Tuesday, August 31, 2010


As I have noted time and time again, the Army's 7th Special Forces is coming, however, the Crestview's Bob Sikes Airport is fast becoming a major employment center piece for Okaloosa County and it has the potential to bring as much if not more, new residents in the area as the Army. I have brief a number of folks about this economic engine for the county and the future is very bright because of the high tech and aerospace needs of our region. If you didn't know where the Airport is, it is located on the Northside of Crestview, across the street from the only High School, new Shopping Center and Cinema, and much more.

Improvements planned for Bob Sikes Airport
Brian Hughes/brianh@crestviewbulletin.com
2010-08-31 08:52:58

There should be no question that Crestview’s Bob Sikes Airport is one of the community’s biggest economic generators.

As the county’s General Aviation Airports Manager Scott Musser told members of the Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce Airport Committee at an Aug. 26 meeting, the facility provides a nearly $4 million payroll and total annual economic impact of $13.8 million.

With more than $23 million in recent upgrades, including improved lighting and a completed runway resurfacing over the last two years, the airport is on the cusp of even greater benefits for the area, said Okaloosa County Airports project manager Tracy Stage.

And, Stage assured the packed chamber conference room, “That's not coming out of your pockets or your tax dollars.” Funding comes from users of the airport and the national Aviation Trust Fund, he said.

The next planned improvements will include widening taxiways up to 75 feet, which will ready the airport for FAA “Group IV” classified aircraft with wingspans between 118 and 170 feet, such as the DC-10, Boeing 757, 767-200 or Airbus A-300.

The improvements will also provide an integrated storm drainage system that will include a “massive” storm water pond east of the runway.

“This is important for both existing tenants and companies to come,” Stage said.

In order to request bids for the proposed improvements, Stage and his team worked closely and at length with the Northwest Florida Water Management District, an integral partner because some of the airport property consists of wetlands.

As a result, the entire airfield has been essentially pre-permitted, so any construction permits needed can be issued quickly, rather than waiting for the normal 120-day permitting process for each component of a project.

“A lot of work is going into that,” Stage said.

While Stage’s department broke up the improvements into a series of components prioritized based on available funding, the hope is to be able to save money by doing the entire project at one time. A request for bids went out early this summer toward that end.

The winning $10.3 million bid was returned by Anderson Columbia, an Old Town firm that has done previous projects at Bob Sikes Airport, “which is good news for us,” Stage said. “They know the airport and how everything operates. It’s very beneficial.”

With extraneous expenses, including design and engineering, the total cost will be about $11.5 million, Stage said. To obtain funding county airport authorities are actively pursuing both federal and state funds, including the FAA and the Florida Department of Transportation. Stage is optimistic they will be successful.

“I expect some great news about the money coming down from both the agencies that fund it,” Stage said. “We’re just waiting to find out what participation levels the state and the feds will be at.”

If successful in obtaining the funds, construction could begin as early as October, Stage said.

In other airport matters:

• Musser reported that 23 sets of plans for the planned Quest Aviation facility have been sent out for bids. The company buys and dismantles primarily passenger aircraft and resells the parts.

• Emerald Coast Aviation, the airport’s fixed base operator providing general aviation services, has submitted plans to the county for its two-story 8,000-10,000 square-foot terminal, which will include a full-service public restaurant, conference space and an outdoor terrace. Emerald Coast hopes construction can begin within six months, with completion within 18 months.

• Musser reported the county airports partners, including private and county officials, will attend the National Business Aviation Association conference in Atlanta in October. “When we market the airport, it’s a team effort,” said county airports Director Greg Donovan.

“We are constantly lobbying to bring employment and jobs to bolster the economy out here,” Donovan told the audience.


This unique Enhanced Use Leasing with the government has allowed for this 17-acre parcel on the Gulf of Mexico to be developed into a Resort for the public with special military discounts built in. This resort will bring a number of military personnel (Active and Retired)from around the country. There is presently only 3 similar projects for the military, which are located in Germany, Orlando, and Hawaii. Look out Fort Walton Beach, are you ready?

Developer, military negotiating hotel
Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4443 | mmoore@nwfdailynews.com  

