Wednesday, November 18, 2009


I guess you can see by the amount of money the Department of Defense has ear marked for a number of military bases in the State of Florida, that the State of Florida will be very important for our National Security. I expect with the change in military strategy we should see some additional money coming our way, as we close up our military bases aboard, which will save the military a significant amount of money.

US Senate OK's funding for Florida military and VA construction projects. Senate approves funding for improvements. Bill now goes to conference.

The effort to base a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in Jacksonville took another big step forward today when the U.S. Senate committed $75.9 million for two key projects at Naval Station Mayport.

The move comes just three weeks after the President signed into law legislation that gave the government’s approval but not the actual money for the projects.

The money was included in broader legislation that funds numerous construction projects at military bases and veterans’ facilities across the country.
Specifically, the military construction appropriations bill allocates $46.3 million for dredging the St. Johns River, an improvement that’s necessary for carriers to access Mayport at all times.
Currently, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers can only access Mayport with a light load and during high tide.

The legislation also includes $29.6 million for wharf improvements.
Currently, the Navy’s Atlantic fleet of nuclear carriers is based in just one port in Norfolk, Virginia.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Reps. Corrine Brown and Ander Crenshaw, a Democrat and a Republican from Jacksonville, respectively, argue that poses a national security risk.
The Department of Defense is studying the risks and expected to make a final decision imminently on whether to move a nuclear carrier to Jacksonville.

“We’ve gotten the government’s OK for the improvements, now we just need to bring home the funding,” Nelson said following the Senate’s vote Tuesday. “Once we have that then it’s up to the Pentagon to do the right thing for national security by dispersing the Atlantic carrier fleet.”
The House of Representatives has already passed a version of the military construction spending bill that contains funding for the Mayport improvements.

The House and Senate passed spending bills now head to a panel of congressional negotiators charged with working out differences between the two versions.
Congress is expected to give final approval for the Mayport funding by the end of the year.
Besides Mayport, the spending bill also provides over $920 million in funding for a number of other construction projects across Florida. They include:• Eglin AFB - $246.49M of military construction funding for various F-35 and 7th Special Forces Group basing projects.• Orlando VA - $371.3M for new VA medical facility.• Bay Pines VA Healthcare System - $96.8M for an inpatient/outpatient facility. • Hurlburt Field - $18.65M of military construction funding for a vehicle maintenance facility, re-capitalization of an MC-130 simulator, and electrical improvements.• Pensacola Naval Air Station - $26.2M for a new bachelors enlisted housing facility and a simulator facility.• Whiting Field - $4.12M for a paraloft facility.• Panama City - $7.3M to purchase land for a new Army Reserve Center.• Jacksonville Naval Air Station - $5.91M to modify existing facilities for the Navy's new P-8 aircraft.• Jacksonville International Air Port (Air National Guard base) - $11.5M to replace a jet fuel storage complex.• Blount Island - $3.76M for a port operations facility.• Patrick Air Force Base - $8.4M for a combat weapons training facility.• MacDill Air Force Base - $38.3M for a new child development center and U.S. Central Command’s commandant facility.• U.S. Southern Command headquarters - $55.4 M for the 3rd increment of the headquarters’ project.• West Palm Beach - $26M to purchase land for a new Army Reserve Center.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


As noted on many occasions, with the new Panama City International Airport and the multi-missions/multi-services at Eglin AFB and the surrounding military bases, Northwest Florida will be on the map for both the national and international communities to not only invest, but enjoy the many things our region has to offer (like the crystal white beaches of the Gulf Coast).

