Saturday, February 28, 2009


As I have mentioned in the past, the Defense Contractors are coming, the Defense Contractors are coming. This is just another success for both Economic Development Council and Okaloosa County Airport Director. I will tell you, there is much more in the works for the Crestview Industrial Airport and the City of Crestview and the surrounding area. With the Bob Sikes Crestview Airport being designated by the State of Florida as an "Enterprise Zone" and millions of dollars in grants given to the Airport for improvements and upgrades, this airport will be sought by many aerospace companies for their future growth. STAY TUNED!!!!

New airport tenant signed
Brian Hughes Crestview News Bulletin
February 26, 2009 - 9:06AM
During the recent presentation of the Bob Sikes Crestview Airport master plan, county airports director Greg Donovan announced a new tenant for the airport.
Vertol Systems Company of Hillsboro, Ore., will assemble helicopter components in a new hangar to be constructed southwest of the cluster of airport service buildings, Donovan said.
“They will begin construction of their manufacturing facility in 90 days,” he said.
According to the company’s Web site,, VSC provides its customers “with specialized helicopter and aircraft solutions specific to those organizations’ unique requirements.”
VSC already has a small presence at Destin Airport, but their Crestview facility will be their biggest local presence, Donovan said.
Donovan gave no indication of how many jobs VSC will bring to Crestview, nor of the size of the company’s anticipated local payroll.

Thursday, February 26, 2009


Do you want to know why folks are coming to Northwest Florida? The below is just some of the reasons why they are coming and why they will continue to come. READ ON!!!

Escambia, Okaloosa and Bay CountiesBy Florida Trend Staff - 3/1/2009
Destin’s white-sand beaches draw tourists from Atlanta, Nashville and much of the mid-South.
In n general, northwest Florida:

*Is less urban and more Southern in character than the rest of Florida.
*Includes a higher percentage of African-Americans and a lower percentage of Hispanics than the rest of Florida.
*Tends to be more politically conservative than the rest of Florida; McCain garnered from 59% to 72% of the votes in the three counties in the 2008 presidential election.
*Has a higher percentage of people who identify themselves as religious; Protestants make up a significantly higher share of the religious population than in most of Florida’s larger urban areas.
*Has a higher percentage of residents who are native Floridians than elsewhere in the state. *Smaller percentages of the population are foreign-born than elsewhere in Florida; fewer residents speak a language other than English at home.
*Has an economy that’s more influenced by military spending than other areas of Florida.

Fort Walton Beach - Okaloosa County
City population: 38,533
County population: 163,984

*Notable: Nearly 47% of the population of Panama City earns less than $35,000 a year, compared to about 36% of Florida’s population overall. In a Nutshell Bay County is betting big that the world will beat a path to its door, constructing a $318-million international airport scheduled to open next year at a 75,000-acre West Bay green site that’s also blueprinted to contain one of the country’s biggest mixed-use planned communities. Meanwhile, Port Panama City is looking to handle a bigger share of cargo from abroad; St. Joe Co. is re-creating ruralism at River Camps; and retail developer Simon Property has spread the welcome mat at Panama City Beach with upscale Pier Park. The issue now: Will it all pan out as planned?

Pamana City - Bay County
City population: 54,283
County population: 305,214

*Notable: In the over-45 age groups, the city outstrips national and Florida profile; there are more households without children than Florida or national averages. The city’s population has declined by about 4% since 2000. Between 2004 and 2007, Pensacola had an average volunteer rate of 22.4%. Pensacola residents also volunteered an average of 24.9 service hours annually per resident. That level puts Pensacola ahead of Lakeland in volunteer rate, but behind Sarasota, Cape Coral, Daytona Beach and Palm Bay. Pensacola is a combination of colonial history dating back 450 years to the hurricane-aborted Tristan de Luna settlement attempt, of white-sand tourism, and of military investment that pioneered pinning wings on sailors. But it’s also home to cutting-edge research by world scientists, on projects including developing wheeled rovers to explore the lunar surface. The city’s challenge today is finding the political structure and economic development strategy that will accommodate its differences — and lift the fortunes of the sizable segment of the city’s population that’s economically disadvantaged and educationally underserved.

Economic Life:

Driver’s Seat: Defense
The military is the 900-pound gorilla in the economy of northwest Florida. Eglin Air Force Base — at more than 450,000 acres — spans parts of Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties. The base employs more than 8,500 military and approximately 4,500 civilians, with an additional 2,200 jobs due to move to Eglin under the 2005 Base Closure and Realignment Commission changes. Approximately 30,000 military and another 30,000 defense-support personnel are spread among Naval Air Station Pensacola, NAS Whiting Field and Eglin Air Force Base and the other bases Eglin encompasses. According to a 2008 analysis by the University of West Florida’s Haas Center for Business Research, about 35% of northwest Florida regional output is driven by defense spending, compared to 18% for northeast Florida, 5% for central Florida and 3% for south Florida. In Okaloosa County, for example, defense-related spending accounts for 73% of economic activity. Another example: In 2004 in Escambia County, the federal government spent $9,294 per capita, compared to $6,599 in Miami and $7,800 in Duval and Pinellas counties.
The Andrews Institute in Gulf Breeze has helped scores of amateur and professional athletes.

