Sunday, June 28, 2009

Eglin Expected to Gain 425 Military and Civilian Jobs

June 28, 2009

Pensacola News Journal Reports -

Eglin expected to gain 425 military, civilian jobs soonFrom staff reports
Eglin Air Force Base announced that the Okaloosa County base is expected to gain 425 military and civilian jobs in coming months.
According to the 2009 Force Structure Announcement, the base will gain 123 military and 302 civilian positions by Sept. 30.
In addition to manpower changes, the announcement also calls for removing 20 F-15 fighters that are stationed at the base and replacing them with six F-35 Joint Strike Fighter aircraft.
Air Force plans call for Eglin to serve as the primary training facility for F-35 pilots and crew.
Air Force officials broke ground on the $250 million JSF complex at Eglin Air Force Base on March 20.


Military pay outstrips civilian salaries

June 27, 2009 - 7:09 PM
Andrew Gant
Daily News

Thousands of Okaloosa County's better-paid public servants don't get their paychecks from any state, county or city office.They work for Uncle Sam.The military's enormous economic impact here - an estimated $6 billion in 2008 - is unrivaled.While some 23,000 active-duty airmen and civilian employees based at Eglin Air Force Base, Hurlburt Field and Duke Field were not sifted into the Daily News' new online salary database, the average military paycheck easily outpaces the average non-military or non-contract worker's salary.In 2008, the University of West Florida's Haas Center for Business Research released its Florida Defense Industry Economic Impact Analysis. It calculated average military earnings per job in 2005 were $68,540 - or 170 percent of the $39,990 state average.In 2010 and 2011, economists project the military workforce will grow by about 4,500 because of incoming personnel with the Army's 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Initial Training Center. Many of them will bring families.

ANOTHER FACTOID - There is over 40,000 Retired Military in the Okaloosa County Area making at least 1/2 the salaries while in the military for the rest of their lives and most having transitioned into other jobs at age 40; you can imagine how much they are making now. By the way, they usually don't have anymore kids in the house. More disposable income. This is the area's customers.

Friday, June 26, 2009


The City of Panama City has big plans for old Airport. It looks like another City in the Panhandle getting ready to put on the Jets to move forward. As mentioned many times before, the world has their eyes on the Panhandle of Florida. It has too many things going for it. I am glad I grew up here.

First Glimpse at Airport Site Plans
06/25/09 - 12:01 PM By: Bree Sison Bay County, Fla:
In less than year the Panama City airport will relocate and while all eyes are on West Bay, there’s major developments coming to the current site as well.
The new land owners and their team of developers are holding an open house to introduce the new face of an old airport.
“We need to know what’s on people’s minds to develop the best reuse plan for their site,” says Fred Merrill, a Principle in the Saski Associates design firm.
The firm out of Boston was responsible for some of the Beijing Olympics planning. Now they’ve mapped out a master plan for 708 acres of airport land that includes shopping, dining, housing, entertainment and even a marina. The community would be open for everyone to enjoy and not just it’s residents. Developing a long-term plan for the site is something residents and city leaders are getting behind.
“I’ll be able to walk to a park there and that’s what I’m looking forward to so I’ll have some place to walk,” says Kathleen Zeigler of Panama City.
“[It will be] Responsible growth. It will increase the tax base obviously for Panama City but more importantly it’s something we can leave behind for our children,” says Panama City Commissioner Billy Rader.
“We’re trying to create a place that people can live work, play, shop and have a good time that will be a symbol of Panama City going forward,” says Merrill.
“We are ready for it! Pier Park has got overwhelmed so I’d like a smaller area to come and enjoy shopping, restaurants and maybe eventually move down this way,” says Joyce Ledbetter of Youngstown.
Unlike the old Bay County Jail, the plan for the current terminal building isn’t to demolish it but to repurpose and incorporate it into the ten year plan.
The master site plan will be put into motion after the airport relocates in a year.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Okay folks. It is official and work is ready to begin. This investment in this overpass undoubtably has made the North Part of the County much more valuable. It provides a convenient and quick access from Crestview to the Joint Strike Fighter location on Eglin, the businesses in Fort Walton Beach, and of course the beaches of the Gulf Coast. The intent of this overpass was to meet the done of folks moving to Crestview and other areas of the north part of Crestview. $25 million is just a start.