By PAT KELLY / News Herald Writer
2009-11-13 20:49:06
PANAMA CITY BEACH — The new economic development czar for The St. Joe Co. told the Panama City Beach Chamber of Commerce on Friday that Northwest Florida had the potential to duplicate or even surpass the high-tech growth of North Carolina’s research triangle.
With the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport set to open in May, the region’s “branding” is poised to go from bathing suits to business suits, said Kevin Johnson, new vice president of economic development for St. Joe.
“You can not only have a great tan, but make a million bucks,” said Johnson, who previously served as business development vice president for the Research Triangle Foundation of North Carolina.
All that was needed to make it happen was “regional leadership,” he said, with the opposition coming from a divisiveness generated by the parochial squabbling of interests represented by “political jurisdictions.”
“The enemy of high-impact economic development progress is political jurisdictions,” said Johnson, who will encourage companies such as aerospace, aviation and defense to expand or relocate near the new $318 million airport under construction near West Bay.
When the research triangle was first formed by state and local governments in the late 1950s, North Carolina was the second-poorest state in the country, Johnson said. Today, North Carolina ranks 25th in the country and the area around the research triangle has the second-highest per-capita income in the state.
“I think we can do that here,” Johnson said.
Both Johnson and airport executive director Randy Curtis were speaking to the chamber Friday about the economic influence of the new airport, the center of a 71,000-acre state-sanctioned West Bay Area Sector Plan of long-term industrial and residential development.
Johnson said the 7,000-acre research triangle in North Carolina is one of the most prominent research-and-development centers in the United States. It is sometimes compared to Silicon Valley, Calif., another high-tech corridor now dominated by computer companies.
Johnson said the West Bay Sector, with 10 times as many acres, roughly the size of Washington, D.C., had the capacity to outstrip the North Carolina effort by creating a “new urban land form.”
The resulting development could revolutionize the economic landscape of Northwest Florida “to put a stamp on it for a new generation,” Johnson told the large chamber crowd.
“We still don’t have the numbers,” he said, noting that he has asked for labor data for 100 miles in every direction from the new airport. His research will be shared with prospective industries.
Corps letter
Curtis told the crowd the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers sent a letter Thursday to the Federal Aviation Administration, giving its approval for the 1,600-foot extension on the new airport’s runway, which will lengthen the runway to 10,000 feet.
“We are ready to go” on the extension’s construction as soon as the FAA signs off on the Corps’ recommendation, Curtis said after the meeting.
Not only are airport officials hopeful the new facility will make its projected May 18 grand opening, “it’s more than a goal; it will happen,” Curtis told the chamber crowd.
Curtis briefed the crowd on the construction progress of the new airport’s 120,000 square feet of terminal space, 2.5 miles of main access road and the facility’s 16,000-square-foot baggage handling area, which he called “truly state-of-the-art technology.”

Friday, November 13, 2009


Here is a great opportunity for our service men and women to benefit from the Tax Credit. In our area and the missions our folks have, it will be a great plus.

SAN DIEGO – Nov. 13, 2009 – According to the National Association of Realtors@ (NAR), the recent homebuyer tax credit extension expands benefits for the U.S. military.Armed service, intelligence service and foreign service personnel on active duty and out of the U.S. for 90 days during any part of 2009 get an additional year to buy their homes – to May 1, 20ll. Another benefit is a waiver on the time of occupancy. Most homebuyers using the tax credit must use that home as a principal residence for a period of no fewer than three years or forfeit the entire credit. But military, intelligence and foreign service members do not have to repay the credit if they sell their home in less than three years if they move because of official business. “NAR is the leading advocate for private property and homeownership issues, and firmly believes that those who are in service to their country should be full participants in the homebuyer tax credit law,” says NAR President Charles McMillan. “These men and women are often hindered by hardships from full participation in the American dream of homeownership because their duty disrupts them in the buying and selling of a home.” NAR was a main advocate for the homebuyer’s tax credit extension into 2010 and its expansion to include present homeowners. Under the tax credit extension, eligible first-time homebuyers can get a tax credit up to $8,000. Current homeowners are eligible for a $6,500 tax credit, provided they have lived in the home they are selling, or have sold, as their principal residence for five consecutive years in the past eight years. Income limits for eligible homebuyers are expanded to $125,000 for single buyers and $225,000 for couples. The purchase price of the home cannot exceed $800,000. To help guard against fraud, buyers are required to attach documentation of purchase to their tax return.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Ready, Get Set, GO!!!! That is my view of the real estate market for the Panhandle of Florida. With the confidence building and supply of quality homes coming to an end, the normal military transfer cycle, reduction of military housing on Eglin AFB, and the movement of thousands of military members to our area; I suspect we will find our area taking off quite rapidly. Just an observation. STAY TUNED.

