Friday, February 26, 2010


People do you not see what is happening. It is an explosion. New Army Post, F-35 Training Squardron, Crestview Airport Upgrades, New Technology Park in Crestview, NWF State College Expansion in Crestview, FAMU Explansion in Crestview, and much much more. If you have seen it personally, get in your car and see. It will astonish you.

Upgrades to attract new business planned for Bob Sikes Airport
Brian Hughes
2010-02-26 09:37:31

Local residents, business and community leaders had the opportunity to hear about planned improvements to the Crestview Bob Sikes Airport at a Wednesday morning briefing.
Okaloosa County Airports project manager Tracy Stage and airports Director Greg Donovan briefed a small audience at the North Okaloosa Fire District’s airport station’s meeting room on the progress of the airport’s master plan.
“This is something we’ve been working on over the last two to five years,” Stage explained.
Stage said the document is needed when seeking funding or permits to proceed with improvements from the Federal Aviation Administration or the Florida Department of Transportation.
“The FAA will ask, ‘Is this something that you have in your master plan?’” Stage said.
“If it’s not in our master plan, we cannot even apply for federal or state grants,” Donovan added. He emphasized that all improvements to the airport are made using funds generated by airport activities, grants or the national Aviation Trust Fund.
New improvements being considered for the master plan include widening existing taxiways, establishing a storm water runoff mitigation plan, adding new hangars, building future taxiways, expanding vehicle parking, and establishing a Runway Protection Zone. Attracting new industry to the airport vicinity is also a priority, he said.
By “ganging” several projects while a contractor is on site, the airport will save money, Stage explained, and might also be able to accomplish lower priority projects “if we have the funding.”
Taxiways and storm water
Bids will likely go out in May for widening the existing taxiways and adding taxiway lighting, Stage said. One reason for widening taxiways is to accommodate larger cargo planes.
Currently the airport is in competition to secure a mission to deliver a fleet of helicopters destined for Fort Rucker near Dothan, Ala. The aircraft would be delivered from Ramstein AFB in Germany to a suitable airport in the vicinity in the cavernous cargo hold of the giant, Russian-made Antonov An-124, the second-largest cargo airplane in the world. However, an impediment is the Crestview airport’s 50-ft.-wide taxiways.
“Our limitation is not the runway length. The runway is essentially brand new,” said Donovan. “Our limitation now is the taxiway widths for the very largest of aircraft.”
Donovan said Stage and his staff have produced models that show the An-124 could turn using existing taxiways, however excessive forward and backward maneuvering would be needed.
“There's a 50/50 chance they will go to another airport,” Donovan lamented.
At the same time the airport will also address storm water management, a concern that the airport has not previously addressed, Stage said. Including storm water management in the master plan will streamline the permitting process with the Northwest Florida Water Management District, airport staff said.
Donovan said the plan would provide a “bank” of projects “so we wouldn’t have to go to the Water Management District for each project.”
“We have been building out here for years but deferring our storm water management responsibilities,” Donovan acknowledged.
New hangars
Like a developer putting in streets, sewer and water hook-ups for new homes, the airport has installed infrastructure to accommodate new hangars, including as many as 14 “Tee-hangars,” which are smaller than standard rectangular hangars. They get their name from their T-shaped floor plan, which allows several hangars to be nested together in a row. As part of the infrastructure, the master plan also calls for expanded vehicle parking.
“With (the old) Panama City (Airport) closing soon, there is going to be a lot of general aviation folks looking for hangar space,” Stage said, explaining the impending opening of the city’s new commercial aviation airport will result in the closing of the current airport, which is shared by both commercial and private aircraft.
“The infrastructure is already in place” at Crestview airport, Donovan said, adding that new tenants will bear the expense of constructing their own hangar.
“We took it a step further,” added Stage. “Not only is the infrastructure in the ground, we developed a package” of step-by-step instructions of what a tenant needs to do to build and move in, including information on local and county permitting. Stage added there is government funding available for general aviation operators to relocate to new facilities when Panama City Airport shuts down.
New hangar owners must sign a lease, typically for 30 years, during which they will own the hangar facilities. After the lease expires, ownership of the hangar reverts to the county.
Runway Protection Zone
Airport staff presented an aerial view of the north end of the runway overlaid by a grid delineating the airport’s Runway Protection Zone (RPZ).
“What we're looking at is preventing another Destin scenario from happening,” Donovan explained.
In Destin, residential development has occurred right up to the Destin Airport’s property line. It has restricted any airport expansion and limited the types of services the county can provide at the airport. Crestview’s airport, Donovan said, is fortunate that it has an undeveloped buffer area around it, apart from compatible industries such as BAE Systems, L-3 Crestview Aerospace, and businesses at the county Air Park.
The proposed easement area at Crestview’s airport will “keep new development out of this box,” Stage said, indicating the zone on an aerial photo. The plan will be filed with the county growth management department, so when developers inquire, “the county will know they can’t build in there.”
“We need to have this area,” said Donovan. “It’s critical to us to not have any obstructions.”
A resident, who said he lives northeast of the RPZ, asked if there was any chance the airport’s area would expand, such as if a new runway was to be added.
“This airport would do well to have a tower,” Donovan said, but assured him, “but I don’t see this airport in the next 50 years requiring another runway.”
The only place a runway could go is parallel to the existing runway, Donovan said, “but the topography’s bad,” including low-lying areas that are prone to flooding and rolling terrain.
Wednesday’s meeting was the final public meeting for the Crestview Airport’s master plan. “We’ll go back and second the next couple weeks incorporating anything else that came out of the meeting,” Stage said. He anticipates the final version will be ready to go the FAA within a month.
“It’s very important to have this plan in place,” Stage said.