Contractor chosen for SR 85-123 flyover
Federal stimulus money earmarked for the long-delayed project set to cost $25.1 million
By DUSTY RICKETTS Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4448 After years of planning and delays because of lack of funding, construction on the State Road 85-State Road 123 interchange flyover is gearing up to start. Lake City-based construction firm Anderson Columbia was awarded the contract to build the flyover. The project is being fully funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. “It’s going to relieve the congestion in that area,” said Tommie Speights, spokesman for the Florida Department of Transportation. “As the area grows, and with the expansion of the military, this project will relieve traffic and improve the safety.” The flyover project was the top priority project in the Northwest Florida region to be funded with federal stimulus dollars. Construction on the new flyover is expected to start in about three to four months and be completed around spring 2011. In 2001, construction was expected to start in 2007, but plans were delayed several times because of a lack of funding. It wasn’t until the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act — commonly referred to as the stimulus funding — was approved that funding was secured. Although the project had been estimated to cost $46 million, Anderson Columbia’s bid for the project came in at $25.1 million. The project would build an overpass connecting the northbound lanes of SR 85 with SR 123, reducing congestion and eliminating the need for a traffic signal there. The project will also widen SR 85 South from four to six lanes and will reconstruct the entrance and exit to the Northwest Florida Regional Airport. Hundreds of trees around the area where the flyover will be constructed were recently cut down by a private logging company. That was not a part of the official construction project.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Here is some reason to have your eye on the Panhandle of Florida.

Northwest Florida: a Great Area to Invest in Real Estate

We have vacationed in Northwest Florida, Walton County in particular, for twenty years –- and love it! World-class beaches –- reasonable prices –- great restaurants –- beautiful beach homes to visit! So we are sold on the area –- but what about the financial realities of investing in Florida — at this time?
The Florida panhandle has a vibrant and steady tourist economy, with low unemployment. The brand new Panama City International Airport, which is planned to open in March 2010, will make the region quickly accessible from everywhere in the country and Europe. The airport will provide a substantial boost to the area’s economy, and will enhance demand for real estate.
We believe Northwest Florida is an excellent place to invest in real estate, and that real estate values, though flat right now (January 2008) are likely to move sharply upward, particularly for oceanfront and Gulf view vacation homes. But that’s our opinion! Here are some other folks’ opinions on the area.
CNN (Feb. 12, 2007) selected Panama City, Florida as the #1 place to invest in real estate in the United States.
American Express says that Northwest Florida is one of its Top Ten tourist destinations in the United States. The Florida panhandle is second only to the Orlando area in Florida tourism. Northwest Florida beaches are world-class, pulling in over seven million tourists each year –- more than any other East Coast vacation area.
Real estate professionals in Walton County say that prices are lower than during the boom year of 2005. But they are expecting closings to increase, as more deals come on the market. Many vacation homes are priced below the cost of constructing a replacement. “If you are looking for an investment to hang on to for the next five years, the time to buy is today. We are still very undervalued compared to other parts of Florida.”
The St. Joe Company (NYSE:JOE), whose headquarters are in Jacksonville, FL, is the largest landowner in Northwest Florida, owning over 718,000 acres of prime development land -– half of it within ten miles of the coast. St. Joe has been a major player in the Florida panhandle for many years, beginning as a timber company but realizing in recent decades that the value of its landholdings was much greater as investment property. So now St. Joe is in the vacation home development business, with major activity centered on Walton County.
According to St. Joe’s Investor Relations Department the long term outlook for Northwest Florida real estate is quite upbeat.
Long-term financial and population trends continue to favor Florida, whose economy is fundamentally solid and diverse. The state’s population is forecasted to increase by three-fourths (to 28.6 million) by 2030. Its population growth rate regularly outperforms that of the rest of the United States: over the past forty years, Florida’s yearly rate of growth has outpaced the national average by 100%. By 2010 Florida will move past New York to become the country’s third most populous state.
Florida’s solid, diverse economy regularly outpaces the U.S. mean, with a strong tourism industry, lots of high-tech jobs and a rapidly growing high-tech manufacturing sector. A strong military presence with a number of active and expanding bases provides a stabilizing effect to the area’s economy. Within Northwest Florida, Walton County has one of the lowest unemployment rates in Florida and the United States.
Florida is the commercial center of the Americas. Geographic location, as well as financial and political stability, places the State at the heart of trade and commerce throughout the region. Vacation residence sales to retiring persons remain robust, and Florida is a preferred spot for retirement relocation.
Northwest Florida’s beaches are the state’s second most popular tourist destination, behind only Orlando. Northwest Florida’s beaches draw over seven million tourists each year, more than any other stretch of beach on the East Coast.
Beaches in Northwest Florida rate as some of the most spectacular in the country and the world. Beaches in Walton, Bay and Gulf Counties have been picked for the number one ranking by Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, an expert on beach quality and author of America’s Best Beaches.
The Florida panhandle enjoys a temperate climate, with mild winters, lots of sunshine and blue skies. The Florida panhandle is located in U.S. Climate Zone 8, the same climate zone as famed vacation areas such as Hilton Head (SC), Amelia Island (FL), Kiawah Island (SC) and St. Simons and Sea Island (GA). Florida’s beauty and diversity is well-known. Northwest Florida has a distinctive geography, culture and cuisine that is unique.
The Florida panhandle attracts approximately seven million visitors each year. According to Visit Florida, the state’s tourism and visitor agency, 33 percent of these tourists are from families with incomes over $75,000 and 16 percent are from families with annual incomes over $100,000.
The number of fashionable resort developments in Northwest Florida is increasing. At resorts like Seaside, Rosemary Beach, WaterColor and WaterSound Beach, beachfront lots have sold for $40,000 per linear beachfront foot to high net worth families who have chosen Northwest Florida.
The new Panama City airport now under construction is expected to be in operation by March 2010. It will be a large international airport, thus opening the area to easy access from the East and West coasts, the Midwest, Canada and Europe. Previously, access to the area by air was limited to regional airports.
Economists expect that the new airport is very likely to become a powerful economic development engine for the region. Throughout history airports have a strong track record for increasing economic development activity.
The new Panama City airport will be the first major airport constructed in the country in over 15 years. As a large-scale greenfield airport development, it offers new opportunities and unmatched flexibility for businesses dependent on aviation and logistics infrastructure.
There are strong analogs for the development of this airport in Huntsville, AL, Savannah, GA, Jacksonville, FL, Fort Myers, FL and Northwest Arkansas. All of these airports have stimulated significant adjacent development.
The State of Florida forecasts that over its first decade, the new airport would create 8,000 new jobs and at completion a total of 13,000 jobs. A parallel is the construction of the new Southwest Regional Airport in the Ft. Myers/Naples area in 1983, which had a large impact on real estate values. Since the opening of the airport in 1983, total residential real estate values in the region have increased an average of eleven percent per year.
Fortune Magazine (October 14, 2007) selected the St. Joe Company as one of the “Ten Best Stocks for 2008”, citing the long-term potential of the corporation and its vacation home development business situated in Northwest Florida. Here’s part of what they have to say: “When Florida real estate does rebound, investors will be kicking themselves for not recognizing today’s $28 stock price for St. Joe Co (JOE) — Florida’s largest private landowner — as a rare opportunity.”
In the quickly shifting economic climate, it is important to research and ask questions before making any investment choice. Yet the truth is that Northwest Florida is a rarity, with a mild climate and gorgeous, mostly empty beaches. As you sit on the pristine, white sand with your feet in the emerald clear Gulf water, with pelicans and gulls wheeling overhead and dolphins cruising by – you can see that there are some very important intangibles here. The Emerald Coast is a very special place –- and they’re not creating any more beach property!