NEW YORK – Nov. 11, 2009 – One in 20 Americans say they plan to buy a home within the next year, and they’re most likely to be 34 years old or younger and living in the South or West, according to a survey released Wednesday.Roughly a quarter of potential buyers said the No. 1 reason they would buy now is because prices appear to have bottomed out. That reason topped bargain-priced foreclosures, worries about rising interest rates and a wide selection of homes. The survey, conducted for, a real estate listings site, reveals how Americans are responding to a nascent and fragile housing recovery after three years of staggering price declines. The percentage of buyers thinking of jumping into the market was down slightly from a March survey, but up about 1 point from a poll in June. Home prices rebounded this summer at an annualized pace of almost 7 percent, according to the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index. But with high unemployment and foreclosures clouding the picture, economists debate whether prices will dip again. Recent housing figures and homebuilder earnings support a stabilizing housing market, and concerns about the expiration of federal homebuyer tax credit are moot after Congress last week extended and expanded the credit. Buyers who have owned their current homes for at least five years are eligible for tax credits of up to $6,500, while first-time homebuyers - or anyone who hasn’t owned a home in the last three years - would still get up to $8,000. To qualify, buyers have to sign a purchase agreement by April 30, 2010, and close by June 30.The survey was conducted before the credit extension. Those surveyed widely favored federal policies that kept interest rates low and helped troubled homeowners avoid foreclosure over those that helped first-time homebuyers purchase a home. And, overall, 48 percent of those polled didn’t think the government was doing enough to stabilize the housing market, whereas 42 percent thought it was.Forty-five percent of Americans worry that they or someone they know will face foreclosure in the next year. And almost 30 percent of those with a mortgage have contacted their lender in the past year to reduce their payments. One of the survey participants, Joe Handley of Harrington, Del., called his lender last December to consolidate a second mortgage and cut his interest rate from 6.75 percent to 5.25 percent.“We wanted to build up our savings for emergencies,” the 37-year-old said.His timing was prescient. In July, Handley, who works in the information technology department for the State of Delaware, took a pay cut and the $400 monthly savings from the new loan has helped cushion the blow.Almost a quarter of Americans who refinanced their mortgages have used the savings for living expenses or paying down debt, the survey found. Less than 9 percent are putting the savings toward investment or retirement.The telephone poll, which included about two-thirds homeowners and one-third renters, was conducted in October by market research firm GfK. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


Look out folks. If this is happening on a state level, can you imagine what might be getting ready to happen in our local area with the growth on the horizon and the reduction of military homes. The burden is on the home builders and developers. This burden is only compounded by the access to money to build. BANKS LET THE MONEY GO. If not, you will cause prices to soar again. SUPPLY AND DEMAND. Do I say more?

Florida's existing home, condo sales up in 3Q 2009

ORLANDO, Fla. – Nov. 10, 2009 – Sales of existing single-family homes in Florida rose 33 percent in third quarter 2009 compared to the same period a year earlier, according to the latest housing statistics from Florida Realtors®. A total of 44,345 existing homes sold statewide in 3Q 2009; during the same period the year before, a total of 33,311 existing homes sold. It marks the fifth consecutive quarter that Florida has seen higher existing year-to-year home sales, according to the state association.Statewide sales of existing condominiums in the third quarter rose 56 percent compared to the same time the previous year. This marks the fourth consecutive quarter for increased statewide sales in both the existing home and condo markets compared to year-ago levels. Statewide sales activity in 3Q 2009 also increased over 2Q 2009’s sales figure in both the existing home and existing condo markets, Florida Realtors’ records show. For 3Q 2009, statewide sales of existing homes rose 2.82 percent over the 2Q 2009 figure; existing condo sales statewide in 3Q 2009 increased 0.37 percent over the 2Q 2009 level.To gain insight into current trends in Florida’s real estate industry, the University of Florida’s Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies conducts a quarterly survey of industry executives, market research economists, real estate scholars and other experts.“Most economists think the recession is over, but people are afraid to spend money as unemployment keeps going up, which creates problems for every sector of the real estate market,” said Tim Becker, the center’s director.On the positive side, survey respondents expressed increasing optimism about their own business outlook, and predicted great opportunities for future investment. Becker noted that the euro’s favorable exchange rate against the dollar and the availability of desirable commercial property at low prices is encouraging international investors.“Everybody thinks that Florida will rebound because we have so much going for us – the sun shines every day and there are a lot of advantages to living here,” he said. “Foreign investors see that too and believe their prospects are good for long-term investments.”All of Florida’s metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) reported increased sales of existing homes in the third quarter compared to the same three-month-period a year earlier, while 17 MSAs showed gains in condo sales.The statewide existing-home median sales price was $145,400 in the third quarter; a year earlier, it was $185,600 for a decrease of 22 percent. The 3Q 2009 statewide existing-home median sales price was 1.25 percent higher than 2Q’s statewide existing-home median sales price of $143,600. According to industry analysts with the National Association of Realtors® (NAR), sales of foreclosures and other distressed properties continue to downwardly distort the median price because they generally sell at a discount relative to traditional homes. The median is a typical market price where half the homes sold for more, half for less.In the year-to-year quarterly comparison for condo sales, 14,797 units sold statewide for the quarter compared to 9,488 in 3Q 2008 for a 56 percent increase. The statewide existing-condo median sales price was $106,100 for the three-month period; in 3Q 2008, it was $160,100 for a decrease of 34 percent.Low mortgage rates remain another favorable influence on the housing sector. According to Freddie Mac, the national commitment rate for a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.16 percent in 3Q 2009; one year earlier, it averaged 6.32 percent.