Other Economic Drivers
Tourism: While Destin may not have the national profile of Fort Lauderdale, the Okaloosa County town is synonymous with “beach” in Atlanta, Nashville and much of the mid-South. Northwest Florida’s beaches attract some 4.5 million visitors each year. The area is also rich in history — Pensacola has flown the flags of Spain, France, England, the Confederacy and the U.S.
Panama City-Bay County International Airport: The relocated airport, the first international airport under construction in the U.S. since Denver’s, may further development in the region more than any other single factor. Port of Pensacola: The region’s largest port, which is both a Foreign Trade Zone and Enterprise Zone, handles agricultural products, cement, paper, power plant and power generation equipment, animal feed, construction supplies and frozen cargo.
Port Panama City: Formerly dominated by traffic in wood pulp, the port, a Foreign Trade Zone, now handles manufactured goods, steel, machinery and feed products.

* Institute for Human and Machine Cognition (Pensacola): This high-concept, world-class research institution focuses on science and technology that improves the interaction between humans and machines.
* The Andrews Research and Education Institute, a center for sports medicine, houses research facilities in biomechanics, physiology and surgical materials testing.

Workforce: The presence of many retired military personnel and their families creates a solid, talented workforce whose skills impact the effectiveness of both commercial ventures and the region’s educational and research institutions.

Research Capability: Numerous military missions involve research, training or both, including the Naval Aerospace Medical Research Lab in Pensacola. The Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City alone has a staff of some 700 researchers and scientists who work on systems using air, ground and underwater unmanned vehicles. The Veterans Administration DOD Joint Ambulatory Care Clinic will contribute to the advancement of the region’s growing medical device industry. At Eglin, the Air Armament Center is responsible for developing, testing and deploying all air-delivered weapons.

Renewable Energy: The region’s pine forests — some of the largest in the world — have drawn interest as a renewable source of biofuels. Pensacola is also GE’s wind energy manufacturing center and boasts a Waste Management landfill that converts methane gas to electricity. Green Circle Bio Energy has built a large, technologically advanced wood pellet facility in Jackson County, just west of where Florida borders Georgia and Alabama.
Higher Education: Along with the University of West Florida, which operates throughout the region, both FSU and the University of Florida operate in the area as well. The University of Florida Research and Engineering Education Facility in Okaloosa County offers graduate-degree programs in electrical, computer and aerospace engineering.

Florida’s Great Northwest: The region cooperates under the banner of Florida’s Great Northwest, which has developed a well-considered, targeted strategy for how best to capitalize on the area’s resources.

Culture: Pensacola boasts a symphony, opera and ballet company. Other towns in the region offer a range of cultural offerings.

High-Profile Companies
*ActiGraph: Designs high-tech life sciences devices. One of at least three successful businesses founded by entrepreneur Paul Hsu.
*Avalex Technologies: Conducts aerial mapping and video.
*St. Joe: The Jacksonville real estate company has extensive land holdings in the area.
*Gulf Power: CEO Susan Story has risen to prominence in statewide business circles.
*AppRiver: The company specializes in secure e-mail programs, including protection from spam and viruses.
*Baptist Health Care and Sacred Heart Health System: The two non-profits operate throughout the region, together employing more than 10,000.
*Pensacola’s Saenger Theatre is listed in the National Register of Historic Sites.

Quality of Life
*Cost of Living: By most measurements, Escambia, Okaloosa and Bay counties have lower costs of living than state and national averages.
Small-Town Virtues: The higher incidence of natives in many communities’ populations helps foster a stronger sense of community. The cities are less congested, as reflected in travel times to work, which are more than 25% below state averages.
*Schools: Both the Bay and Okaloosa county school districts received “A” grades from the Florida Department of Education. Students in grades 4 through 10 in Okaloosa schools didn’t rank lower than third in the state in reading and math scores, based on the percentage showing proficiency. County students ranked first in both math and reading in grades 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 and 10. The Okaloosa district also pioneered the CHOICE program that provides high-skills job training to high school students, enabling them to earn certification for certain in-demand technical jobs as they complete high school. The program has become a model statewide.
*Young Leadership: Pensacola, in particular, has young businesspeople in its leadership ranks. Pensacola Young Professionals is a 500-member group that’s actively involved in civic life.
*Politics: Consensus remains a big challenge in Pensacola and throughout northwest Florida. There’s a stark ideological divide between the rural, northern parts of the counties and the developed southern areas, including the beaches. But rural politics too often dominates local commissions.
*Downtown: Pensacola’s downtown, which has the largest concentration of independent retail in the region, is struggling to maintain quality retail in this economy, especially amid competition from nearby Destin and Baldwin County in Alabama.
*Redevelopment: Downtown Pensacola also suffers as a result of city parochialism that may soften after a spate of progressive candidates won seats on the City Council last November. For example, the City Council refused to consider expanding the boundaries of the Downtown Improvement Board to include more of the west side. The area, largely African-American, will be crucial to downtown redevelopment as the city finally gets rid of the downtown sewage treatment plant and replaces it with a 40-acre maritime park.
*Crime: Among Escambia, Okaloosa and Bay counties, the only county where “crime risk indexes” are consistently above average for Florida is Escambia. Both Pensacola and some smaller communities like Molino and Century have risk profiles much higher than state averages in most categories. In other parts of the region, however, crime risk indices are lower. Okaloosa County ranks 52 out of 67 counties in violent crimes, with 369.9 per 100,000 residents, compared with a statewide rate of 705.5 per 100,000.
*Transportation: Air travel to and from the region is still difficult and expensive — a fact that could change as the new international airport takes shape.
*Defense-heavy: The military’s presence is so dominant that it could hinder the emergence of a more well-rounded economy.