For additional Great Information about Florida visit -

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Crist signs military support bill into law
Robbyn Brooks

June 18, 2009

EGLIN AFB - With a sharp move of a pen, it was official."It's a law," exclaimed Florida Governor Charlie Crist amid cheers from the crowd gathered at the Air Armament Museum Thursday afternoon.Crist came to Northwest Florida to sign House Bill 7123 to create the Florida Council on Military Base Mission Support. Eglin was chosen as the location the bill should be signed because it is the largest Air Force instillation in the world and Northwest Florida houses five of the 21 military bases in Florida.The legislation was sponsored by Rep. Dave Murzin and Sen. Don Gaetz and could have a significant impact on Florida's economy by helping keep the current military base infrastructure intact while promoting additional military assets moving to Florida."We're so military dependent," Gaetz said. "When the Pentagon catches a cold, Northwest Florida gets pneumonia."The military is the third largest driver of Florida's economy bringing in nearly $60 billion each year, Gaetz said, adding the legislation was important "considering the new administration" in Washington D.C.Gaetz also relayed how grateful he was to everyone who was involved in pushing the legislation through, citing there was a one-in-a-hundred chance of a bill becoming a law."We had to work through five different committees to get it here today," Gaetz said.The Florida Council on Military Base Mission Support with help in understanding the capabilities of all state military installations and act as a liason between local communities and the Legislature. The Council will guard against the closing of installations or realigning their resources to other states."The Council will help us maintain our reputation as the most military friendly state in the nation...," Crist said.Northwest Florida's military installations make up about one-third of the state's total economic contribution with $18 billion dollars and 220,000 jobs in our area."These (military) families build our communities," Gaetz said in support of protecting Florida's military instillations. "Their values lift our neighborhoods...Their friendship warms our lives."


Being a product of the Okaloosa County School District in my youthful days; it makes me proud to hear that Okaloosa County took top honors. However, I already knew from my experiences in the military, the school systems surrounding a military installation usually rank high. Reason - The military expects its service personnel to have parental involvement in the school system and encourages time away from work to support the schools, as well.