President Obama signed the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act which includes a 3.4 percent pay increase for all servicemembers. This raise is .5 percent lower than the 2009 military pay increase. However, considering current economic conditions this may prove to be a generous increase when compared to the civilian wage rates.

The 2010 military pay increase will go into effect on January 1, 2010 and will be reflected by the mid-January paydate.

This does not include the Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), which service members get for living off base. This amount is adjusted to the average rental market in the surrounding area and a few other criterias from the previous year. These new amounts are expected to be released in mid-December 2009. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


If you don't think the Army's 7th Special Forces is important to our region and the country. Think again. It didn't take long for the Federal Government to decide how important this overpass would be for our area and the Army. History note. Eglin AFB started as an Army Base. I believe it will come full circle and the Army is sure to play a major role in our local military population. I also believe from the happenings of the world and our military, we should get use to seeing a lot more Army Green than Air Force Blue in the near future. Also, I believe some have talked about Eglin Air Force Base being changed to Eglin Armed Forces Base.

Funding secured for SR 85 overpass
Dusty Ricketts
2009-11-04 19:05:01
CRESTVIEW — Funding has been secured to build an overpass on State Road 85 to reduce congestion as additional traffic arrives because of the bed down of the 7th Special Forces Group.
U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller has worked to secure funding for the overpass, to be located at SR 85 and McWhorter Avenue, since it was announced in 2005 that the Army’s 7th Special Forces would be headquartered on Eglin Air Force Base.
“We started the process then because we knew there would need to be some type of traffic control device there, and a red light would just slow traffic down and cause more congestion,” Miller said. “An overpass certainly makes much more sense.”
The project will include an elevated road at the entrance to Duke Field that would cross over State Road 85. The restricted road would allow military personnel and equipment to cross SR 85 without impeding traffic.
Miller said the biggest issue with the $15 million project was trying to determine who would fund it. In addition to having talks with the Army and Air Force about it, Miller met with state and federal Departments of Transportation representatives and even county officials.
Ultimately, it was decided that the funds for the overpass would come from the Air Force’s 2010 BRAC budget.
“It could have dragged on for several years,” Miller said. “The idea was to look for funding in as many areas as possible and of course access the first funds to come available.”
With funding allocated, Miller said work will now start on the design of the overpass. Planning is expected to be a relatively quick process as the military already owns the land on both sides of SR 85, so no land acquisition is needed.
Still, no timeline has been announced for when construction is expected to begin.
Construction is under way west of SR 85 on a 600,000-square-foot facility that will serve as the headquarters of the 7th Special Forces. An estimated 5,000 to 6,000 new residents will move to the region when the special forces group arrives in 2011.

Monday, November 2, 2009


St. Joe Co. weathers recession by thinking big
By MELISSA NELSON (AP) – 2 hours ago

SANTA ROSA BEACH, Fla. — Building along the Florida Panhandle's picturesque seaside slowed when financing dried up and the economy soured. Fences with architects' renderings of developments hide the unfinished eyesores dotting the beaches.
But the St. Joe Co.'s construction cranes and earth movers never stopped and its high-end vacation retreats and shopping centers are being built along with taxpayer-funded roads and an international airport, the nation's first since the 2001 terrorist attacks. Southwest Airlines recently agreed to service the airport, an announcement St. Joe CEO Britton Greene touted as a milestone in the company's 80-year history.

"This changes the dynamics of what we have as a land company," he said, standing in an unfinished terminal beneath a sign with the May 18 targeted opening.
Rooted in the Great Depression, St. Joe Co. was founded by a DuPont chemical heir who bought a wide swath of the Panhandle for pennies an acre.

Today, St. Joe is pushing a massive plan to transform into an international destination this region long known as the "Redneck Riviera" for its cheap motels, kitschy tourist attractions and appeal among Southern tourists. The strategy's lynchpin: The new Northwest Florida-Panama City International Airport on 4,000 acres west of Panama City donated by the company.
St. Joe's stock price jumped 6 percent to $28.63 a share the afternoon of Oct. 21 when Greene announced the agreement with Dallas-based Southwest to offer eight daily flights out of the airport. The destinations of the Southwest flights haven't been determined. On Monday, the company's stock was trading around $24 a share.