The below are just a few photos of the new 7th Army Special Forces Group Post being constructed as of February 26, 2010. If this don't excite you about the growth of our area. You just don't have a pulse.


As you can see, the F-35 Training Program at Eglin is alive and well and moving forward. Instructors instructing, students learning, and maintenance personnel getting ready to maintain the planes upon their arrival. Most people don't realize the advances Eglin AFB has made in preparing this state of the art facility for the most advanced Fighter in the WORLD!!! Okay folks, it is happening, just as the Army 7th Special Forces is coming. It truly amazes me everyday when I hear folks say, I not sure these folks are coming. BASICALLY FOLKS. It is NATIONAL SECURITY that these groups and others come. SIMPLE AS THAT.

Pilots at Eglin Air Force Base are one step closer to the cockpit of a next-generation fighter jet. In a ceremony at Eglin's 33rd Fighter Wing Thursday morning, pilots from the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps were fitted for fireproof flight suits, survival equipment and other gear they will wear while piloting the F-35 Lightning II, a new fighter jet scheduled to arrive at the base in the fall. "We fit them from their underwear all the way to the outer gear they would wear in cold weather," said Randy Epperly, the manager of the pilot-fitting facility at Eglin. The F-35, previously known as the Joint Strike Fighter, will be used by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps as well as eight foreign militaries. Eglin will be a primary training facility for F-35 crew and maintenance personnel. The first F-35 is scheduled to arrive at the base this fall. "We're not 100 percent, but we've got everything here to get started so when the training does start, they'll be ready to go," said Dale Hensley, Lockheed Martin's deputy for the support equipment program. The three pilots fitted Thursday will serve as flight instructors for the F-35. "This is the first big step to getting in the airplane, and we're looking forward to flying it this fall," said Marine Corps Maj. Tyler Bardo, one of the pilots fitted Thursday. The defense department has ordered three variants of the aircraft — a conventional takeoff and landing version for the Air Force, a carrier-based variant for Naval forces, and a short takeoff and vertical-landing variant with capabilities similar to the Harrier jump jet for the Marine Corps. Bardo, who has flown Harrier jump jets on combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, said he is excited about being one of the first pilots selected to fly the F-35. "There's a wealth of outstanding pilots in the Navy and Marine Corps ... I got lucky," he said. "I think every one of us is extremely honored to be one of the first fighter pilots in this new jet." Lockheed Martin officials used the event to praise the aircraft's technological advances and futuristic control interface. Chief among the advancements: a helmet-mounted display that gives pilots a virtual 360-degree view of the plane's surroundings. The display is linked to external video cameras that allow pilots to "see" through the floor and other solid parts of the aircraft.
The high-tech helmets require a perfect fit, and each has a custom liner made with a laser scan of the pilot's head. Navy Capt. Mike Saunders, one of the pilots fitted Thursday, voiced his approval while trying on a highly polished and custom-painted version of the helmet.
"This helmet feels good ... I'll take one," Saunders said, with a touch of fighter-pilot understatement. "I know they're not cheap."

Thursday, February 25, 2010


Bigger Planes, More Flights, equals more visitors. Local out Panama City and the surrounding area. I believe our country and the world is going to get a big taste of Northwest Florida.

Delta will add larger planes at new airport
Pat Kelly / News Herald Writer
2010-02-25 07:02:15
PANAMA CITY BEACH — Delta Air Lines has announced it will add two additional flights per day with larger aircraft when the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport opens in late May.
Randy Curtis, airport executive director, said the new jets will be McDonnell Douglas MD-88 models, which have a seating capacity if 142.
Delta currently uses its connector service, Atlantic Southeast Airlines, on flights from Panama City to Atlanta and Memphis, and ASA flies regional Bombardier Canadair jets in the 50- and 70-seat range. The new airport, with its 10,000-foot runway, is expected to begin operations May 23.

The announcement by Delta is seen by airport officials as a direct response to the decision by low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines to begin operations from the new airport. Lower fares by Delta are also expected, Curtis said.

Southwest, which uses only Boeing 737 aircraft with a normal seating capacity of 138, has committed to operating eight daily non-stop flights from Panama City to Orlando, Nashville, Tenn., Baltimore and Houston when the new airport opens.

Delta, via ASA, will continue to operate its regular schedule of flights to Atlanta and Memphis using its regional Canadair jets. The May 23 opening date for the airport comes just a week before Memorial Day, the traditional start of the summer tourism season.

In other business during Tuesday’s Airport Authority board meeting, Jeff Dealy of KBR, program manager for the airport relocation project, said the $318 million facility near West Bay was now 89 percent complete overall, with the terminal at the 85 percent completion mark.

He said the $4 million state-of-the-art 16,000-square-foot baggage handling system was on track for the Transportation Security Administration to begin testing in early April. In addition, several of the outlying structures of the $63 million seven-building terminal complex should be completed by the end of March, Dealy said.

“The biggest issue right now is the ponds and finalizing the storm drainage system,” Dealy said. The system, when finally operational, is expected to eliminate much of the current concerns by the Department of Environmental Protection over un-permitted stormwater discharges from the airport site.

Recent stormwater currently held in pond C, the main filtration facility of the yet-to-be-completed system, is scheduled to begin a draw-down today so work on the system can continue. Dealy said he hoped to have the drainage system finalized by the end of March.
Watershed experts with the St. Andrew Bay Resource Management Association’s Bay Watch Program said they were aware of this week’s discharge plans and would be monitoring the silt levels of nearby Crooked Creek and Burnt Mill Creek for higher-than-permitted turbidity readings.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


The above is where hundreds of military homes used to be last year at Eglin AFB and a place where I grew up as a military brat. It will be years before we will see any homes here and the private sector will be asked to meet the housing demand for the military in our area. As said before, supply of homes is reducing and demand for homes for military families rising. Do I need to say more?


The following are words from the President of the Okaloosa County Economic Development Council. As you will see by his remarks, Okaloosa County is a leader in the push for economic growth. I have noted many times, the possibilities for our area is unimaginable when it comes to economic growth and we have a choice. Get on the Train and ride or just sit back at the station and watch is drive away.

The Opportunity to Lead by Example

Okaloosa County and Northwest Florida have an opportunity to show Florida and the Nation that we are taking control in guiding our local economies to a new trajectory. Recently, Okaloosa County experienced the lowest unemployment rate in our Northwest Florida region; largely due to the gradual build-up of Eglin AFB, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Initial Training Center and the 7th Special Forces Groups (Airborne). Construction activity that may not be visible to most civilians is taking place across from Duke Field and inside Eglin's gate at the site of the former 33rd FW. More visible construction is taking place by the Northwest Florida Regional Airport with the development of the 123 Bypass. But not all new growth is directly related to the above activities. Expansion of local businesses in the north and south end of our county is also taking place in non-military business sectors. JOBS are being created and projected in information technologies, retail businesses and other small businesses inside our borders. Congress is also authorizing the Small Business Administration to increase loan amounts and assistance to small businesses seeking export opportunities; figuring that lifting small business export sales will bolster the creation of JOBS. Also of importance to our small businesses will be their ability to have increased lender guarantees for the SBA's 7(a) and 504 loan programs. This congressional move and the elimination of certain fees may encourage bankers to address the financial needs of small businesses seeking new growth and new JOBS. Okaloosa County is a technology leader not only in Northwest Florida but throughout Florida. We possess some of the best schools and students in Florida and our students rank high in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields. Okaloosa County is a manufacturing leader! Only a few other metropolitan statistical areas (MSA's) in the country have experienced positive manufacturing growth over the past 10 years, and we rank 2nd in growth in the United States! So what can we do to take advantage of all that we have going for us and make the rest of the world stand up and pay attention to our "success trends"? One movement we can highlight is the movement toward ethics and fair play. Businesses today must provide not only value but values. Consumers are looking at the culture of the company to determine the level of respect they will give to this company and its industry sector. The respect we have for the military and defense contractors that support our military has to be one of the highest anywhere. They are the backbone of our economy (along with tourism) and they provide a high percentage of the high wage JOBS that fuel our local economies. Another movement we can highlight is an increased emphasis on partnerships. I'm speaking of local governments outwardly working toward strengthening their approach to supporting business growth and partnering with Chambers of Commerce and the Economic Development Council. This is leadership by example and we need to market this movement that is taking place in our communities. Our business climate is superior to many of the major and mid-markets in Florida and the U.S. If we want to continue to grow and create quality JOBS we can help by marketing our values to the world. Continuing education is also growing in our area. Everything is focused on betterment, training, development and moving forward. Another movement that we can be proud of is the movement to buy locally. The Chambers of Commerce, the Economic Development Council, and our local governments all promote this effort. The EDC's TeCMEN organization was established under this premise, to network and do business with TeCMEN members. It works! And TeCMEN continues to move forward because the members all benefit from doing business with other companies in their own "backyard". Value-driven business and consumer movements are allowing our county and its communities to force capitalism to do better. We have this special opportunity to show how our communities have taken the lead to strengthen our own recovery and show others how it works.

Larry SassanoPresident, EDC

Sunday, February 21, 2010


If you need further convincing that Crestview is poised for growth, you should read on. The following story is something which should help solidify this information.

The major economic center for Okaloosa County,Crestview anticipates a new population boom
by Lilly Rockwell

Civil Engineer JimWeeks is standing near a conference table at his downtown Crestview office, examining an aerial map posted on a wall. The map shows the rooftops of homes and businesses to the right and the vast greenery of treetops to the left. At the bottom is the bustling gray line of Interstate 10 and a glimpse of the Shoal River. “Fox Valley is right here,” Weeks says, pointing to the treetops. Fox Valley is a 130-home subdivision, with single-family homes that sell on average for $223,000, according to data compiled by Crestview Sales Force. “We’ve built Phase I right here, and Phase IIhere,” Weeks says, eyeballing what was undeveloped land six years ago. When it’s completed, Fox Valley will have more than 500 homes. The development of Fox Valley, with its smooth lawns, rolling hills, skyscraping pine trees and proximity to the Foxwood Country Club, demonstrates the steady growth that the city of Crestview and its surrounding communi­ties have experienced over the past 15 years. Buffered in the south by the drive-through commerce of I-10 and the reliable, well-paying jobs offered at Eglin Air Force Base, Crestview is poised for more growth be­cause of its affordable housing, proximity to the coastand the Air Force base.

“Crestview is a small town that has been hit by some fast growth,” says Todd Stephens, the owner of Southern American Homes, a Crest­view-based home-building company. Stephens left a home-building job in South Florida for Crestview in 2007. City cheerleaders, including Crestview Cham­ber of Commerce Director Wayne Harris, also turn to a map when they want to pitch Crest­view’s growth potential. Okaloosa County, where Crestview resides, has 41 percent of its land swallowed by the sprawl­ing, 724-square mile Eglin Air Force base in the south. There are slivers of land just south of the base that make up the cities of Niceville, Destin and Fort Walton Beach. But those com­munities, Harris and other boosters say, cannot expand; they are locked in by the base to the north and the Gulf of Mexico to the south. Meanwhile, 30 minutes north of the beach communities, is Crestview, which has no barriers con­straining its growth. There are thousands of acres of undevel­oped land in the greater Crestview area, which stretches right up to the Alabama state line. “There’s a tremendous amount of land there,” Harris says. “There’s always going to be afford­able housing available.”

All of this economic bluster over available land might seem a little premature, given the state of Florida’s weakened economy, if it weren’t for the rumbling economic engine to its south — Eglin Air Force Base, which is expecting an ad­ditional 4,500 military personnel by 2016, bring­ing a total of 11,000 people to the area, including family members. “Of course, the military is 70 percent of our economy and everything after that,” says Harris, who, like so many other Crestview residents, re­tired from the military. “It’s been significant.” Crestview’s fortunes are closely tied with Eg­lin, so when the base is growing, the city grows. The military is Crestview’s biggest benefactor, with tourism a distant second. “A lot of hopes are pinned on (the military) in terms of driving our economic engine,” Weeks says. He remembers a time when tourism was a bigger focus for Crestview. “Five or six years ago, when things were really booming, the military wasn’t all we talked about. We’ve really shifted horses in the last couple of years.” Weeks is also excited about Florida A&M University’s plans to build a pharmacy school at an abandoned fac­tory downtown. Some of the military personnel arriving at Eglin are the Army’s 7th Special Forces Group, otherwise known as the Green Berets. They are being moved from Fort Bragg, N.C., where many have been deployed overseas in Afghanistan and Iraq. Historically, their specialty has been Latin American countries, and many speak multiple languages.
Not only does this bring jobs to Crestview, Har­ris says, but high-paying jobs. And even better: The Army includes a housing allowance, which increases with rank. “We are very blessed,” Harris says.

A Small Town
With a population of about 20,000 people, Crestview is still a small town. One can park along Main Street at its his­toric downtown for free — parking meters are non-existent and space is plentiful. The greater Crestview area, which includes smaller towns to the north, such as Baker and Laurel Hill, has 85,000 residents, Harris says. The city has basic amenities, with an assort­ment of shops, restaurants and big-box stores such as Lowe’s and Wal-Mart. But there is no shopping mall, and the city is just now getting a 10-screen movie theater. It’s tough for Crestview to compete for new retail with seaside resort towns like Destin that offer a wealthier popula­tion eager to spend.
Still, the chief concern over Crestview’s growth, residents say, is preserving the small-town lifestyle while encouraging expan­sion. One common complaint is the need for a highway bypass so commuters and tourists who drive on State Road 85 to get to the coast or Eglin Air Force Base don’t drive through town and clog the city’s main street. “We’ve needed a bypass for 10 or 20 years,” gripes Billy Teel, a real estate and insurance agent who has lived in Crest­view since the 1940s, a time when there were more dirt roads than paved ones. Re­publican state Sen. Durrell Peaden was born in Crestview and recalls the safe, nurtur­ing community of a town so small that nobody ever locked their doors. “It was a late-bloomer,” he says. “(In the 1960s), they had to recruit doctors and dentists to come here.” Starting in the late 1980s, more retail, restau­rants and hotels developed at the intersection of I-10 and State Road 85. “It has just exploded,” Peaden says. One sign Crestview has arrived? A Starbucks now sits at that intersection, popular with locals and drive-through motorists. Though Crestview has a small population, Stephens, the homebuilder, argues that it should be treated as part of nearby communities such as Destin, Fort Walton and Niceville. “You’re in a small town but you’re really not,” Stephens says. “You’re part of a bigger place, you just happen to be in one of these smaller cities or villages.”

I-10 Spotlight
SPRINGBOARD FOR GROWTH Jim Weeks is the engineering mind behind Fox Valley, one of the city’s booming subdivisions.

Gold Rush

Weeks moved to Crestview in 2004 from Talla­hassee because it was “growing like gangbusters,” he says. In 2004 and 2005, he was working on 20 engineering projects at one time, fueled by the de­mand for new single-family subdivisions, apart­ments and retail centers. Now his office handles two to three projects at a time. Just like the rest of the state, Crestview’s growth has slowed as its real estate market slackened. “It’s been significant,” says Harris, the Cham­ber of Commerce director. “Idid not realize how much of an impact the building industry really has.” Homes stood empty as buyers vanished; subdivisions such as Fox Valley stopped growing rapidly as credit dried up; and signs advertising short sales appeared on front lawns. But Realtors now say the area is showing signs of recovery. Tourism was an ingredient in Crestview’s last population boom. Developers who came to the region for vacation targeted Crestview as a city poised for growth. They traded in suit­cases for briefcases and went to work building subdivisions. “It was really a gold rush,” Teel says. “There were a good number of houses selling for $300,000 that were $250,000 houses. You’d have two offers on the same house.” For the last two years, business has been “ter­rible,” Teel says. “You’d leave and call up your of­fice just to make sure your telephone is working,” he jokes. Crestview has escaped some of the economic ills that have devastated other parts of the state. “Our unemployment rate is nothing com­pared to what Florida’s unemployment rate is,” Harris says. In October 2009, the state’s overall unemployment rate reached 11.2 percent, while Okaloosa County had a 7.4 percent jobless rate. Harris says that’s because the military is one of the few industries that didn’t take a huge hit from the economic downturn.

Room to Grow
Families with military ties are still the back­bone of Crestview’s population. But increas­ingly, more people are moving to town for its business opportunities. Michael and Elizabeth Skrovanek and their 8-year-old daughter, Natasha, moved to Crest­view in 2008 from Richmond, Va. Seeking a ca­reer change after getting laid off, Michael Skro­vanek wanted to move closer to the Florida Gulf Coast’s warm waters.
Through a broker, he learned that Custom Pro­duction, a Crestview bicycle parts manufacturing company, was for sale. The location was ideal, Sk­rovanek says. It has great schools, is a short drive to the coast, doesn’t have the high home prices of coastal areas, and offers the opportunity for the Skrovaneks to run their own business. “It’s an incredible quality of life,” Skrovanek says. “It seemed to come together and make sense. Crestview in particular is really the growth engine for Okaloosa County.” Custom Production, which sits in an industrial park less than a mile from the Bob Sikes Airport, makes the rings that bicycle chains go through and other aluminum components used for in­dustries such as health care and aerospace. The city is working to encourage more businesses to relocate to the industrial park, where they can get tax breaks for being in a business enterprise zone. It’s part of an effort to diversify Crestview’s economy beyond defense contractors, the city’s biggest private employers. “A lot of growth is happening here, and this industrial park was an incredible opportunity,” says Skrovanek, Custom Production’s vice presi­dent and general manager. (His wife is the presi­dent). “There are very few runways for this type of commercial activity.” Stephens, the homebuilder, came to Crest­view to work for regional investors who wanted to start a home-building company. When that didn’t work out, he chose to stay. He started Southern American Homes, which closed on six houses its first year in business. Stephens special­izes in building three- and four-bedroom, single-family homes that sell for between $180,000 and $250,000. “I’ve yet to finish a house before it was sold,” he says. Stephens currently lives in the Destin area but says he is moving soon to Crestview. “I feel good enough about (its growth pros­pects) to build my own house in Crestview, and Icould live just about anywhere Iwant to in the Emerald Coast,” he says.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Mossyhead Florida Elementary School Brings New Interest to Town

Okay Folks. Mossyhead gets a new school and a new golf course. What do the folks of Mossyhead, FL know that some of us don't know. Well, it is only 20 minutes to Eglin AFB, 25 minutes to the white sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico, 20 minutes to shopping in Crestview, Niceville, and Defuniak Springs, and provides a beautiful country style living. What else does someone need in the panhandle of Florida?


Mossyhead, Florida is not the same Mossyhead anymore. Great job to Mr. Bob Bonnezzi for having the foresight to be ready for the upcoming growth of our area. With the mindset to be ready for the baby boomers migration from the north to the south and the grow of our area because of military missions being enhanced, I expect Mr. Bob Bonnezzi should be applauded. See next story on new school being operated in Mossyhead, FL, which is next door to Golf Course.


As I noted in an earlier Blog, the below is some additional specifics about the Crestview Technology Air Park. As you read on, you will understand the significant of this venture by Dr. Paul Hsu. I continue to remind my readers. The Bob Sikes Airport is going to be a major attractor for the aerospace industry for many years to come, and some have said, the I-10 corridor will be the silicone valley of the East Coast. The missions of Eglin will continue to be the leading edge in defense of our nation and the civilian application of this technology will be a major economic boast for our area.

Crestview Technology Air Park to break ground March 5, 2010.
Kari C. Barlow
2010-02-17 19:43:56
CRESTVIEW — Four years after floating the idea for a technology park at Bob Sikes Airport, local businessmen Paul Hsu and Bob Keller will break ground March 5.
The 20-acre Crestview Technology Air Park is located on airport property just south of the intersection of Airport Road and John Givens Road.
“I’m very excited about it,” said Hsu, who heads Hsu Enterprise Group, a Fort Walton Beach-based green technology firm. “It’s a positive activity for Crestview.”
Hsu said Keller’s Sunshine Aero Industries, a flight test company in Crestview, will be the park’s first customer. The partners have plans to build a 33,800-square-foot hangar that will house office space and Sunshine’s 20 employees.
Keller, a retired Air Force test pilot, said he expects to hire 10 more employees after the hangar is complete.
Technology Air Park is designed to attract companies that need space for large hangars or manufacturing facilities and access to a runway.
“This park is unique,” said Larry Sassano, president of the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County. “There’s a taxiway that actually leads to their property, which allows military and other airplanes to come in there.”
Hsu said runway access is what allows airparks to survive.
Hsu and Keller said they envision building hangars large enough to house an Air Force C-17 aircraft.
“We’re sitting on an 8,000-foot runway,” Keller said. “This is an unusual runway in that it is designed for hard structure, heavy aircraft.”
Hsu and Keller say the complex will help boost the local economy.
“The biggest potential we have is creating (high-end) jobs for the community,” Keller said. “We’re sitting in an ideal location. We have an outstanding group of retired military. It’s just a natural match, I think.”

Saturday, February 13, 2010


Put in on your calendar. March 5, 2010 - Local businessman Dr. Paul Hsu will be breaking ground breaking on his Crestview Technology Airpark at the Bob Sikes Airpark in Crestview, Florida.

The $16 million project will sit on 18.5 acres of vacant land near the corner of Airport Road and John Givens Road. Dr. Hsu has stated, "I think this is the perfect location for (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) manufacturing and hangar usage," said Hsu, who owns the parcel. "It's high and dry. I can see the runway." Dr. Hsu is also the recent past Chairman of the Okaloosa County Economic Development Council and a very successful businessman in his own right in the Aerospace Technology field.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Panama City International Airport to open the doors to the area to many travelers around the country and globe.

We are always looking for the best fares when we fly. And some of us are willing to drive hours to Jacksonville, Orlando, or Tampa to save a few bucks.
But with the new Panama City International airport ready to open in May, how many travelers from our area will head West---and how will another travel option affect the Tallahassee and Valdosta?

"We're going to be not only a drive market but a global market for tourism," said Panama City Beach Chamber of Commerce CEO Beth Oltman.
That is what folks at the new Panama City International airport are hoping for. A new airport, bringing in a new wave of tourists from around the U.S. any beyond.
And they plan to do it with the arrival of Southwest Airlines. Serving four cities a day, Southwest is a major coup for Panama City--a new wave of competition for both the Tallahassee and Valdosta regional airports.
"Obviously competition is a good American asset here and we hope to get better rates here and pull in more people to this entire area," said Oltman.
"Anytime you have Southwest in the market, it'll keep everybody competitive. As an airport, we don't truly have control per say over pricing," said Patti Clark, Executive Director of the Valdosta Regional Airport.
Tallahassee and Valdosta pride themselves on business travelers. That is the clientele they hope to keep. What they stand to lose are the tourists who will now have another option---an option that wasn't always there before.
"We've been the poster child for higher airfares and how not to do it. Throughout the Panhandle," said Randy Curtis, Executive Director of the new Panama City International Airport, "Traditionally we've had the highest airfare, so we have had the situation where our passengers drive to other airports, even Tallahassee."
Officials from both Tallahassee and Valdosta regional airports feel that the new Panama City airport will actually help in the long run. Both airports hope to benefit as folks check out the entire North Florida and South Georgia region--pouring money into attractions in the capital city, Valdosta and cities in between.
"As the Panama City area develops and their leisure market increases and the other opportunities for economic development are there; there is a possibility based on analysis our consultants have done that it could spill into Tallahassee from an economic perspective," said Phil Inglese, Assistant Director of Aviation at Tallahassee Regional Airport, "We look at it as an overall positive for the region. "

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


As reported in the Florida Trend Magazine's February 2010 Issue - The Crestview Industrial Airpark will be adding Sunshine Aero Industries. It will be adding a $3-million, 31,200-sq.-ft. building to house a hangar and office space to expand its flight-test services for the military and aerospace industries. Employment will increase from 25 to 35.

I am confident you will continue to see this kind of news in the coming months. I have said it many times before, the Army's 7th Special Forces Command and the new F-35 Training Command are the catalyst for additional growth at the Crestview Industrial Airpark. Stay Tuned: The efforts of the Crestview Chamber of Commerce and Okaloosa County Economic Development Council must be aplauded for their efforts in bringing industry to our area. The Coast Guard would say, "Bravo Zulu", for others that is "Job Well Done".

Monday, February 8, 2010


Freeport is on the Map. I am sure the opening of the Panama City International Airport has helped in this decision. With the new Panama City International Airport opening its doors in May 2010, I expect Freeport to see a lot more attention.

Publix grocery coming to Freeport [Northwest Florida Daily News, Fort Walton Beach]
Recent SVU News
02/05/2010 5:18 PM ET

Feb. 5--FREEPORT -- The whisperings have been confirmed: A Publix Super Markets is coming to town.
A 45,000-square-foot store is set to open sometime in 2011, said Dwaine Stevens, a spokesman for Publix in Jacksonville.
The store will be just west of U.S. Highway 331 south of State Road 20.
After 20 years of trying to attract a larger business to the area, Freeport Mayor Mickey Marse said Publix will do more than just generate jobs.
"Really and truly I was born here," Marse said. "When I was growing up you had three options: You knew someone at Eglin, you worked on a boat or you got in a vehicle and left. ... I'd like to see the people here, the ones being raised and educated here, be able to stay and make decent money."
"It is good economically for the city," said City Planner Latilda Henninger. "This city has always been supportive of economic development."
Marse said he has been told that construction will begin in March.
"I think it's a good thing," he said. "We have one grocery store here, so competition will be good."
Mike Owens, manager of Kelley 's SUPERVALU, Freeport's only grocery, said the Publix news was no surprise.
" We have heard the rumor," Owens said. "It's inevitable. As the town grows bigger, businesses are going to come. I think it will be OK."
Rather than worry about the competition, Owens said he will embrace it and offer costumers something larger stores cannot.
"We can respond to concerns more quickly and requests a little more quickly," he said. "Smaller businesses can focus on taking care of the costumer.
"Competition is always good for the costumer."


PANHANDLE GROWTH, What are we to do?

BRAC study shows opportunities and challenges for the Emerald Coast (DOCUMENT)
Kari C. Barlow
2010-02-07 12:35:06
The areas most suitable for development from the influx of Base Realignment and Closure Commission changes are Fort Walton Beach, Valparaiso/Niceville, Crestview, Navarre and Mossy Head, according to a plan released last week.
The Tri-County Growth Management Plan outlines the impact of the growth anticipated from the relocation of the Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) from Fort Bragg, N.C., to the Crestview area and the development of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Integrated Training Center at Eglin Air Force Base.
A 39-page executive summary of the plan, which focuses on Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties, is available at local libraries and online at
“It’s a good tool,” said Okaloosa County Administrator Jim Curry. “It’s a road map for our strengths and weaknesses. It’s been really good having all three counties and our municipal partners … and everyone at the table on this.”
The six areas identified as most suitable for growth have the most potential to support new development, said Jeff Fanto, Okaloosa County’s growth project coordinator.
“But that doesn’t mean these troops won’t be looking to live in Destin or Mary Esther,” he said.
The report looks at which areas can best accommodate development, types of land use, public safety and jobs.
One challenge takes priority in Okaloosa.
“It’s transportation, transportation, transportation,” Curry said. “Where we’re really challenged is getting the infrastructure that we need into place.”
The military relocations are expected to bring an additional 4,184 households to Okaloosa by 2015. Most of those people — an estimated 2,941 — are expected to live in Crestview and the area north of Eglin Air Force Base, according to the plan.
“The (State Road) 85 corridor is a major concern, and it needs to have some major attention paid to it,” Fanto said. “It’s already a heavily traveled road.”
U.S. Highway 98 near Hurlburt Field, State Road 189 and State Road 123 also are concerns.
Santa Rosa County is expected to see an additional 141 households because of the BRAC changes. Most of the newcomers are expected to live in Navarre and Milton
Their vehicle trips will be felt largely on U.S. 98 in Navarre and on U.S. Highway 90, which runs through Pace and Milton.
Okaloosa County Commission Chairman Wayne Harris said the growth detailed in the tri-county plan is something of a mixed bag.
“The positive is we’re going to get a lot more folks in here … and that’s going to drive the economy significantly with houses and jobs,” he said. “The downside is they’re going to impact our infrastructure — our schools, our hospitals.”
The other area where each county could see major changes is in jobs, Fanto said.
“The Army Special Forces, they are a unique group,” he said. “What you get with that are families who come with those military members who bring unique skills. That’s a multiplier many people don’t think about.”
The Joint Strike Fighter program also likely will increase the number of defense contractors in the area, bringing “highwage jobs with job security and benefits,” Fanto added.
According to the growth plan, realignment activities are expected to create a little more than 10,000 jobs in the region by 2015. Roughly 1,155 of those jobs will be in the professional and technical services sector (the largest impact), with another 883 in construction and 587 in healthcare and social assistance.
The BRAC changes should energize the local housing market, which has been sluggish.
“This could help spur home construction,” Fanto said. “It could be one of the factors that pulls us out of where we are right now and starts us on the path to real economic growth.”