EGLIN AFB — The Emerald Breeze Resort might be years away from booking its first guest, but the base’s hotel project is closer to sealing a 50-year lease with developers. Representatives from Innisfree Development and contractor DCK Corp. have met with Eglin officials to negotiate the terms of the 50-year lease for a parcel of land on Okaloosa Island. “Which allows them to begin their design and permitting process and also to go out and start working on financing,” said Glenn Wagner, Eglin’s Enhanced Use Leasing program manager. The Air Force presented its Emerald Breeze Resort proposal in January 2009 as the best use for Test Site A-5 next to the Sheraton Four Points hotel. Wagner said construction of the proposed 17-acre military resort, which will also be open to the public, will begin once the lease agreement is signed. The agreement might be as long as a year away. The process was delayed by scheduling conflicts between Eglin and the developers. Also, the two parties have been treading carefully through the Enhanced Use Leasing, or EUL, process. “This is a new process, so we’re going fairly deliberately and carefully as we do it,” Wagner said. “Of course, the financing situation and the economy, right now, (are) not great. So it did not hurt anything that we were going a little slower.” The entire EUL process involves a concept opportunity study, a business case analysis, selecting the highest-ranked offer from a commercial business, negotiating and signing a lease and then construction. In addition to negotiating the cost of leasing the land, the base included generous military discounts in the proposed agreement. Since this EUL process is at the lease negotiation stage, Wagner did not have the final price tag of the lease agreement. “They’re (Innisfree and DCK) doing a lot of recalculations based on what they are going to get for financing, so it’s not really set yet,” he said. Under the EUL agreement, Innisfree will deposit lease payments into a third-party escrow account. Funds in the account will pay for maintenance projects on base and any expenses beyond the budget. “It’s called payment in kind,” Wagner said. Instead of paying Eglin cash, Innisfree will advertise for bids on the maintenance or construction projects and pay for them from the account. If previous projects are any indication, the system will provide more work to local companies. Though Emerald Breeze is Eglin’s first true EUL project, the base has made similar agreements with Okaloosa County and the Mid-Bay Bridge Authority. The Northwest Florida Regional Airport expansion is one example. Had the deal involved a regular lease agreement, the money would have gone directly to the Air Force. With the EUL process, the funds stay here and benefit Eglin and the local community. “Local people gain business from this,” Wagner said. “I would say, almost without exception, every time we request one of those two agencies to do some work on Eglin, that work is bid on and won by local firms right here.” So far, the resort’s plans have not changed. The first phase of the resort will still feature a beachfront pool, 150 rooms and two commercial spaces that will be available for lease. Future phases include at least 100 additional rooms. With 600 feet on the Gulf of Mexico, the resort will offer direct beach access. Alternative energy and other green features would be required “wherever feasible,” according to the Air Force’s plan. Once completed, Innisfree Hotels will manage the hotel. Innisfree owns the Holiday Inn Express and Hilton Garden Inn in Orange Beach, Ala., and the Hilton Pensacola Beach Gulf Front and Hampton Inn on Pensacola Beach.

Monday, August 30, 2010


The sleeping little town about 10 miles north of Crestview on Hwy 85, is opening their eyes. This is just one step in the growth from Crestview north to Laurel Hill. With the largest civilian employer located on the Northside of Crestview at the Bob Sikes Industrial Airpark, I can see the area from Crestview to Laurel Hill on Hwy 85 North growing quite rapidly as the result of the expansion of the Airpark and the Defense Contractors in the Airpark expanding their business.

Dollar General coming to Laurel Hill residents
Residents say it will cut down on trips to Crestview and Florala, Ala.
Florida Freedom Newspapers

LAUREL HILL — Residents here are excited Dollar General is coming to town.
Older folks still recall when Laurel Hill was a busy railroad community and boasted several stores, a bank and a movie house. Now, apart from grabbing snacks at Tom Thumb, residants grocery shop in Crestview or in Florala, Ala. “I tell you, it’ll do all right here,” Bessie Green said as she lunched with her friends Morris and Martha Rogers at Laurel Hill Grill, the city’s only restaurant. “People are tired of driving so far to shop. If we run out of something, we can pick it up there (at Dollar General). Then we won’t have to run to Crestview.” The new store is planned for property just north of the former Hobo Video store on State Road 85 south of town. Laurel Hill City Clerk Harold Jones presented site plans to the city council recently that depicts a 9,014-square-foot store with 34 parking spaces. It will be the same size and layout as Dollar General built last year in Baker. The Baker store has proven very popular, said its manager, Gail Castonguay. “This is a busy store,” Castonguay said. “We do really good here. I think it will do good in Laurel Hill. It is a small town like Baker.” Jones said the Northwest Florida Water Management District and the state Department of Transportation are reviewing the store’s applications and are expected to approve them within weeks. He expects the Laurel Hill Dollar General to rise rapidly after final approval is given. “So it looks like it’ll be ready for Christmas,” Councilman Johnny James said. At City Hall, water clerk Anita Miller and Assistant City Clerk Barbara Bottoms said Dollar General will be popular. “People are excited that it’s coming,” Bottoms said. “Laurel Hill doesn’t have a grocery store.” “It’ll save a lot of time because I won’t have to go to Crestview unless I have to,” Miller added. “I go to Florala before I go to Crestview. The kids are always saying, ‘When are we going to Walmart?’ I spend too much money at Walmart.” Miller said Dollar General will be especially popular with families with school-age children. “My kids are constantly needing snacks and stuff for school,” she said. “It’s a lot more expensive to shop at Tom Thumb. I can’t wait for the Dollar General to open.”