Local schools among best in Florida; see the scores
Katie Tammen
June 18, 2009 -

Schools in Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties continued to rank among the best in Florida, according to annual school grades released Thursday. Despite four schools dropping a letter grade, Okaloosa took the top spot for the percentage of grade-A schools in the state, with Santa Rosa not far behind. Walton county schools also saw significant improvement, with all 14 schools were ranked a grade B or higher. See our database of school grades »"Our efforts are paying off, (and) it's evidenced in these scores" said Walton County Superintendent of Schools Carlene Anderson.The school grades were created in 1999 to help keep the public informed about the performance of schools. The grades are based on the results of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test in reading, writing, math and science. Following the state trend, Choctawhatchee and Niceville high schools dropped a letter grade, but school officials say they already are making plans to help students improve. "Choctawhatchee and Niceville realize they have some work to do," said Okaloosa County Superintendent of Schools Alexis Tibbetts. "We're going to improve."Choctawhatchee dropped from a grade of B to a C. But Principal Cindy Gates said the students who were performing below expected levels already had been identified Thursday, and a plan to improve not only their scores but their learning ability was in the works. "We're not sticking our heads in the sand, we're moving forward," Gates said. "My real goal is to make sure those students are successful in their moving forward."In Santa Rosa County, three schools improved by a letter grade and three schools dropped a letter grade. And while Superintendent of Schools Tim Wyrosdick said he was excited to see students improve in areas the school district had focused on during the previous year, all the schools - regardless of their grades - had room for improvement. In the next year, he said, emphasis will continue to be placed on subjects such as math and science because students haven't reached their full potential in those areas yet. "We're very optimistic about the direction we're traveling with our curriculum," Wyrosdick said. "(But) we're not going to be satisfied until we're all A (schools). Any other goal is really selling ourselves short." Similar trends were identified statewide. Sixty-two percent of schools received an "A" on the annual report card, and only 1 percent of schools failed. Even as the scores were released, several government officials criticized the grading system, saying its scope was too limited. "Public school accountability and progress should be based on the whole body of work that schools, teachers and students accomplish throughout the year rather than on a one-day snapshot," said Rep. Franklin Sands, Democratic leader of the Florida House of Representatives.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


As I have noted in the months past, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is bringing a number of new businesses to our area with a wide range of partners. The planned partnership of the F-35 Joint Fighter program is bringing at least 11 different countries to our area. If you don't think this will cause an international explosion of economic growth to our area, you are under a shell. This program and the other aerospace and defense programs planned for our area will make the panhandle a target for many other industries to follow. Stay tuned, as I have mentioned before, you have not seen anything yet.

F-35, Eglin projects get funding
Rockwell Collins and Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems said their joint venture, Vision Systems International LLC, received several contracts from Lockheed Martin totaling more than $54.1 million for 52 helmet-mounted displays for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and 30 additional systems. Rockwell Collins also received initial financing for the pilot facility standup at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., for the displays. The joint venture will start delivering the items this year, with deliveries running through 2012. (Sources: Forbes, MarketWatch, Reuters, 06/16/09)

Monday, June 15, 2009


This information is in line with some of the inquiries we are getting from prospective buyers. Not to brag, but with RE/MAX being the largest real estate company in the world; we are beginning to get a lot of questions from the international community on what is happening in the State of Florida.

International buyers confident of Fla. recovery

MIAMI – June 15, 2009 – Gerson Lehman Group reports that international realty buyers believe the Florida housing market is poised for recovery, and they are paying close attention to distressed properties in the state. The report says these international buyers view homes in the United States as “desirable, profitable and secure” investments. “Those who delay buying their dream home in Florida may soon find that they have to pay considerably more for the same property in just a few months,” advises the report’s author, Howard Liggett, president of Distressed Real Estate Consulting Services. Liggett cites data from the National Association of Realtors® and the Florida Association of Realtors® indicating that 25 percent of international buyers are Canadian, 21 percent are British, and 21 percent are western European.Source: 
Halifax International Expat Focus (06/12/2009) Musk, Jamie

Sunday, June 14, 2009


Big things are happening from West Panama City to Freeport, FL. This is a great opportunity for the area.

The St. Joe Company has entered into agreements with The Haskell Company and TranSystems Corporation, a transportation planning and engineering firm, to develop a master plan for land owned by St. Joe adjacent to the new Panama City - Bay County International Airport which is scheduled to open in May 2010.
The initial parcels are being planned and positioned for office, retail and industrial users, totaling approximately 1,000 acres, the company said in a release issued today. The land is a portion of approximately 71,000 acres that St. Joe owns within the West Bay Sector, a large mixed-use master-planned project located in Bay County in Northwest Florida.
“With the scheduled opening of the airport now less than one year away, we are accelerating our preconstruction activity and stepping up marketing outreach to global users who need ready access to the new airport,” said St. Joe’s president and CEO Britt Greene. “Our land at West Bay is a world-class asset, and our marketing outreach is to global users. Our initial marketing focus will be aerospace, logistics and defense-oriented technology companies.”
As part of the master-planning process, the team is creating a development node capable of joining the Gulf Coast's aerospace corridor. A concentration of U.S. Air Force, Navy and Army aerospace and aviation facilities along the Florida, Alabama and Mississippi Gulf Coast have created a cluster of aerospace and aviation businesses and workforce talent in the region.
St. Joe’s project at West Bay is part of the larger West Bay Sector Plan, a product of Florida's sector planning process. A planning framework is in place for approximately 75,000 acres, which includes the airport, to ensure long-term land-use compatibility. Approximately 41,000 acres in the West Bay Sector have been preserved through the establishment of the West Bay Preservation Area.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


The news is better every day for homebuyers in our area. The inventory of homes are reducing fast with the bulk of the buying in our area just starting with military transfers. It could get interesting. Affordable and quality homes in our area are getting very low, which could begin to raise prices once again. Basic Economics, Supply and Demand.

