The company makes products such as cables, circuit card assemblies, electronic panels and mechanical assemblies. They can be used in cockpit and weapon controls in military aircraft or armored vehicles, or in controlling cameras on top of Humvees. “Everything we build here goes straight to our troops,” Pamela Bechtold said previously. “Nothing gets put on a shelf.” From August of last year through July of this year, CMI recorded 100 percent ontime delivery of 77,340 units. Its quality performance was rated at 99.99 percent. “These products are high margin, high quality and high need, and scheduled delivery is the key issue with all of them,” Bob Bechtold said. “It’s a low volume, but a high complexity factor that requires lots of customer interface. Sometimes we even have to reverse engineer some products.” CMI’s benchmarks include an AS9100 rating from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), which is the world’s largest developer and publisher of International Standards. ISO is a non-government network of national standards institutes from 157 countries. In addition, CMI is part of a Mentor-Protégé Program in which the Department of Defense pays Boeing to train CMI employees. “Our people got us here,” Bob Bechtold said. “We have very low turnover. We pay our employees competitively, and at our small company they get benefits that most people expect from big companies. People enjoy working here. We treat them well. “My wife has set the tone in developing a family atmosphere of dedication and compassion. Our people really care about the success of the company.” Daily News Business Editor Thomas J. Monigan can be reached at 863-1111, Ext. 1438.