Thursday, August 26, 2010


What does this mean for us? Well let me tell you. I have been trying to explain to the local folks in government, media, and more, this is a connect the dots kind of thing. One of the issues I have heard was, "The newly assigned 7th Special Forces Group might have trouble selling their homes before they move here. NOT. As you will read, there is going to be as many, if not more coming to Fort Bragg during the same time period. WHY? Reorganization and preparing for more troops stationed outside the United States to come stateside. Warfare is different today than it was yesterday. Rapid Deployment and high tech weapontry and other things make bringing back troops to the US possible, now more than ever. In conclusion, we are sitting pretty good for many years to come in the Panhandle of Florida and the reason why, "Our National Defense requires it", period.

The five-story future home of the Army's largest command - and the symbol of Fort Bragg's BRAC growth - is progressing on schedule.

Looming above the Main Post Polo Field is the centerpiece of southeastern North Carolina's hopes for an economic boost from military growth because of base realignment.

Ground was broken in December 2008, and there is less than a year until the building is supposed to be finished.

Construction is about 70 percent complete on the headquarters building for Forces Command and U.S. Army Reserve Command at Knox and Randolph streets.

Plans call for the $297 million, 631,000-square-foot building to be ready for occupation June 21, said Dan Davis, resident engineer for the Savannah District of the Army Corps of Engineers.

The 2005 BRAC law directs that the two commands relocate to Fort Bragg from Fort McPherson in south Atlanta no later than Sept. 15, 2011.

That leaves little more than a year to move the four-star command that oversees the readiness of most of the Army's combat troops based in the United States and the three-star headquarters in charge of the Army Reserve.

The building
Because of its nearness to Fort Bragg's main post historic district, the building's colors had to comply with requirements from the N.C. State Historic Preservation Office.

"Our roof has to match the existing roofs from the 1930s, 1940s construction," said Ted Kientz, the Forscom liaison officer team leader. "The facades are all brick to match it. It has to visually look similar."

The exterior is concrete precast panels with a thin brick veneer manufactured in Oxford, Kientz said.

"We got a much better quality product doing it this way," he said.

Three temporary external elevators, known as "material lifts," help move the ducts, wire, paint, carpet and dry wall up the five floors.

Inside, there's the sound of banging and backup alarms and the whir of screwguns. The air conditioning has been going for two months.

In fact, walls are going up so quickly that a person walking through the building might have to learn new ways to navigate every few days, he said.

Generals and senior civilians will park and come in through the two-story-high entrances on the Knox Street side. This will be the entrance for VIPs, too. The Forces Command entrance is on the south, or Randolph Street side, near Bowley Elementary School. The U.S. Army Reserve Command entrance is on the north, or Scott Street side, near the warehouses.

Most of the 2,773 employees will enter on the other side of the building, where there will be a ceremonial courtyard. As is the case with buildings on Fort Bragg nowadays, access will be tightly controlled.

The building will not have a cafeteria or restaurant, which is standard for four-star headquarters, Kientz said. There will be vending machines and microwave ovens.

The building has more than 800 windows and 1,000 doors.

The floors are raised, with power and communication lines and cables underneath.

"The entire building is designed to be as flexible as possible for future reorganizations within the space of the building," Davis said.

The builders
The contractor is Hensel Phelps, which also is building the 7th Special Forces Group complex at Eglin Air Force Base near Fort Walton Beach, Fla. The 2005 BRAC law also mandates that the 7th Group move from Fort Bragg to Florida.

"The majority of the subcontractors on site are local subcontractors," Davis said. "Those that aren't are hiring local labor."

About 375 people per day are working on the project, Davis said. In three or four months, that number will peak at about 500.

No work days had been lost to accidents through July after more than 819,000 manhours on the Forscom project, Davis said.

An all-veteran security guard force is protecting the building.

View from the top
The fifth-floor terrace overlooks the polo field to the west.

The 18th Airborne Corps helipad for visiting dignitaries is on the far side of the polo field. It's also where the fireworks are set off on the Fourth of July.

"On the Fourth of July, it will be the best place to watch the fireworks," Kientz said.

In the distance, Womack Army Medical Center and the Soldier Support Center, the former Womack, are visible.

The roofing material is recycled plastic, "another one of the green aspects of the building," Davis said.

The white roof reflects heat.

"We have lower requirements for insulation," Davis said. "We also have lower requirements for cooling and heating." On a bright, sunny day, the glare is like a snowfield.

As an energy-saving measure, lights come on and go off when people enter and leave.

Longleaf pines and associated smaller plants are being incorporated into the landscaping to help restore some of the native trees that have been removed in recent years for construction projects.