Right time, right place
Low interest rates and the new federal tax credit can mean good deals for first-time homebuyers
By THOMAS J. MONIGAN Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4438 Good news still can be hard to find in the local real estate market, but it appears there’s something positive shining through the darkness. Thanks to a government incentive of $8,000 and interest rates below 6 percent, first-time homebuyers are finding themselves in the right place at the right time. “The more people learn, the more interest there is,” said Gloria Frazier, owner of ERA American Realty of Northwest Florida. “Prices have come down to where affordability is excellent.” A 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage of 5.5 percent means there’s an opportunity to be seized. “In the late 1990s, we had the same housing affordability, but I don’t think there have ever been incentives like these,” Frazier noted. Numbers from local lenders appear to bolster that claim. At Northstar Mortgage in Fort Walton Beach, the percentage of first-timers securing home loans rose from 8.9 for the first five months of 2008 to 52.6 this year. According to Northstar’s Sue Botelho, 14 percent of first-timers range from 21 to 25 years old and 50 percent are 26 to 34. Perhaps the biggest surprise, Botelho said, is that about 25 percent of all first-time homebuyers are single women who are qualifying with a median income of $37,400. Bart Swan, who recently merged Superior Home Loans with Baker and Lindsey, offered slightly different numbers. In the first five months of 2008, 53 percent of all home loans closed at Baker and Lindsey were for firsttime buyers. In the first five months of 2009, that number was 41 percent. Swan says not enough people know enough about the opportunity. “It appears the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit isn’t getting people out of bed to buy a home, despite the fact that it should be,” he wrote in an e-mail. But Swan can also point to 24-year-old Ashley Davis. She recently bought a four-bedroom, two-and-ahalf bath home with 1,900 square feet just south of Interstate 10 in Crestview. For the record, it was a “short sale” in which the holder of the previous mortgage was settling for something less than the original asking price. The selling price was about $150,000. And because Davis put 6 percent down on a 30-year fixed USDA Rural Home Loan at 5 percent interest, Davis’ total monthly payment (including taxes and insurance) is about $1,000 a month. She also could get the $8,000 in the mail from the federal government if she amends her 2008 tax return. Otherwise, she can take an $8,000 credit when she files for 2009. And if she lives in the home for three years, she does not have to pay it back. The mother-daughter team of Kathy Campbell and Kelly Shephard from the Key Group at Century 21 Wilson Minger helped Davis buy the house and she secured her loan through Swan. Everyone involved said a key first step was checking to see what Davis could afford. “She was the epitome of the smart first-time buyer,” Shephard said. “The first step needs to be going to see a lender. … I would never tell anybody to go outside their comfort zone on what they could afford.” Campbell agreed. “There’s nothing worse than finding something you love, then finding out you can’t afford it,” she said. “After that, everything else doesn’t look so good. You need to know what you qualify for.” Davis is a 2008 graduate of the University of Central Florida in Orlando. She began planning even before she earned a degree in Applied Mathematics and landed a job as a cost analyst with defense contractor Qualis Corp. “It was just the next step, to move out on my own … time for me to be the adult,” she said. “My idea was to move in with my parents for a little while and save up enough to get going on my own.” Prep work started with checking out the Multiple Listing Service provided by the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors. Davis then used an online mortgage calculator on Eglin Federal Credit Union’s Web site. With Swan’s help, she found she qualified for a home that would cost up to $165,000. “I was thinking in the $130,000s,” she said. “Because I know what my bills are, plus I wanted to keep putting money in my savings account.” Davis and her real estate agents looked at about 30 homes in a month. A few were in Niceville, but most were in Crestview. “More house for your money,” Davis said. “It just needed to be south of I-10.” She found a brick home that had a “relatively flat lawn … that was important, because I’m the one who’s going to me taking care of it,” Davis said. “When you walk in through the front door it’s very open … it has a vaulted ceiling and there’s a second story.” A previous offer for the house had been accepted. But the situation changed with the first prospective buyer and Davis didn’t waste any time. “I looked at it Saturday morning, and I knew there was somebody else looking at it Saturday afternoon,” she said. “So I made an offer, and three days later it was in contract.” The sale was closed at the end of May. It all took planning, discipline and knowledge of what the numbers mean and how they work. “I think it goes back to building a foundation in order to be prepared for largest purchase of your life,” Davis said. “The age that I am, and the housing market way it is, it just happened that I was at the right place in my life and the right time in housing market with the interest rates the way they are.”

Monday, June 8, 2009


Published by Ozgur Tore
Sunday, 07 June 2009

Looking for a great summer getaway? Panama City Beach, Fla., makes a splash, recognized by the Travel Channel as one of America’s Best Beaches for Families.
This Northwest Florida destination ranks Number Five on the Travel Channel’s list of Top 10 family-friendly beaches in the United States, cited for pristine beaches, award-winning cuisine, family attractions, child-friendly restaurants and accommodations, water sports, entertainment, nightlife and more.

“Panama City Beach is proud to receive this recognition from the Travel Channel,” says Dan Rowe, president and CEO of the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau. “From spectacular beaches, water parks, and marine attractions to world-class golf, fishing, shopping and dining, travelers of all ages find everything they’re looking for in a great beach vacation here in Panama City Beach.”

The destination boasts 27 miles of sugar-white-sand beaches bordering the clear emerald-green waters of the Gulf of Mexico and St. Andrews Bay. Although sand and surf are the main draws, Panama City Beach earned accolades for its full gamut of offerings, rating a five out of five from the Travel Channel for “Child-Friendliness” and “Non-Beach Activities.”

Spanning roughly one million square feet in the heart of town, the new Pier Park is Northwest Florida’s largest shopping, dining and entertainment complex. Enjoy soft sea breezes while shopping or dining al fresco at this venue overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. With predictably warm, sunny weather, Panama City Beach welcomes families year-round with outdoor concerts, festivals, fishing, golf, boating, sunset cruises, dolphin excursions, eco-tours, sporting events and more.

Cited by the Travel Channel as the Best Day Trip, St. Andrew’s State Park spans 1,260 acres. Hike the nature trails to see deer, egrets and graceful tropical birds. Some of America’s best deep-sea diving is right off the park’s coast in the jetties and nearby Shell Island, the Travel Channel says. The water here is crystal clear, making it ideal for watching the large schools of brightly colored tropical fish.

Among Panama City Beach’s other family favorites noted by the Travel Channel, Gulf World Marine Park offers entertaining animal shows and a chance to swim with dolphins. Shipwreck Island Waterpark is one of Florida’s largest theme water parks. Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium features fascinating finds from around the world, while ZooWorld Zoological & Botanical Park is home to more than 250 animals, including rare and endangered species, in a lush, tropical setting.

More travelers around the globe are about to discover this Florida gem thanks to a new international airport slated to open early next year, making Panama City Beach easily accessible to travelers across the country and in international markets. With a myriad of green features incorporated into the design and construction, the airport aims to be the first in the U.S. to receive LEED certification.

A long-time favorite among beach enthusiasts, Panama City Beach also has enjoyed recognition as a premier beach destination from Condé Nast Traveler, TripAdvisor®, USA Today, Southern Living, Dr. Beach and the Clean Beaches Council.

Other destinations on the Travel Channel’s list of Best Beaches for Families are: Coronado Beach, Newport Beach and Santa Barbara, Calif.; Nantucket Island, Mass.; Siesta Key, Fla; Poipu Beach, Hi.; Duck, N.C.; and Hilton Head and Kiawah Island, S.C.


Guess what folks. This new movie cinema in North Crestview is huge. Excitement is in the air and the City Fathers are getting their wish. The City has always said recently, the town is moving North. With the only Library, new Crestview Chamber of Commerce, and Post Office across the street from the High School, and five new banks, it is quite obvious the City is getting what they wanted. It was only natural the new Cinema be placed in the middle of all of this.

Brian Hughes Crestview News Bulletin
You can’t smell the popcorn and tickets sure aren’t for sale yet, but Crestview continues to nudge closer to having a new 10-screen cinema.
Contractors have cleared a multi-acre site for the planned Twin Creeks Crossing shopping center, cinema and office park off of Richbourg Lane and Industrial Drive. Located behind the new Marquis Self Storage facility, developers also are planning an apartment complex for the site.
A new cinema for the area has long been rumored. Several false starts were thought to be the real thing.
This time however, things look serious, if the bustle of heavy construction equipment and the erection of temporary site offices is any indication.
Keith Park Developers is working on the first phase of the development, which would include the 10-screen, 40,000-square foot cinema as an anchor for a 30,000 square foot shopping center. The cinema would feature stadium-style seating, according to the developers’ agent, Jack Jernigan.
Speaking before the city council in February, Jernigan said the targeted opening for the cinema is set for April 1, 2010.


Yes, the private schools are now targeting Crestview for their growth. With the tremendous growth coming to Crestview, I expect many other private schools will be targeting the Crestview marketi and it will help some of the stress to the school district until the other schools are completed.

Rocky Bayou to open Crestview campus
By BRIAN HUGHES Florida Freedom Newspapers

CRESTVIEW — The Central Baptist Church school playground is quiet now, but in a few months it will be filled with the sound of youngsters at play. Rocky Bayou Christian School of Niceville soon will establish a Crestview presence when it opens two voluntary pre-kindergarten classes this fall. Parents and educators recognize the value of socializing youngsters in a school setting. The state mandates school for 5-year-olds, but the voluntary pre-kindergarten program lowers the age to 4. Rocky Bayou Superintendent Don Larson has been considering opening a Crestview campus for several years, said Debra Marshall, who will be principal at the new campus. “The facility they have here at Central Baptist is wonderful,” Marshall said. She cited convenient parking, a kitchen and a safe, well-equipped playground among the benefits. Rocky Bayou plans to start small; it will offer two classes of 18 students each, Marshall said. Ultimately, Rocky Bayou hopes to offer education through the sixth grade at Central Baptist. “Our goal is to grow one or two grades a year,” Larson said. “We don’t want to grow too quickly and have the quality of our education suffer.” Central Baptist Pastor Scott Dennis said the church is excited about Rocky Bayou coming. When he brought the idea to the congregation for a vote last Sunday, there was no dissention, he said. “Everybody thinks it is a great idea,” Dennis said. Among the school’s eager supporters is Jacob Bracewell. He cavorted around the parking lot during Rocky Bayou’s ribbon-cutting Tuesday while his parents, the Rev. Dave and April Bracewell, kept a wary eye on their 4-year-old. “Are you looking forward to starting kindergarten this fall?” Bracewell, Central Baptist’s recreation minister, asked his son. “Yes!” came the instant reply. “Are you going play nice with the other kids?” Dad asked. “Yes!” “Are you going to work hard and learn your letters and learn about Jesus?” “Yes!” “Are you going to be good and stay out of the principal’s office?” “No!” Three out of four’s not bad.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Freeport Florida Gets $12 Million Nature Center

With the new Panama City International Airport just a few miles down the road from the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center, I am sure it will get some international attention. He might change the world, but he definite change Freeport. Note: To get to the Panama City International Airport from the west, many will be travelling by this area. Panama City International Airport Opening is planned for May 2010.

EDUCATION on the plantation
By TOM McLAUGHLIN Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4435

FREEPORT — M.C. Davis believes he can change the world by giving kids a chance to pick up turtles in the woods. And when he opens the E. O. Wilson Biophilia Center at his Nokuse Plantation, that’s exactly what he wants to see. “The theme here is learning while you’re having fun. We expect them to learn almost through osmosis,” Davis said during a recent tour of the center. “If kids leave here feeling like a little bit of a naturalist, that may go dormant, but when you are a mayor or a governor … maybe you’ll remember. “I think it will manifest itself, I really do. I’m betting my life’s work on it.” Construction of the 28,500-square-foot center, built at a cost of about $12 million, “basically” is complete. Crews will begin setting up the exhibits next week, according to Christy Scally, the center’s director. “We’re still on target for a grand opening Sept. 12,” she said. The center, located off State Road 20 east of Freeport, will be the first of its kind in the world, Davis said, and has drawn interest from as far away as France. A film crew from that country visited recently and filmed a documentary, Scally said. When the center opens, it initially will cater to fourth-graders, Scally said. School officials from Walton and Bay counties already have signed up to bring students. Curriculums also are being put together for seventh-graders and high school students, she added. Okaloosa County schools have expressed interest in sending students, too. But budget issues have prevented the school district from pledging full support, Davis said. “I think it will give students a real-life experience they couldn’t get in a classroom setting,” said Mark Gardner, who as Walton County’s facilities director, has been close to the Biophilia Center construction since its inception. Glassed-in to give visitors a feel of being outside even when they’re inside, the center will feature exhibits designed by scientists with a focus on “things we need to teach the next generation,” Scally said. For example, the scientist designers saw the need to give students an understanding of pollinators and the importance of pollination in the food chain. “A large majority of our food comes to us as a result of the pollination process,” Scally said. To demonstrate that in a way to capture students’ attention, the designers decided to build an actual beehive into the wall of the Biophilia Center. Bees will be able to come and go as they please from a hive entrance that opens on the outside while visitors can observe the inner workings of the hive. Still another exhibit features piano keys on the floor. When children step on the keys, they will make animal noises. That will allow students to identify the animals they hear outside, Scally said. A theater that seats 200 will be used for entertainment and education, she said. Another priority for the designers was to come up with a way to explain the importance of the long leaf pine ecosystem, Scally added. That mission will be accomplished with exhibits and tours of Nokuse Plantation. Forests of old growth long leaf pine dominated the landscape of Northwest Florida before the trees were decimated during the 1800s and early 1900s to make room for development. Davis’ plantation encompasses 48,000 acres in Walton County, and he is devoted to restoring the long leaf pine ecosystem on his property. “It’s a 300-year project,” boasts Matt Aresco, Nokuse Plantation’s director. “We’ve replanted 7 million long leaf pines.” Aresco said he also is working to restore wire grass to the area. “When you have wire grass and long leaf, it’s usually an indication of a healthy ecosystem,” he said. Alongside all of the exhibits, Davis and his crew have developed a nature walk so students can observe the forested plantation. Davis quietly has acquired land near Freeport for years. He has managed to establish, he said, “the largest private wilderness in Florida.” Nokuse (the Creek Indian word for bear) Plantation also is important because it is a “linchpin,” Davis said, that connects Eglin Air Force Base’s reservation and other wilderness areas to the Choctawhatchee State Wildlife Management Area and points east. Davis said he sees his conservation effort as “the first chance in over a century” to do what he’s done. He said he hopes others will build centers such as the Biophilia Center. Students are the hope for the future of conservation, he said. “In the overall scheme of things this doesn’t mean much. I hope this is popular and this idea spreads out and creates ripples everywhere,” he said. “Then maybe we’ll have a chance to save the planet.”