Why I Live Here: Ken Ford
Historic Pensacola, where the streets still bear the names given by Spanish settlers, is home to fine restaurants, a famous fish market, a vibrant arts community, quality healthcare, an accessible waterfront and a world-class research institute. Its human-scale neighborhoods coupled with an affordable and stimulating downtown urban environment provide an attractive habitat for both young professionals and “empty nesters.” Over the last 450 years, Pensacola has had time to develop a patina — it enjoys an authenticity that cannot be artificially re-created. Pensacola’s long history coupled with an interesting mix of people and lifestyles has created a place with sense of place. Not a perfect place — but a real place. I have had the good fortune to live in many great places, and yet Pensacola has, with the exception of a couple year hiatus in Silicon Valley, been my home now for more than 20 years. I first discovered Pensacola through the Navy and years later, having the opportunity to locate virtually anywhere, made my home in Pensacola. It has become commonplace to observe that this or that city is at a “tipping point” — they all always are. In fact, tipping points can tip either way. That said, I see Pensacola’s future tipping in a very positive direction.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Another strong indicator that the State of Florida is waking up to the needs of the comsumer. This type of movement in the State can only be great news for counties like Okaloosa County, who has strong economic factors in their favor which are driving the need for more homes. This and the local military reducing their inventory of homes will continue to place demands on this area for quality homes at an affordable price.

Florida’s existing home, condo sales rise in January 2009
January existing-home sales fall, inventory down, says NAR

ORLANDO, Fla. – Feb. 25, 2009 – Florida’s existing home sales rose in January, making it the fifth month in a row that sales activity showed increases in the year-to-year comparison, according to the latest housing data released by the Florida Association of Realtors® (FAR). Existing home sales rose 24 percent last month with a total of 8,450 homes sold statewide compared to 6,810 homes sold in January 2008, according to FAR. “Many people are looking at today’s market and seeing opportunities to find the home or business they’ve always wanted,” said 2009 FAR President Cynthia Shelton. “With a range of available housing options, historically low mortgage interest rates and affordable prices, buyers who may have been hesitant before should take a closer look at the current opportunities for homeownership. As real estate professionals who know all aspects of their local market conditions, Florida Realtors are here to help counsel consumers making sound long-term decisions for their homes and their businesses.”Florida Realtors also reported a 13 percent gain in statewide sales of existing condominiums in January, making it the fourth recent month (following September, October and December) that statewide existing home and existing condo sales were higher compared to year-ago levels. Thirteen of Florida’s metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) reported increased existing-home sales in January while 11 MSAs also showed gains in condo sales; it marks the seventh consecutive month that a number of markets have reported increased sales.Florida’s median sales price for existing homes last month was $139,500; a year ago, it was $206,900 for a 33 percent decrease. According to industry analysts with the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), there remains a significant downward distortion in the current median price due to many discounted sales, including a large number of foreclosures. The median is the midpoint; half the homes sold for more, half for less. The national median sales price for existing single-family homes in December 2008 was $174,700, down 14.8 percent from a year earlier, according to NAR. In California, the statewide median resales price was $281,100 in December; in Massachusetts, it was $275,000; in Maryland, it was $267,925; and in New York, it was $220,000.NAR’s latest housing outlook shows that home prices continue to fall, but also notes a trend of increasing sales activity in the Florida, California, Arizona and Nevada markets. “It appears some buyers are taking advantage of much lower home prices,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun. “The higher monthly sales gain and falling inventory are steps in the right direction, but buyers will continue to have an edge over sellers for the foreseeable future.”In Florida’s year-to-year comparison for condos, 2,556 units sold statewide compared to 2,266 sold in January 2008 for a 13 percent increase. The statewide existing condo median sales price last month was $113,400; in January 2008 it was $190,200 for a 40 percent decrease. In the latest data available at press time, NAR reported the national median existing condo price was $181,400 in December 2008. Interest rates for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.05 percent last month, down from the average rate of 5.76 percent in January 2008, according to Freddie Mac. FAR’s sales figures reflect closings, which typically occur 30 to 90 days after sales contracts are written. Among the state’s large to medium-size markets, the Daytona Beach MSA reported a total of 419 homes sold in January compared to 321 homes a year ago for a 31 percent increase. The existing home median sales price was $131,800; a year ago, it was $179,100 for a 26 percent decrease. In the year-to-year comparison for the existing condo market, a total of 77 units sold in the MSA last month, up 43 percent compared to 54 condos sold the previous January. The market’s existing condo median price was $167,800; a year ago, it was $230,000 for a 27 percent decrease.© 2009 FLORIDA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®