FACTOID: Take note to number 4 of this below illustration. If you haven't been following along with the BRAC decision of moving the 7th Special Forces Group from Fort Bragg to Eglin, you have been missing a lot. The 7th Special Forces Group (over 2000 strong have begun to take up residence in our area, with thousands more coming). As you can see they have made an economic impact on the Fort Bragg community and will be making a big impact on ours soon. Oh yea, for the ones wondering what the impact will be on Fort Bragg, NOTHING. In fact, Fort Bragg's mission is expanding with other troops. So don't think they will have any problems selling their homes in the Fort Bragg area (See the next Blog Entry).

Military Growth Drives Fastest Rise in Income
Incomes are growing fastest in U.S. metro areas with a military base, according to an analysis by USA Today of per-capita income rankings.

After adjusting for inflation, military compensation rose 84 percent from 2000 through 2009. During that time, private sector compensation rose 9 percent and federal civil workers’ compensation grew 37 percent, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The 10 metro areas (and their military connections) that saw the biggest percentage gains in per-capita income 2000 to 2009 were:

1. Jacksonville, N.C. – Camp Lejeune
2. Houma-Bayou Cane-Thibodaux, La. – military shipbuilding
3. Manhattan, Kan. – Fort Riley
4. Fayetteville, N.C. – Fort Bragg and Pop Air Force Base
5. Killeen-Temple-Fort Hood, Texas – Fort Hood
6. Lawton, Okla. – Fort Sill
7. Farmington, N.M. – none
8. Hanford-Corcoran, Calif. - Naval Sir Station Lemoore
9. Clarksville, Tenn. – Fort Campbell
10. Cheyenne, Wyo. – Warren Air Force Base

Source: USA Today, David Cauchon (08/23/2010)

Friday, August 20, 2010


Ten's of thousands of new military positions are coming to our area and they want shopping, restaurants, and things to do. This is what is being said at a number of town hall meetings with these military men and women. Guess what, some developers have heard the cause and are answering the bell. As you can see by reports, the commercial centers are filling up. Remember, these folks coming are being ORDERED here and they will be some of the highest paying folks in Okaloosa County with a lot of disposable income.

Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4448 | dricketts@nwfdailynews.com  
FORTWALTONBEACH—Despite the still sluggish economy, leasing at Uptown Station is stronger than ever. Several new businesses will open soon, and other tenants will be announced in coming weeks. The popular chickencentric restaurant Zaxby’s is going up across the street from Uptown Station’s main plaza. The property is owned by Crystal Beach Development, which also owns Uptown Station. Construction started Thursday and the restaurant is expected to open early next year at the old Brewster’s Ice Cream site on Eglin Parkway next to Juno’s Steak and Sushi. “We’re going through an amazing session of leasing right now,” said Martin Owen, spokesman for Crystal Beach Development. Owen said the company is in the final stages of negotiating leases for four open units in the original section of Uptown Station. Another open space near Chan’s Wine World also is close to being rented. A bidding war between two potential tenants also is under way for a vacant space next to Five Guys Burgers and Fries. “We’re nearly full,” Owen said. Otherbusinessesexpected to open soon include: Coffee Grounz, a specialty coffee, tea and bakery store that is expected to open in mid-September next to Verizon Wireless in the JG Plaza building. Papa Murphy’s Takeand-Bake Pizza, where customers make their own pizza to take home and cook, will open a 1,200-square-foot store in early October. International Buffet, Sushi & Hibachi will open in the former Asian King Buffet building near Baskin Robbins. An opening date has not been announced yet, but Owen said he believes it should be in the next few months. The owners of Panda China Buffet on U.S. Highway 98 also own International Buffet.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


If you wanted to know how the military is growing now and in the future, read on. The following is a brief overview of how the military's growing. As many know, I am the Vice President of the Northwest Florida's Military Officer's Association, and how the privilege to attend a number of military briefings and have a vareity of government and military officials speak to my organization. With this said, I can assure you will extreme confidence, the military is here and continued growth is expected.

Okaloosa military presence to expand
Brian Hughes | brianh@crestviewbulletin.com
2010-08-18 09:26:23

For the last several years, the numbers have been flying about the impact of the Army’s Seventh Special Forces and the Air Force’s Joint Strike Fighters arrival in Okaloosa County. On Friday, Larry Sassano, president of the county’s Economic Development Council, corralled some of the most current numbers and presented them at a Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce education committee lunch-and-learn midday presentation.

“We have one of those three-legged stools that is supporting our economy today,” Sassano said. “If we didn’t have [the military], we would be in a heap of trouble. We’re blessed to have the military,” he said, adding, “and we'll get tourism back soon.”

Just how dependent the county is on the military soon hit home.

“The military is the number one economic generator in Okaloosa County,” Sassano said.

The military accounts for 34 percent of the northwest Florida economy, but 70 percent of the Okaloosa County economy. The average earning per military job is $81,300, according the Haas Center for Business and Economic Development at the University of West Florida, Sassano said. Total defense spending is $2.2 billion annually in Okaloosa County, with a total impact of $6.6 billion.

Sassano presented the base realignment program’s impact on the Eglin Reservation and area economy via a series of charts. As each flashed on the screen at the front of the chamber’s main conference room, the reality —and enormity — of the impending arrival of the Seventh Special Forces and the Joint Strike Fighters was apparent:

• $770 million in infrastructure construction
• 86,630 jobs
• 8,646 new neighbors, including 6,067 for the Seventh Special Forces (both figures are about to be revised upward, Sassano said)
• Local sales and consumption surpassing $7.1 billion
• JSF economic impact of $1.5 to $1.6 million Gross Regional Product (GRP)
“Even though you don’t have all the planes, you have all the maintenance,” Sassano reminded anyone who was disappointed that not all of the JSF aircraft will be coming to Eglin. Of the 107 expected planes, only 59 will actually be sent to Eglin.

“The Joint Strike Fighters will trickle in, but Seventh Special Forces, they’ll be here in one group, boom!” Sassano said. “You’ll have a lot of high-ranking men and women. Their income is pretty good. They are specially trained; an impressive group of men and women. They will be an asset to the community.”

While a conventional company of 131 soldiers includes 108 privates, specialists and sergeants, the Seventh Special Forces has just two sergeants. The 7th Special Forces also include more ranking officers, warrant officers and sergeants ranked first class or higher (86) than a conventional company (9).

“They don’t fall much out of line with Eglin’s averages,” Sassano said.

According to material Sassano presented, the majority of the 7th Special Forces personnel will arrive between April and September 2011.

In addition to military personnel and their families, “There are a lot of companies (military contractors) that aren’t here yet that will have a presence in Okaloosa County,” Sassano said.

Sassano presented a map of Northwest Florida aerospace and defense industry “clusters,” indicating large concentrations of military contractors in Pensacola, Panama City, Tallahassee and Crestview. The Tallahassee cluster is composed primarily of lobbyists, Sassano said, adding that an updated map currently in the works will show even more contractors in the Crestview area, which currently ranked about fifth.

“When we go to a trade show, their eyes just focus on Okaloosa County,” Sassano said.

BRAC by the numbers
Economic Development Council statistics


(in millions)

Procurement $1,066.7
Salaries 627.0
Pensions.transfers 549.8
TOTAL: $2,243.5


Employment 86,630 jobs
Sales activity $3.7 billion
Consumption $3.4 billion
Capital investment $613.7 million
Av. earning per military job $81,300


F-35 JSF Bed-down:
2,326 personnel, $400 million military construction

Army 7th Special Forces:
2,200 personnel, $332 million military construction
Integrated Weapons Research Center:
36 personnel, $2 million military construction


7th Special Forces: 2,200 personnel, 1,452 spouses, 2,415 children: 6,067 total*

Joint Strike Fighter: 1,563 personnel, 78 spouses, 938 children: 2,579 total*

* The Haas Center has been asked to re-evaluate these figures as particularly the JSF spouse and children counts appear low


Gross Regional product: $1,537-1,668 million
Population: 4,064-4,432
Employment: 3,559-4,104


Rank Conventional Company Special Forces
Major 01
Captain 111
Lieutenant 40
Warrant Officer 011
Sergeant Major 01
Sergeant 1st Class 351
Staff Sergeant 1443
Sergeant 212
Private/Specialist 870

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


Okay folks, let put the facts on the table about the Eglin Housing Privatization Program. First, let me start with my qualifications on this issue. Not only am I a retired Coast Guard Officer, I was a former Military Housing Director for the Southeast United States with supervison and management for government owned and leased housing from Key West, FL to South Padre Island, TX, which included privatizing government housing, which started in 1995. With this being said, I will be briefing the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors this week on how this will affect this area. First of all, the private sector will benefit tremendously with both rentals and home sales. Here are the latest facts, which have been provide to me by Eglin AFB, as of yesterday.

1) Over 75% of Military Family Housing at Eglin and Hurlburt are more than 40 years old and do not meet standards.
2) Latest needs analysis revealed adequate availability of housing in region to support much of Eglin’s housing needs. Reduced base housing need from approximately 2,750 five years ago,to approximately 930. This reduction decision was made with the increase of the 7th Special Forces Group and F-35 Training Program coming to the area and bringing close to 5000 military personnel.
3) Eglin has already begun demolishing substandard housing units, which is part of the housing privatization project. Levels of existing homes at Eglin are now at about 1200 units from the orginal 2750 units.

If you want additional details, give me a call.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


If you didn't think the newest Okaloosa County residents targeted Crestview; I believe the following story will put that to bed. As our normal military transfer cycle of about 25-30% moving in and out every year, and now the new F-35 Training Squadron and the 7th Special Forces personnel coming; it is quite obvious most of them have decided to make the Crestview are their home.

Crestview High is Okaloosa’s largest school
Florida Freedom Newspapers

CRESTVIEW — As of last week, at least, Crestview High School boasted the title of the county’s largest school, surpassing Niceville High School for the first time.
If the title holds, Crestview will be among three north county schools to become the largest in the county. Antioch Elementary and Davidson Middle schools have the largest enrollments in their respective grade divisions.
Enrollments still are being calculated and the numbers will change.
“If we wait a week, we will know exactly where the dust has settled,” Crestview Principal Ed Coleman said.
On the first day of classes, 1,952 students showed up at Crestview. By Wednesday enrollment had dropped to 1,930 students.
Such adjustments are not unusual, school administrators said.
“A lot of the kids who are military have transferred out of here, but they haven’t told us yet,” said Coleman, who added that his staff is trying to contact the families to formally adjust the school’s student count.
Whatever the final counts, north-county schools are growing. At the same time, school officials have noticed a decline in Okaloosa’s south end. At a recent candidates’ forum, Okaloosa School Board Chairman Rodney Walker said the district has lost 600 students overall, but enrollment is increasing in the north end.
“We’re going to have to close some schools in the south end and build more schools in the north end,” Walker said.
There are 1,200 student “stations,” or spots, open in the south part of the county, but less than 200 stations are available in the north end, Walker said.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Crestview's 10 Screen Movie Theatre A Big Hit on the Northside of Crestview

As you will can see, Crestview is coming of age with a one most state of the art movie cinema in the Country. Located on the northside of Crestview and across the street from the only High School in town, it is sure to be a success. With the completion of this theater, the anchor tenant of Twin Creek Shopping, it is sure to attract a number of supporting retail and restaurants. The newest addition is Johnny O' Quigley's, one of the areas top sports bar, along with a number of other retail stores, it is shore to keep folks from Crestview from driving over an hour to a movie theater and saving an enormous amount of money in gas to enjoy a movie and much more.


As you will see Business Week Economist reports a very strong growth area in the Panama City Florida Metro Area.

Daily Real Estate News | August 9, 2010
Top 10 Metros With Predicted Price Climbs
Housing prices are about to turn around, predicts financial services technology firm Fiserv.

David Stiff, chief economist at Fiserv, says home prices will fall 32.9 percent from 2006 through early next year. But by early 2014, he believes they will climb an average of 7.2 percent from 2010 levels, with some areas skyrocketing.

Fiserv believes these 10 metropolitan areas will see the most growth in the next four years.

1. Washington State: Bremerton-Silverdale, +44.7 percent
2. Oregon: Bend, +33.6 percent
3. Michigan: Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn, +33.1 percent
4. California: Napa Valley, +31.7 percent
5. Nevada: Carson City, +31.6 percent
6. Florida: Panama City-Lynn Haven-Panama City Beach, +26.9 percent
7. Arizona: Flagstaff, +26 percent
8. New Mexico: Sante Fe, +25.8 percent
9. Wyoming: Cheyenne, +23.7 percent
10. Alaska: Anchorage, +20 percent

Source: Bloomberg BusinessWeek, Venessa Wong (08/09/2010)

Some of the Special Information regarding Panama City Beach Metro Housing Growth -

Forecast 4-year price increase: 26.9 percent
Current median price: $158,669*
Prices to reach trough in: 2010 Q3
Median family income: $53,800
Population: 164,770

Home prices in the Panama City area fell about 27 percent after hitting a peak in 2006, according to the FHFA home price index. Jennifer Mackay, an agent at Keller Williams Success Realty in Panama City, says the market was stabilizing earlier this year, but the BP oil spill led some buyers to pull out and sent the rental market into a tailspin. Despite the area’s large number of foreclosures (1.93 percent in the first half, according to RealtyTrac), Mackay says the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, which opened in May, should help stimulate local business. "I see our economy doing better than others over the course of the next year," she says. The area's unemployment rate reached 12.1 percent in January and dropped to 9.3 percent in June, according to BLS data.

Index used to calculate historical home price changes: FHFA

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Where has all the oil gone? Actually, we really never had it here, but you wouldn't believe it by the news coverage. The same video stream being played over and over again, made it think our beaches were covered in oil. This was farthest from the truth. I could go on and on, but what would it do. As the numbers show, things are getting drastically better and folks are beginning to flood back into Florida to take advantage of the low prices now and the historically low interest rates. Read on and learn more. OH, did I tell you we have thousands of military being ORDERED here. They have to find a place to live.

Stabilization in 2Q metro home prices with strong sales.
ORLANDO, Fla. – Aug. 11, 2010 – Sales of existing single-family homes in Florida rose 21 percent in second quarter 2010 compared to the same period a year earlier, according to the latest housing statistics from Florida Realtors®. A total of 51,564 existing homes sold statewide in 2Q 2010; during the same period the year before, a total of 42,604 existing homes sold. It marks the eighth 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 second quarter rose 45 percent compared to the same time the previous year. This marks the seventh consecutive quarter for increased statewide sales in both the existing home and condo markets compared to year-ago levels.