Under an agreement between the company and the airline, St. Joe will cover fuel costs if Southwest fails to break even on ticket purchases during the first three years. The company and the airport will pay up to $14 million the first year and $12 million the second year.
St. Joe Co. operated as a timber and paper manufacturer until 1996 when it got out of those businesses and turned to land development. It hired Peter Rummell, the former head of real estate for Walt Disney Co., and started selling off sections of it's then nearly 1 million acres, which had made it Florida's largest private landowner for decades.

Greene, the company's former chief operating officer, replaced Rummell as CEO in 2008.
The company today owns about 590,000 acres — including 72,000 acres surrounding the new airport — and is Florida's No. 2 private landowner behind Seattle-based Plum Creek Timber Co.
St. Joe is banking it's future on the airport and the estimated 2,000 passengers a day Southwest could bring to open that land to the rest of the country.

A chunk of St. Joe's holdings include undeveloped stretches of pristine Panhandle beaches where white sand is lapped by turquoise waters. The company has slowly developed some of those areas with high-end vacation homes, shopping centers, golf courses and hotels. It has also donated or sold thousands of acres to the state and federal government for roads that will eventually connect company properties in several counties to the airport and to the Panhandle's major interstate.

The company's detractors say St. Joe's massive landholdings and political clout have allowed it to quietly reshape the region with taxpayer money, pushing through public infrastructure projects and zoning changes with little fanfare.

Linda Young, director of the Clean Water Network of Florida, has spent years fighting the airport construction in sensitive wetland areas. But state and federal agencies have generally sided with St. Joe and she said her group is running short of money to continue its legal fight. The New York-based nonprofit Natural Resources Defense Council, which also tried to stop the airport, also surrendered.

"When people say that the St. Joe Company is all powerful and that is pointless to stand up against them, I'm hard pressed to argue that," Young said.
St. Joe is unique because of its age and its vast land holdings, said Jim Wilson, a financial analyst with California-based JMP Securities. This makes it difficult to compare St. Joe to other land companies, he said.

Analysts have likened St. Joe to California-based Tejon Ranch, a publicly traded company that started in 1843 as a Mexican land grant and includes 240,000 acres north of Los Angeles, and to Irvine Company, a private firm that began as a large ranch and became the planned community of Irvine, Calif.

"In the Panhandle, St. Joe will have most if not all of the influence over how Florida develops," Wilson said. "They are in good shape financially because they have no debt and very few employees. The question is at what price they sell land and at what pace they sell it. I see that part of Florida developing and expanding, it's just a question of when."

St. Joe hasn't made it through the last several years unscathed as the Florida real estate market tanked. The company slashed more than 700 of its 1,000 employees by outsourcing its golf and resort-management businesses and moving those employees to the contractors it hired. St. Joe also got out of the home-building business and instead began recruiting construction firms as partners to build on its land.

Jerry Ray, longtime St. Joe spokesman and vice president, said the company's size and its massive land holdings have allowed it to weather to downturn.
"We exist because we were forward looking during the Depression," he said. "Because of the land assets that we accumulated back then, we do not have a peer today."

Home sales and construction are ongoing at WaterColor and WaterSound, two luxury home resorts on secluded beaches. At WaterColor, winding brick bike paths circle pastel cottages surrounded by white picket fences. At WaterSound, boardwalks cover sand dunes and lead to Nantucket-style beach homes with wide porches and breathtaking views of the Gulf of Mexico.
In one section of WaterColor, 17 homes were listed for sale at around $850,000 each and two of the homes sold in 2008. In 2009, the company priced the remaining homes for $500,000 or less and sold them all.

St. Joe Vice President Tom Dodson traces lines with his finger from the northeastern United States and the Midwest to the remote swath of Florida Panhandle where his office in the WaterSound development is located.

The airport, he says, will bring the company's vision of a new Florida to the rest of the world.
And the new Florida St. Joe plans to build will be very different from the high-rise condominiums and congested expressways of South Florida, he said.
"What people like, what people embrace about this area, is that there aren't any giant condominiums. We are creating places and you don't do that by blocking views and access to the beach," he said.

CEO Greene says the company has a chance to reshape Florida by creating new towns, resorts, shopping centers, hotels and highways in places that haven't much more than a few timber mills for generations until now.

"Because this part of the state is so new and so green we have the opportunity to be one of the leaders in job growth," he said. "We don't have the massive vacant real estate overhang that they have in other parts of the state."

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserve