Saturday, March 27, 2010


Emerald Coast Partners, a Atlanta Based Development Company, continues to move forward to bring Crestview, Florida their newest Master Planned Community. Rich with patriotic and military values, this Development is sure to be a favorite for the thousands of newly assigned military personnel and veterans coming to this area. Special thanks to the citizens of Crestview and the City Government in clearing the way for this development. With the thousands of military personnel enroute, the City of Crestview has been very proactive in assisting in making quality and affordable housing available. Stay tune, more will follow.


The message is this. The panhandle of Florida from Panama City to Pensacola has been somewhat insolated from the rest of the country's economic problems. Some of reasons are, military construction and growth, the growth of the aerospace industry, tourism, and the retired population finding out the panhandle of Florida has a lot to offer. The later will only be highlighted more with the opening of the Panama City International Airport opening in May 2010. This overview can be supported by a number of news related stories, which I have noted in previous emails.

Bay County continues to grow despite recession
SCARLET SIMS / News Herald Writer
2010-03-25 22:13:43

PANAMA CITY — Bay County’s population crept up last year despite the worst recession in decades, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released this week.
“The growing population areas are the ones who tend to attract new jobs,” said Janet Watermeier, county Economic Development Alliance executive director. “I believe this is our decade.” Population trends indicate how healthy a local economy is, said Dr. Stan Smith, the Population Studies program director at the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. People tend to leave when jobs evaporate and the economy sours, but both census and state numbers show a slight increase in residents since 2008.
“It’s pretty clear that economic recessions and boom times have an impact on Florida population growth,” Smith said. The Census has not released numbers for cities, but Smith’s bureau reported city and county numbers last year. Unincorporated Bay County saw a 9 percent increase in population as of April 1, 2009, compared to the same time a year ago, according to the UF numbers. Several cities lost population, including Callaway and Parker, while Panama City Beach and Lynn Haven saw gains. Panama City lost 49 residents. The state began tracking population trends in the 1970s when the U.S. Census Bureau didn’t track city populations consistently. Economists consider the state’s numbers more accurate than federal numbers, which are often low, Smith said. Federal numbers are about 1 percent lower for Florida than the state’s findings, but numbers fluctuate depending on the county, Smith said. The Census’ population numbers are nearly 3 percent lower for Bay County than what Smith’s bureau found.
“The main advantage of having the states do this, at least in Florida, is greater accuracy, more timely information and allowing for greater input from cities and counties,” Smith said.
The state estimates are used for distributing state revenue-sharing dollars to cities and counties and for budgeting, planning and policy analysis by state and local governments, businesses, researchers, and the public. State numbers are used in between years the Census is reported, Smith said. Next year, legislators will base decisions on the U.S. Census, which also are used to carve up congressional districts every 10 years. The Census Bureau is considering factoring in states’ numbers for the final count, Smith said. Smith said the census data is lower because county estimates are based on matching return addresses on federal income tax returns, which misses foreign immigrants and people who don’t file two consecutive years. The state uses building permits and electric customers, while the federal numbers are based on births, deaths and migration, Smith said. A Census spokeswoman referred all questions to the Census’ media center, which did not return a call Thursday. Despite state and federal data differences, both reports show population growth. That means Bay County is in a good position to recover from the recession, Watermeier said. Watermeier, who uses state figures for planning, said growth is good as long as it is quality and controlled growth. Stable population growth means more business, more and higher-paying jobs and more wealth for the community in general, she said. Smith said businesses should watch closely because population trends indicate a coming demand in services and goods. Bay County is expected to continue to grow as companies look to locate near the new international airport, Watermeier said. At least two companies have expressed an interest in the airport’s planned industrial park. St. Joe Co., which owns property to be developed for commercial, industrial and retail space, recently announced it will relocate its corporate headquarters from Jacksonville to the new airport.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


If you have been following my Blog, I had predicted this and expect we will see a greater increase in the upcoming months. I have illustrated in recent months that we have a unique housing market. Supply and Demand is the key. First, Eglin AFB reduced their housing supply from approximately 2750 homes to about 1200 homes in the last year with no mandatory assignment. This is huge; Second, the normal transfer season for military; Third, prices have attracted folks of the north to invest in the south; Fourth, 7th Special Forces folks have begun to arrive and make housing decisions; Fifth, the Joint Strike Fighter Training has begun and their folks are arriving; Sixth, a number of Defense Contractors are repositioning themselves in our area; Seventh, the Crestview Industrial Airpark is growing; Eighth, we have had no substantial home building in the last few years, Nineth; the Short Sale/Foreclosure market is not attractive for most of these folks, who need a home NOW. It is my opinion, if you take these points only, you will see a great upswing in the next 18 months, if not longer. As I said before, we are not a secret anymore. THOUGHTS FROM A FORMER MILITARY HOUSING DIRECTOR.

Home sales up in Okaloosa and Walton in February
Dusty Ricketts
2010-03-23 22:16:28

Real estate markets in Okaloosa and Walton counties are off to a good start this year, and a local economist believes the worst of the housing slump is over.
Metro Market Trends recently released sales figures for Okaloosa, Walton and Santa Rosa counties for February.
Single-family home sales in Okaloosa and Walton counties increased 31 percent and 9 percent, respectively, compared to February 2009. Condominium sales increased by 75 percent in Okaloosa County and by 82.35 percent in Walton County.
David Goetsch, a local economist and Northwest Florida State College’s vice president for community relations, said he believes the worst of the real estate downturn is over.
“What you’re beginning to see now is a slight upturn,” Goetsch said. “This is standard. This is what always happens in a recession, it’s just that it’s taken way longer in this recession for this to happen. When it starts turning around like this, what happens at first is there are a lot of houses for sale. Nice houses going for comparably low prices. Good time for buyers, bad time for sellers. That usually turns around fast. It won’t turn around fast this time.
“We still probably have at least another year of a buyers market,” Goetsch added.
While the new year has started off strong for Okaloosa and Walton counties, sales fell in Santa Rosa County in February compared to last year. Single-family home sales in Santa Rosa fell by 6.72 percent last month compared to February 2009. Condo sales fell 22 percent.

Despite the increase in the number of sales in Okaloosa County, property values have fallen so much that the total dollar amount fell by 2 percent compared to February of last year. Property values also have fallen in Walton County, but not to that level.

On average, Goetsch said houses that sold for $100 to $125 a square foot two years ago are selling for $88 a square foot now.

The three counties continue to see a large number of foreclosed homes on the market. Goetsch said that inventory must be sold off before the market can return to anything resembling normalcy.
“You’ll see those prices start to creep up, but you’re still not in a place where if you wanted to sell a house you’d want to sell it now,” Goetsch said. “You’d do a lot better if you could hold on to it for a while.”
Goetsch said sales in Walton County were better than other parts of the state because South Walton attracts people who are less affected by the recession.

He attributed Okaloosa County’s improved sales to growth at Eglin Air Force Base related to the Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. “Don’t be surprised that Okaloosa is showing a slight upswing,” Goetsch said. “We’re going to go up before others go up and we’re going to go up faster than others go up because of the military influence. We actually already have a small number of people trickling in now to do the preliminary work for the 7th Special Forces and the F-35.”

Monday, March 22, 2010


Okay folks, one of the largest land owners/developers in the State of Florida, has decided to move their headquarters to Bay County, just east of Freeport, FL. If this doesn't say anything about their committment to our area, I don't know what does. Keep you eyes and ears open, St. Joe has some other great news to follow.

St. Joe Co. headquarters to transfer to Bay County
By WILL HOBSON Florida Freedom Newspapers

WEST BAY — The St. Joe Co. is moving its corporate headquarters — and most of the jobs associated with it — to Bay County.
The company announced plans Wednesday to move its executive offices from Jacksonville to West Bay, where St. Joe will be one of the first tenants of its own industrial park next to the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, which is slated to open May 23.
St. Joe also will vacate offices in Tallahassee, Port St. Joe and South Walton County, consolidating operations in a 50,000-square-foot office building near the entrance to the airport. Construction will start this summer and should be done by the summer of 2011.
St. Joe President and CEO Britt Greene delivered the news to his Jacksonville employees Wednesday morning and then flew to Panama City to meet with local employees and to talk to the media.
Greene said the move will not mean scores of immediate jobs but that it signals a commitment to the growth of the region.
“People should see it as a sign of confidence and a signal that we believe in all that we’ve been saying,” Greene said in an afternoon interview at Water-Sound, one of the company’s four major developments in the area. The other three are WaterColor, Wild Heron and RiverCamps.
St. Joe is not cutting jobs, Greene said, but he does anticipate some employees will elect not to make the move. He would not commit to an exact number of employees working in West Bay but said the majority of St. Joe employees — currently about 140 — will be working in the new headquarters when it opens.
“It indicates that St. Joe considers Bay County to be the epicenter of their operation and probably the most appropriate place to coordinate the growth of development of their properties,” said Bill Cramer, vice chairman of the Airport Authority board. “I think it’ll be a good complement to the new airport.”
Local elected officials were thrilled with Wednesday ’s announcement.
“It’s a heck of a show of faith and trust in the region that the corporate executive team of St. Joe wants to go to our churches, dine in our restaurants, send their children to our schools and make that commitment to Northwest Florida,” said State Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City.
U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd released a statement echoing Patronis’ enthusiasm. “This is great news for the Bay County community. The St. Joe Co.’s decision to relocate its corporate headquarters to West Bay will bring new local jobs to the area and help expand our area’s appeal to tourists and entrepreneurs alike,” Boyd wrote.
Panama City Beach Mayor Gayle Oberst and Bay County Commissioner Mike Thomas praised St. Joe’s move.
“It will also bring in some people who will be buying houses and going shopping at a time when we all need it,” Oberst said. “I don’t think we’ve ever seen anything like this.”
“There are a lot of people who do business with St. Joe who will be coming through here,” Thomas said. “I think it’s a great thing for the area.”
The move from Jacksonville is an end of an era for St. Joe, which started there in 1936 as St. Joe Paper Co., with swaths of land owned across the Panhandle, much bought by Alfred I. duPont and Ed Ball in the 1920s and early 1930s.
St. Joe invested in land across the state and later into Georgia and the Carolinas. Its focus shifted from paper to land development in the latter part of the last century. In the past few years, St. Joe sold off most of its holdings except those in Northwest Florida and now owns about 580,000 acres of land, including 350,000 in Bay, Gulf and Walton counties.
The company put its financial weight behind the new airport, donating the 4,000 acres in West Bay for the airport and securing the deal for Southwest Airlines to fly there by guaranteeing the discount airline won’t lose money in the first two years. St. Joe owns 71,000 acres of land in West Bay, and its long-term plans for the region allow for 27,000 residential units and 37 million square feet of commercial space.
In short, there is a lot of money to be made by the company if things go right. St. Joe posted a net loss of $130 million in 2009 after losing $35.9 million in 2008.
“I think it shows a commitment of their future tied to our future, and I think that’s good for all of us,” said Joe Tannehill, Airport Authority board chairman.
Greene did not entirely agree with the assessment, saying St. Joe can succeed even if West Bay does not develop to its full potential. He also spoke highly of the company’s financial position, pointing out that St. Joe has $300 million in liquid assets and no debt.
“I don’t think it’s entirely tied to it, but I think it’s an immediate opportunity to drive economic development and growth,” Greene said.
St. Joe management began seriously considering a move in the last year, Greene said.
“For other major corporations to get interested in moving here, we have to lead by example,” he said.
The development Greene and St. Joe hope to see in this region will take time, he cautioned, using a timetable of decades. But Wednesday’s move signals St. Joe’s bet on where the future of growth in Northwest Florida will build around.
“Fifty years from now, this will feel like the core and heart of Northwest Florida,” Greene said. “Tallahassee and Pensacola are great communities, but I think Panama City and Bay County will start to feel like the third large component of the Northwest Florida region.”


If you have been following along, you will see the F-35 Training Program at Eglin AFB is continuing to move foward with hundreds of million of dollars being spent to get the Training Squadron ready. As you might know, the school opened in October 2009 with some of the first students and staff arriving. If you get the chance to see the Training Squadron being built, you will be equally impressed with the progress, as you would be by the new Army Special Forces Post, just south of Crestview. To see how much money has been spent, the settlement with Valparaiso, it only makes fiscal sense to bring all of the F-35 Training Program to Eglin AFB. In these economical times, it would not makes sense to recreate another Training Squadron in another part of the county. Stay Tuned. As the Vice President of the Northwest Florida Military Officer's Association, I have the pleasure of having the program managers of this Training Program brief our Association in June, as well as, the Eglin Base Commander briefing us in May on the future growth of Eglin AFB.

F-35 program on target
Miller: Production delays won’t affect initial Eglin training schedule
By MONA MOORE Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4443  

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Delays in the production of the F-35 jets will have little effect on Eglin Air Force Base’s Joint Strike Fighter training school, Congressman Jeff Miller says.
The original schedule called for instructor pilots with the 33rd Fighter Wing to start their training this year and for student pilots to begin training in 2011. After last week’s updates on F-35 production, plans for the country’s first Joint Strike Fighter pilot training school were uncertain.
In an interview with the Daily News, Miller confirmed the school’s status.
“The status hasn’t changed,” Miller said. “Eglin continues to be the site for primary training, and the first aircraft will begin to arrive the fourth quarter of this year.”
In last week’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, the Pentagon announced that the F-35 program is over budget and behind schedule.
Eglin’s 33rd Fighter Wing already has formed squadrons and has started staffing and planning the curriculum at the training school. More than 100 people associated with the 33rd have arrived, said Ashley Wright, a spokeswoman for Eglin.
Miller said the preparations will continue.
“The school’s going to open up, but we won’t have all 59 aircraft by 2014,” Miller said.
It might take an additional year before all 59 aircraft are delivered to Eglin, he added. Miller also remained optimistic that the base would get an additional 48 aircraft.
“Our focus continues to be on Eglin Air Force Base and making sure that it is ready for the full complement of aircraft,” he said. “There’s a second EIS (Environmental Impact Statement). I expect the results to be positive and additional aircraft will come to Eglin.”

Friday, March 5, 2010


As you will read, the Baby Boomers are ready to start their retirement life. What better place to do that, but in the Panhandle of Florida. 78 Million baby boomers!!!!! Potential buyers and investors of Northwest Florida. Do we see the writing on the wall here? I believe Mr. Bonnezzi has got something here with his Golf Course Community in Mossyhead (See previous Blog Entry). The Villages of Central Florida has been a tremendous success for the retirement community. With the growth expected here and the opening of the new Panama City International Airport, I believe these "Baby Boomers" will have their eye on our region. The questions is, "Are we ready embrace them?". Time will tell.

Boomers ready for retirement housing

NEW YORK – March 5, 2010 – According to John Migliaccio, director of research for MetLife’s Mature Market organization, more than 78 million baby boomers, born between 1946 to 1964, will reach age 55 over the next 10 years.He and other trend spotters believe this dominant group of homeowners will lead the industry out of its slump. Baby Boomers approaching retirement continue to be interested in buying into active-adult communities, but their moves are slowed due to a decline in the value of both their retirement savings and their current homes. To encourage seniors to find a way, 51 percent of builders of active-adult housing cut prices in the third quarter of 2009 – often as much as 25 percent or more – according to a survey by the National Association of Home Builders. Practitioners point out that new isn’t always best. Buying an existing home in an active adult community can be a particularly good deal because these communities have extensive amenities, including golf courses and gyms. Some new construction projects on which builders have trimmed prices are not nearly as well equipped. Source: Investor’s Business Daily, Joe Gose (02/25/2010)