A long awaited Shopping Center is coming to North Crestview. This is just another step in making Crestview a great place to live, work, and now PLAY.

City Council OKs sewer service for theater near Crestview
Planned 10-screen cinema will be part of a larger development off Richburg Lane
By BRIAN HUGHES Florida Freedom Newspapers

CRESTVIEW - A unanimous vote Monday evening by the City Council brought a much-anticipated 10 screen cinema closer to reality Local contractor Jack Jernigan, representing Keith Park Develop - ers, asked the council to approve sewer service for a commercial and residential development off Rich- burg Lane outside the city limits . The project, called Twin Creeks Crossing, will be behind the new Marquis Ranch Self Storage cen- ter on Industrial Drive near Rich burg Lane. Entrance to the theater property will be from Richburg . Jernigan said Keith Park Developers has obtained funding for the first phase of the development , which will include the 10-screen , 40,000-square-foot cinema as an anchor for a 30 ,000 - square - foot shopping center. The cinema will feature stadium - style seating, Jernigan said. The developers requested city sewer service because of time con- straints, and covenants of the loan commitment make that option bet- ter than a septic system , Jernigan said. " The cinema will take a year to be built," said Jernigan, who added that an opening date is tar g eted for April 1 , 2010. The project has been in the works for five years, he said. Jernigan said the developers will install traffic lights, widen roads and make other improvements to the area. The Martin family's produce stand has stood at the corner of Rich- burg and Industrial for 30 years. The first phase of the project will include the cinema and retail shops. “We have three to four restaurants that are interested in coming in if the cinema opens,” Jernigan said. A second phase to the east will feature a 92-unit complex of “very, very nice” apartments. The third phase, located to the south, will be a 170,000-square-foot business park with office and warehouse space and a farmers’ market. Although the developers prefer to negotiate with Okaloosa County for sewer service, Jernigan said they are seeking Crestview as a fallback to assure the project can get started before the funding opportunity expires. “I’m not asking the city to spend a nickel on this,” Jernigan said. “We will still generate hundreds of jobs. I’m just asking the city to back me with the sewer if we need it. “We will get the cinema done,” Jernigan assured. “The cinema will come in.” “I would welcome that type of thing,” Councilman Chip Wells said. “We’ve been waiting for something like this for a long time.”

Sunday, February 22, 2009


The uniqueness of this local coastal city lends itself to a great investment for Condo sales for more permanent home owners and allows residents to enjoy the historic downtown district of Fort Walton Beach.

Local condo market is showing signs of life, including Fort Walton Beach’s Presidio FORT WALTON BEACH —

One sign of the thawing condo market locally is the uptick in sales at Presidio Yacht Club & Condominiums, which recorded $6 million in transactions for November and December. The Presidio starting closing units in December 2007 and the developer, Gary McMichael, said 65 percent of the condos were closed in 2008. Recently, McMichael lowered prices to move some of the remaining inventory, but he’s expecting those prices to go back up as sales increase. During the last quarter, condo sales throughout the state rose each month. The Presidio is a 16-story complex with 81 units located at 124 S.W. Miracle Strip Parkway, or U.S. 98, in the heart of Fort Walton Beach. Selling features include the views, which face toward a section of Okaloosa Island that belongs to the U.S. Air Force with no building obstructions, and across Fort Walton Beach. Every floor affords the sight. In order to provide individual touches, McMichael and codeveloper Thomas Zachos worked at bringing in upgrades and finishing products from around the world at costs that would appeal to their clients, according to a story published by the Daily News in 2007. For some items, such as standard floor tiles, the builders found a product overseas and had it shipped to the area. Other materials were acquired through local sources. Each unit is equipped with amenities suitable for longterm residential or retirement living. Amenities include a large media room with an Optima home theater, 119-inch high definition contrast screen with Boston Acoustic speakers, SurroundSound, and leather recliners; fully equipped health and fitness center with 42-inch screen overlooking the hot tub; heated pool; and a marina. Other amenities include guest quarters; covered parking spaces; private storages and trash chutes located right outside each unit; and heated and cooled halls and corridors that are protected from the environment. Unique architectural features include open, spacious floor plans with angled walls and niches. Homeowners association dues are contingent on the square footage of each unit but includes hazard insurance, water, sewage, cable, a full-time maintenance superintendent and a landscaper. While the building was constructed through Presidio Developers, McMichael has worked on several area projects through his construction company, The Turn Key Group Inc., and has been here since 1986. McMichael’s vision for Presidio has taken a few years to foster, but he said he is proud of the product. “It’s been a lot of hard work,” McMichael added. “It’s really going to be an icon. It’s a beautiful design. Nothing will be built to the east of it. It’s a beautiful view. “This is really going to be our flagship,” he concluded. “We’ve spent many years trying to get the right design.” Since the Grand Opening, Pelican Real Estate has opened a satellite office at the Presidio with Luisa Garcia as the listing agent. The office is open seven days a week and has given about 500 tours to local and out-of-state

Friday, February 20, 2009


This following proposal is a major opportunity for the City of Freeport and the surrounding areas. With the opening of the new Panama City International Airport in 2010, this will make the Freeport area prime for further development.

Private firm offers to help widen U.S. 331
Proposal is the first of its kind submitted to regional Corridor Authority
By TOM McLAUGHLIN Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4435

SANTA ROSA BEACH — In what could be a major development, a private business has offered to partner with a regional transportation panel to widen a portion of U.S. Highway 331, including the Clyde B. Wells Bridge. Randall McElheney, chairman of the Northwest Florida Transportation Corridor Authority, announced Thursday that he has received a letter from a company called Moving US 331 Forward LLC. In the “unsolicited” proposal, the company offers to “design, build, operate and finance transportation facilities which will provide additional capacity for U.S. 331 in Walton County.” “Our proposal is to widen to four lanes the portion of U.S. 331 from the southern end of Choctawhatchee Bay Bridge to its intersection with State Road 20,” the letter states. The offer is significant for a couple of reasons. Not only is it the first of its kind the Corridor Authority has received since it was formed nearly four years ago, it also could offer a way to fund a nearly $400 million project. “In my book, this is a stimulus package. It’s a half-billion-dollar stimulus that’s not reliant on federal dollars,” Jay Odom, the Corridor Authority’s vice chairman, said at the panel’s meeting in Santa Rosa Beach. Local officials have lobbied for years to have U.S. Highway 331 widened. The road and the bridge over Choctawhatchee Bay is the lone north-south evacuation route from South Walton. Moving US 331 Forward was founded by Denver Stutler, a former district secretary for the Florida Department of Transportation, and Lowell Clary, an assistant secretary. “We got kind of frustrated trying to do things on the public side, so we thought we’d try on the private side,” Clary told the Corridor Authority. The proposal is a first step in what will be a long process. The authority, having never received an unsolicited proposal, had to set a fee to submit such documents. It settled on a tentative charge of $50,000. That money will be used to advertise the proposal and to notify other potential bidders of its existence. Once advertisements are published, other firms that might be interested in competing for the project have 60 days to provide proposals. Moving US 331 Forward’s letter to the board was short on details. It too will have 60 days to prepare a more extensive business plan after its fees are paid and the advertising is run, according to Corridor Authority attorney Mike Duncan. The Corridor Authority also must get support from the Walton County Commission. Neither Jim Anders, the county’s representative on the authority, nor Ronnie Bell, the county administrator, had any reason to suspect commissioners might oppose the idea. “This public-private partnership might be the only way we can move forward with this project in the immediate future,” Anders said. “I don’t see anything that might keep the commissioners from supporting the concept.” The Walton County Commission meets at 4 p.m. Tuesday in DeFuniak Springs.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


If you didn't know, the Swedish are coming to Okaloosa County in a big way. As you will see by a letter from the Okaloosa County Economic Development Counsel (EDC) Chairman, Paul Hsu, this will be a significant event for this community and another great opportunity the Okaloosa County EDC has arranged to bring further economic growth to this area.

Dear EDC Members and Business Community Leaders:

As the Economic Development Council’s 2009 Chairman it gives me great pleasure to invite you to attend the March 3rd Business Expo that will take place from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm at the Emerald Coast Conference Center.

This Business Expo will provide networking opportunities with Swedish business leaders visiting our area. Enterprise Florida’s international office in Northwest Florida has been assisting with the coordination of this special event and we anticipate a mutually beneficial meeting for all who attend.

You have opportunities to attend portions of this event that meet your interests and time availability. The display tables will be available for viewing between 10:00 and 3:00. Our speaker presentations begin at 11:30 with a lunch buffet provided. The expo’s keynote speaker and internationally successful entrepreneur, Paul Hsu, speaks at 12:15. View the attached agenda to customize your participation.

This special venue will allow you to converse with business leaders from the Swedish community and understand their business focus and how it may relate to yours.

Stockholm, Sweden has been ranked in the Top-Seven International Intelligent Companies for 2009 by the Intelligent Community Forum. Stockholm is the economic and political capital of Sweden. In the mid-90s, Stockholm established a company called Stokab to build an open-access fiber network. Today, the 4,500km network connects more than 90 competing service providers to government and business customers. Though the city already has a 98% broadband penetration rate, Stokab will also provide FTTP access to over 95,000 low-income households in public housing by the end of 2009. Stockholm also manages KISTA Science City, housing more than 1,400 companies, plus a support program for start-up and early-stage companies. The city's latest focus is to become northern Europe's quality-of-life leader by enlisting all 45,000 employees in a 3-year effort to improving housing, traffic, and the delivery of an already impressive list of online services

I look forward to being a part of this event and look forward to greeting you on March 3rd as well.


Paul Hsu
Chairman, Okaloosa EDC

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


Crestview School system is getting ready in a big way for the massive growth expected for Crestview.

By BRIAN HUGHES Florida Freedom Newspapers

CRESTVIEW - The future Riverside Elementerry School and Shoal River Middle School buildings taking shape on the east side of town have different architects and individual charac tors, but their collaboration assures a cohesiveness to the schools' design. By having red brick exteriors, blue metal roofs and many fixtures and furnishings in common, the Okaloosa County School District benefited from being able to share materials between the schools. Both schools are going up, but Riverside is further along than Shoal River. They will be ready for the start of 2009-10 school year. Riverside will replace Southside Elementary School. Shoal River will replace Richbourg Middle School. The contractor for both jobs is Jacobs/Titan. The company has designed, built and refurbished schools for the county for 14 years. "A child can go to school from kindergarten through eighth grade right on this site," Jacob/Titan's Thomas Mitchell said during a tour of Riverside earlier this month. Inside Riverside, work ers were laying carpet and installing trim and technology hook-ups. A “full-blown A/V system,” as Mitchell described it, was being installed in the multi-purpose room. Outside, the bus ramp is complete. Its rigid aluminum construction will keep children dry on rainy days and hold up to hurricane-strength winds. “We haven’t lost one to wind yet,” Jacobs/ Titan program manager Joel Lindner said of using the same system on other schools. Out front, masons and metalworkers were well along on the front entrance and parents’ drop-off ramp. By keeping school buses and parents’ vehicles separate, traffic will flow much better and reduce the risk of injury to a child. Riverside’s 50 classrooms open both to the central hallway running the length of each wing and to outdoor courtyards between the five wings. Cubbyholes run along the wall beneath the large windows. Each room has 10 computer and phone/Internet hookups. Floors are carpeted and windows have impactrated glazing. “You could actually house kids here during a hurricane,” said Lindner. Each classroom has its own restroom and shares a teacher planning room with the room next door. Energy-saving features include occupancy sensors that turn lights off after a room is vacated. Rather than a large, cumbersome central heating and cooling plant that requires special mechanical skills to maintain, several classrooms share a smaller, almost residential-style unit. In addition to easing maintenance, it allows teachers to regulate the environment in their classrooms. For students’ security, visitors only can go into the front office after entering the school’s lobby. Each classroom has its own telephone. Classroom doors have “intruder function locksets,” to allow teachers to secure rooms from inside. Jacobs/Titan’s designers consulted with teachers, students and administrators when designing the new schools. The company used Antioch Elementary School and Davidson Middle School as models. “Plus, our kids go to district schools,” Mitchell said. “I get a daily report from my son about what he doesn’t like or what does work in his scho

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Just another reason to make Crestview your home and the south part of the county your place to play and work.

Route through Air Force land possible despite the species’ new ‘endangered’ designation
By TOM McLAUGHLIN Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4435
Northwest Florida’s reticulated flatwoods salamander became an endangered species Tuesday. But where once local planners despaired that a proposed U.S. Highway 98 bypass through Eglin Air Force Base land could die at the little feet of the rare amphibian, hope has arisen that a compromise can still be achieved. “I think it can all work out so that everyone is satisfied,” said Janet Mizzi, deputy field director for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Panama City. The Northwest Florida Transportation Corridor Authority learned recently that a report compiled at Hurlburt Field indicated officials there had found an alternative bypass route through salamander territory they might be able to live with. Eglin already has signed off on a compromise route. Cor ridor Authority member Jay Odom said the Hurlburt report indicated a “most preferred,” or “least intrusive,” bypass route. “It says ‘there’s a way to get this done,’ ” he said. He said his next step is to meet with representatives of all of the players involved in the bypass discussion to get their approval of the new bypass proposal. The bypass was conceived in 2007 as a way to relieve traffic congestion on U.S. 98 from State Road 87 in Santa Rosa County to U.S. 331 in Walton County. As envisioned by the Corridor Authority, the original road would have crossed the Eglin reservation near its southern border and pass through Hurlburt Field. The flatwoods salamander lives in six counties in Florida and two counties in Georgia. The animal came to the attention of Northwest Florida residents last June when Fish and Wildlife officials notified the Air Force that the proposed bypass ran through important sections of the threatened species’ habitat. Then in October, the feds announced a plan to split the flatwoods salamander into two species. The finalization of the species split and endangered designation were announced Tuesday. The problem that arose out of all of the species splitting for transportation planners was that along with the endangered species designation, the reticulated flatwoods salamander’s habitat was declared “critical.” “Approximately 4,453 acres across portions of the states of Florida and Georgia are designated as critical habitat for the reticulated salamander,” a Fish and Wildlife Service news release said Tuesday. There are 2,593 acres, primarily in the southwestern corner of Hurlburt Field and just west of Hurlburt on the Eglin reservation, which would have been considered critical habitat had they not been on Air Force land. Fish and Wildlife chose not to designate land on Eglin and Hurlburt critical habitat because base officials are required under their own natural resource management plans to protect endangered species. H u r l b u r t , w h e r e 713 acres of critical salamander habitat are located, reviewed four possible compromise routes before selecting its “most preferred,” Odom said. Ray Reissener, a vice president for HDR Engineering Inc., which is developing the bypass plans, said his company is waiting for a final go-ahead from Hurlburt before proceeding with any more design work. “If they allow us to proceed we’re OK,” he said. “If they don’t, I don’t know what we’ll have to do.”

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


New hotels along I-10 an indicator of Crestview’s growth
By THOMAS J. MONIGAN Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4438 CRESTVIEW — Okaloosa County’s largest town has seen constant growth in recent years, and among the most visible newcomers are Tractor Supply and Staples. But just how much impact comes from being wrapped around an interstate also has become apparent. Two national chain hotels opened adjacent to Interstate 10 late last year, and another is set to open in the near future. Combined, they mean about $10 million worth of investment and 220 rooms for potential visitors. “And they’re a driver for other things,” said Wayne Harris, executive director of the Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce. “They mean more retail and restaurants as well as tourists.” Best Western, Country Inn & Suites and Holiday Inn Express are the newcomers. They are in an area that has about 45,000 vehicles traveling daily on State Road 85 near I-10, according to the Florida Department of Transportation. Crestview now has almost a dozen hotels and motels, according to Harris. “Our advantage is we have had a high occupancy rate,” he said. “That’s why we’ve got that many. The rate has been in the high 80s and 90s consistently.” But lodging is not all about tourists. Army Rangers are moving to the area because of military relocation, and the official agreement to bring the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter here was signed last week. “I imagine they (the new hotels) will get quite a bit of traffic, with construction workers and 2,500 soldiers being stationed here, and their families as well,” Crestview planning official Eric Davis said. Larry Sassano, president of the Okaloosa Economic Development Council, said he was not surprised by such development, even in what has turned out to be a scary economic climate. “They’re smart, and they’ve already done their research,” Sassano said of the hotels. “They’ve studied what’s coming in natural growth and what’s coming from the military. If I owned a hotel I would build one right there.” The Best Western opened last November, and sales manager Jonna Barth said it has been running about 50 percent occupied since. “The holidays were very good to us, and soon as the tourist traffic starts in March we’ll really get going,” Barth said. “Crestview has definitely been discovered, but the hotels are still a little ahead of the growth that is to come.” Barth said the Best Western’s meeting room space has been used in many ways, and the visibility of the building itself has been a factor. “Being on that hill (just off John King Road on the southern side of I-10) has been a big plus for us,” she said. Slightly farther south on SR 85 is the Holiday Inn Express, which is targeting April for its opening. On the north side of the interstate is Country Inn & Suites, where Jatin Shah is the general manager. It opened in early November. “It’s been tough,” Shah said. “Our entrance is a little difficult and we can only put signs on our own property. We’re running under 20 percent, but hopefully in March that will start to pick up. … We’re the nicest hotel in Crestview, and that’s good enough to compete.”

Friday, February 6, 2009


Guess who coming to dinner. With the construction of the new Army base at Eglin and new facilities for the new F-35 training program to Eglin in a very short timeline, there will be a massive amount of construction activity for quite some time. Also, don't forget the privatization project for the military housing program in our area. With all of this construction, which could be over a billion dollars in the next few years; we will have our own economic stimulis package.

F-35s will go to Eglin despite noise protests
By Bruce Rolfsen - Staff writerPosted : Friday Feb 6, 2009 12:36:41 EST

The Air Force is going ahead with plans to locate the joint F-35 Lightning II school house at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., service officials said Friday.
While the school was expected to be at Eglin, the Air Force did not make the selection official until Friday. The decision was stalled because of protests from some communities near Eglin where noise levels from the F-35 were projected to reach up to 90 decibels.
Maj. Gen. Charles Davis, who oversees the Joint Strike Fighter Program Office and will become Eglin’s senior officer in April, said Friday that ongoing noise measurements of F-35s should show the jets are not as loud as earlier evaluations found. Davis conceded the jets are louder than the F-15 Eagles they’ll replace at Eglin’s 33rd Fighter Wing.
An Air Force environmental assessment study of the F-35’s noise impact at Eglin found that noise from the fighter’s operations would reach 83 decibels in military housing areas and base schools. Off base, the noise would be even louder, reaching up to 90 decibels in civilian neighborhoods under an Eglin flight path.
Friday’s decision clears the way for the first F-35 to arrive at Eglin in March 2011. Fifty-nine F-35s will be stationed there by 2013, including the Marine Corps and Navy versions of the fighter.
The Air Force is continuing to look at several options to reduce the noise impact, such as building an alternate training airfield on the Eglin Reservation and improving Eglin’s existing runways so that fewer jets would need to fly over civilian communities adjacent to the base.


As you can see by the story below, the Army is not going away anytime soon. The Army's mission is changing and in today's environment they will be needed more than ever. This new policy only illustrates the need to keep the Army force strong and vital. This does not mean they will not moderize and use their forces more effectively and efficiently. This means they will become a force to reckon with within the services and funding to use this force more efficiently to come more easily. How do they do this in our present economic climate? What I hear and believe is that you will see more forces outside the country being returned to the U.S. and the closure of more costly bases outside the US. The warfare of the future will be more rapid deployment forces and high tech weaponary. Guess what! With the building of a new Army Base for the Army Special Forces being built within Eglin AFB, the Army Ranger Training at Eglin, the Headquarters of the Special Operations Command at Hurlburt, and the mission of testing of new high tech weapons at Eglin, I believe our area is sitting in the cat bird seat. Any questions or comments, give me a call.

February 06, 2009

"Up-or-Out" is on the move again -- this time for the Army's enlisted leaders. But not everyone is going to be happy and the Army is unsure how much it will cost in the long run. Three years after the Army more than doubled the number of years a Soldier may serve as a private first class the service has now extended the shelf life for senior noncommissioned officers, in some cases by up to three years. The move provides senior enlisted leaders the opportunity to extend their careers at a time when the Army is stressed for manpower while fighting two wars and still meeting its training obligations. Lt. Col. Thomas Erickson, Chief of Enlisted Professional Development Branch, said the move was needed to retain sergeants major longer. But it affects Soldiers down to the rank of staff sergeant. "These changes to retention control points were part of our sergeant major utilization program," Erickson told "As we worked our way back from [sergeant major rank], we had to keep master sergeants longer and RCPs were increased for several ranks. But there is no change for sergeant promotable or below." Under the new so-called "Up-or-Out" policy, a staff sergeant can serve an additional year in grade up to the Soldier's 23rd year in uniform, while a sergeant first class or staff sergeant promotable can remain in grade an additional two years up to the troop's 26th year in service. A master sergeant or promotable sergeant first class now gets three extra years up to the Soldier's 29th year in service, while most E-9s and promotable master sergeants may now remain in their rank for up to their 32nd year in service. Some exceptions exist that would allow certain E-9s to serve up to 35 years.
The Army was unable to provide precise numbers on how many Soldiers this new policy could directly affect. "The feedback we are getting is favorable," Erickson said. "Those who want to retire when they reach 20 years, they can still do that. But those Soldiers who wanted to extend their careers will now have that option." As a comparison, an E-7 in the Marine Corps must be promoted to E-8 by the leatherneck's 22nd year of service or retire, meaning his Army equivalent can serve four more years in the same grade. The change went into effect in November of last year, meaning Soldiers who were pushed out of the Army earlier in the year under the old promotion policy missed an opportunity to serve longer. "When you are working with a timeline in a calendar, there is somebody who's going to be on the other side of the line," Erickson admitted. "We need to move forward and make those decisions." Soldiers who were forced to retire or separate under the old policy -- no matter their date of separation -- are not eligible to return to the Army under the new policy, Erickson said. It's unclear how this will affect the Army's plan to grow the force, but it does mean a potentially larger pool of senior NCOs competing for promotions and coveted billets and duty stations. "The majority of Soldiers, once they hit 20, we see a spike of retirement. And once they hit their RCPs, we see another spike," Erickson said. "The change in the RCPs does not mean every staff sergeant will stay in for 23 years. It allows them more opportunities, if they choose." Erickson said he was unable to provide a cost estimate because it's unclear how many senior NCOs will take advantage of the opportunity. Under the latest pay scale, a sergeant major with 26 years will receive a monthly salary of $5,928. That figure jumps to $6,224 at 30 years and $6,536 at 34 years. The Army has experienced more success of late in recruiting -- thanks in part to the sagging economy -- but it's yet to be seen whether the plunging stock market will cause senior enlisted Soldiers to remain on active duty for a few more years without being promoted, knowing they will at least get longevity pay raises. "The cost to it is balanced against other factors. If I keep a Soldier longer, that's one less person I have to recruit," Erickson said.
The Army is spending hundreds of millions across the service to retain Soldiers of all ranks -- enlisted and officer. The Army recently said that roughly 70 percent of captains signed up for a three-year retention bonus, costing the Army at least $400 million in cash and other incentives. The Army also offers retention bonuses of up to $150,000 for senior NCOs in critical positions. Erickson said the Army is not worried the new policy will entice some Soldiers to become slack in their duties or less aggressive in seeking promotions. "I don't believe it will diminish their motivation to be promoted," he said. "If you are going to stay longer, you might as well stay longer in a higher grade."