Friday, June 5, 2009


With our economy somewhat insulated from some of the doom and gloom of the national economy, I expect our future in our local area is very bright NOW. If you want to be in the real estate market, don't wait and miss the boat.

WASHINGTON – June 5, 2009 – The pace of economic contraction is slowing, indicating the economy could bottom out and then turn up later this year, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke told the House Budget Committee on June 3. He cited recent reports, including a flattening out of the decline in consumer spending and signs of a bottom in the housing market.Bernanke said the economy “has contracted sharply since last fall, with real gross domestic product [GDP] having dropped at an average annual rate of about 6 percent during the fourth quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of this year,” Bernanke told the committee. He said 6 million jobs have been lost since the downturn began, and recent labor market information “suggests that sizable jobs losses and further increases in unemployment are likely over the next few months.”Bernanke said consumer spending, which dropped sharply in the second half of 2008, has been “roughly flat” so far in 2009, and “consumer sentiment has improved.” He also said the Obama Administration’s economic stimulus could boost spending. However, the Fed chairman said a weak job market, the loss of housing wealth, and tight credit conditions could hamper consumer spending, which would be a key component of any recovery.“Making Progress”The Fed chairman said businesses “remain very cautious and continue to reduce their workforces and capital investments. On a more positive note, firms are making progress in shedding the unwanted inventories that they accumulated following last fall’s sharp downturn in sales.”Bernanke said the Fed continues to believe economic activity will turn up later this year, based on improvements in consumer spending and housing demand supported by fiscal and monetary stimulus and stabilization in foreign economic activity. Inflation is likely to remain low over the next year, Bernanke said.However, he warned that the forecast is dependent on continuing improvement in credit markets, and he said that “even after a recovery gets under way, the rate of growth of real economic activity is likely to remain below its longer-run potential for a while, with unemployment continuing to rise even after the economy turns around.Concerns about the job market were heightened by Wednesday’s release of the ADP National Employment Report. The private sector report, which has become more closely watched in recent months, said employment decreased by 532,000 in May, vs. a revised decline of 545,000 jobs in April. While the ADP report showed a slight improvement, it was “another in a list of ‘less bad’ economic reports,” said Alan Gayle, senior investment strategist at RidgeWorth Capital Management. “We do believe that the market expectations are shifting from simple survival to sustainability, so less bad is not good enough.”

Tuesday, June 2, 2009


State of Florida takes a major step in stimulating growth and building. It is a start.

Gov. Crist signs Fla. growth management bill

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – June 2, 2009 – A growth management bill supported by business and development interests but opposed by environmentalists and local governments became law with Gov. Charlie Crist’s signature Monday.Crist said he hopes the bill (SB 360) will boost Florida’s sagging construction industry and create new jobs by making it easier to build in urban areas and extending the life of existing development permits for two years. Other provisions are designed to promote affordable housing development.“I know that it’s probably one of those bills where nobody’s going to be overly happy on either side,” Crist said. “So, hopefully it’s right down the middle and will be able to stimulate our economy and not do harm to our beautiful state.”Environmentalists, the growth management advocacy group 1000 Friends of Florida and the Florida Association of Counties had urged a veto. They argued the legislation will encourage sprawl and make Florida’s roadways even more crowded than they are now.“This is going to be a disappointment to the citizens of Florida who are already frustrated by traffic congestion,” said Florida Association of Counties spokeswoman Cragin Mosteller. “This is a big setback.”Most of the argument has been over a provision designed to correct an unintended consequence of an existing growth management law that requires ample roads and other transportation facilities to be in place before development can occur. That’s a concept known as “transportation concurrency.”It was aimed at containing sprawl but has had the opposite result. Instead of focusing growth in urban areas, concurrency has shifted it to outlying and rural areas because roads there are less congested and cheaper to build.The new law is intended to channel that growth back into cities by lifting transportation concurrency requirements in what are termed dense urban areas. State review of large regional developments also will no longer be required in those areas.The problem is the measure’s 1,000 people-per-square-mile definition of an urban area is too broad and will include suburban and rural sectors, said 1000 Friends president Charles Pattison.“The areas being exempted are not the ones that are urban and dense,” Pattison said. “This is clearly meant to benefit development interests.”Those interests certainly are happy with the new law.“Our economy needs the shot in the arm that this legislation will provide,” said John Sebree, the Florida Association of Realtors vice president for public policy.Associated Industries of Florida president and CEO Barney Bishop said the state’s prosperity hinges on its ability to grow and the new law will provide a spark by “easing the regulatory burdens that have been stifling economic growth.”Florida Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Mark Wilson also praised the legislation while criticizing “special interests and others” for making “a last-minute push to politicize” the issue.Crist also cited a provision calling for a study of mobility fees that would replace transportation concurrency and spread costs for new roads and other facilities more broadly across communities.The fee concept has drawn support from all sides in the growth management debate, but Pattison noted the state already is conducting the study, so there was no need to put it in the law. The results are expected to be ready for next year’s legislative session.