Statewide sales activity in 2Q 2010 also increased over 1Q 2010’s sales figure in both the existing home and existing condo markets, Florida Realtors’ records show. For 2Q 2010, statewide sales of existing homes rose 32.7 percent over the 1Q 2010 figure; statewide existing condo sales in 2Q 2010 increased 24.2 percent over the 1Q 2010 level.

Looking forward, the University of Florida’s Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies’ latest quarterly survey of real estate trends reported that job growth and the BP oil spill were cited as top concerns for the future outlook of the state’s real estate industry. The survey polls market research economists, industry executives, real estate scholars and other experts.

The center’s director, Timothy Becker, noted in the report that the oil spill has created “a cloud of uncertainty that is affecting all markets across the state. Our respondents indicate that the effect of the oil spill is being felt across Florida despite the fact that oil is only showing up on some beaches in the Panhandle.”

The survey reported the outlook for investment in industrial properties continues to brighten and is becoming increasingly positive.

Seventeen of Florida’s metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) reported increased sales of existing homes in 2Q 2010 compared to the same three-month period a year earlier; 18 of the MSAs showed gains in condo sales.

The statewide existing-home median sales price was $141,300 in 2Q 2010; a year earlier, it was $143,000 for a decrease of 1 percent. The 2Q 2010 statewide existing-home median sales price was 5.6 percent higher than the statewide existing-home median sales price of $133,800 in 1Q 2010. 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, 20,986 units sold statewide for the quarter compared to 14,430 in 2Q 2009 for a 45 percent increase. The statewide existing-condo median sales price was $98,900 for the three-month period; in 2Q 2009, it was $110,300 for a decrease of 10 percent. The 2Q 2010 statewide existing-condo median sales price was 3.2 percent higher than the 1Q 2010 statewide existing-condo median sales price of $95,800.

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 4.91 percent in 2Q 2010; one year earlier, it averaged 5.03 percent.

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Another reason, our area is on the minds of the country. The quality of living continues to remain high, along with the beautiful white sand beaches of the Florida Panhandle.

Local school districts rank among best on FCAT
Katie Tammen
For the fifth year in a row, Northwest Florida school districts rank among the best in the state.

Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton County schools each received an A grade overall for the performance of their elementary and middle schools on the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test.

“I’m very proud of our schools,” said Okaloosa County Superintendent Alexis Tibbetts. “I don’t think people realize the true gem that we have in this school district.”

School grades were developed in 1999 to help keep the public informed about their performance. The grades are based on the results of the FCAT.

Of the 29 elementary and middle schools in Okaloosa County 24 received A’s and five received B’s. In Walton County, eight schools received A’s and the remaining two earned a B and a C. Santa Rosa schools received 15 A’s, four B’s and one C.

“We revel in the success of our staff and our children, and I just applaud our principals because they do such a good job,” said Walton County Superintendent Carlene Anderson.

The Florida Department of Education released the school grades Friday afternoon. That was about a month later than expected because of several hiccups with the FCAT, including a database error with the company that was scoring the tests.

After the database was corrected and FCAT scores were ready to be released, several superintendents from across the state asked the DOE in mid-July to hold off after school officials noticed anomalies in fourth-and fifth-grade reading scores.

One red flag was students who scored a 4 or 5 on the written portion of the test received a 2 or 3 in reading.

Corrections were made, and Education Commissioner Eric Smith said earlier this week that he was confident the scores were accurate.

Some superintendents remain skeptical after 33 percent of all elementary schools in Florida dropped a letter grade or two compared to last year.

In Walton County, Anderson said she and her staff were surprised to see that Freeport Elementary School received a grade of C.

“When we ran the figures with our schools, that’s not (the grade) we got,” Anderson said.

Tibbetts said she was suspicious after discovering that one out of every three schools in the county went down a letter grade.

“That is a huge anomaly that has never happened before,” she said.

High school grades will be released in November. State education officials will use factors such as graduation rates to calculate each school’s overall grade.


As you will see below, our friends from the north see no better time to invest in Florida than NOW. As you know in the upcoming months, we will have thousands of SNOWBIRDS heading our way looking to make a more permanent investment in our community. If you didn't know, the Baby Boomer's are coming of age, and even with some down turn in the ecomony, they are still the wealthiest generation. Also, if you have experience of living in the North, you know, as you get older, the shovelling of snow gets old fast in your later years and the thought of a retirement in the beautiful area of Northwest Florida is in your dreams.

TORONTO – Aug. 6, 2010 – Mary and Ron Ethier long believed a getaway home in the Florida sun would remain a retirement dream, but when a recent real estate turnaround opened the border to a growing flock of snowbirds, the couple suddenly saw an opportunity too tempting to pass up.

“We just felt with the prices that were happening down there, that it was out of our reach financially,” said Mary Ethier from her home in Pembroke, Ont. “But when their real estate market basically took a big hit and the Canadian dollar came up, we thought if we’re ever going to do it, now’s the time to get off our butts and go and do it.”

The couple, too busy with their lawn-care franchise to enjoy Ontario summers, toured homes in the Fort Myers, Fla., area in the fall of 2007 and made a lowball offer, expecting to negotiate, but instead found their deal accepted.

By January, they owned a condo in a gated community, a property foreclosed upon when the U.S. housing bubble burst and home prices began to plummet and many American homeowners realized they could no longer pay their mortgages.

The loonie has since risen to hover around parity while U.S. home prices have stagnated, creating new financial incentives for Canadians to act fast and scoop up American real estate deals.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for Canadians,” says Mark Dziedzic, a Canadian Realtor with Cross Border Realty and a snowbird himself.

The Sun Belt states of Texas, Arizona, California and Florida are favorites, while there are also deals to be had in Nevada and Georgia. The average price of a home in Phoenix, Ariz., is US$144,600, compared to $432,253 in Toronto.

“People are buying $40,000 to $50,000 condos in Phoenix right now. Condos (in Toronto) are selling for $400,000 to $500,000,” Dziedzic said. Taxes, condo fees and closing costs are also generally less expensive in the U.S., he added.

Prices in most U.S. regions have steadied after falling for three years, but a high number of foreclosures persist, lowering prices, especially in Florida and Nevada, said Bank of Montreal mortgage specialist Laura Parsons.

“This is the time to buy if you’re going to,” she said.

“I think you’ve got to look at this as a long-term investment because you’re getting such a deal. You’re going to have to hang on to it for a while,” and ride out any further downturns before the market picks up again, she said.

There is a fine balance between rushing to buy and waiting for lower prices. Economists predict the U.S. housing market will remain soft, but it’s futile to make decisions based on where a currency or a housing market is going.

“I don’t think you need to rush down and get a place, but the good stuff in the lower price range ... those are moving. The good ones come up and they’re sold,” Dziedzic said.

Buying real estate in the U.S. is becoming easier for Canadians as more snowbirds snap up getaway homes. But experts caution that the buying process, which takes about three to four months, is a different beast.

© The Canadian Press 2010

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


As you will see below, Amendment 4 could change future development for years and put government in the middle of Florida's growth and causing years of delay and frustration for developers. Their may be a problem in South Florida, which is where this started; however with the growth of North Florida, as the result of BRAC 2005 decision, this Amendment could have an adverse affect on our national defense. However, if developers have the entitlements they desire for their properties, they might be in the driver seat, if the amendment passes. But this will be short lived.

Coalition opposing Amendment 4 continues efforts
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Aug. 3, 2010 – Opponents to Amendment 4, slated to go before voters in November, are putting millions into political committees aimed at fighting the measure. The constitutional amendment would require all comp-plan changes to be approved by voters in a local referendum – which builders, governments, school boards, labor unions and others opposing Amendment 4 warn will hurt Florida’s economy by effectively stopping development.

“Uniformly, our members are very strongly against this,” said John Sebree, vice president of public policy for Florida Realtors, which contributed $1 million last month into a political committee fighting the amendment. “We’re a pretty bipartisan group. But everybody agrees this is going to change things dramatically.”

The organization spearheading opposition to Amendment 4, Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy, collected $4.7 million in the 3 ½-month period leading to a July 16 campaign finance reporting deadline. Other big donors Pulte Homes Corp., a Michigan-based builder which gave $567,000; $367,000 from Lennar builders in Miami; $440,000 from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which has long supported the development industry.

The group has raised $5.8 million, according to finance reports - with builders K. Hovnanian of New Jersey and California’s Ryland Corp., and KB Homes among the bigger contributors. A host of Florida business groups also have powered the opposition campaign, including Florida Mainstream Merchants and Florida Power & Light.

Meanwhile, the Florida Department of Community Affairs has been flooded with proposals from local governments seeking to change their comprehensive land-use plans - apparently fueled by builder fear of the potential effect of Amendment 4, which needs approval from 60 percent of voters to become law.

The DCA adopted 29,197 plan amendments approved earlier by local governments in 2009 - more than three times the usual number of proposals the agency formerly received annually. Through mid-May, the latest figure available, more than 2,000 amendments had been sent to DCA from local officials.

Department officials acknowledge that many of the amendments sent to Tallahassee for review are small-bore changes. But the volume of changes sought also indicates that many developers are petitioning local governments to rework plans for projects that may never get built or, at least, will begin groundbreaking only when the economy turns around.

“It’s clear, though, a lot of people are trying to get ahead of Amendment 4,” said James Miller, a DCA spokesman.

Julie Hauserman, with the Florida Hometown Democracy campaign that proposed Amendment 4, said the high volume of plan amendments sent to DCA underscores the bond between city and county officials and developers.

“You’ve got to wonder why are local politicians approving comp-plan changes for future development when there’s a recession and empty strip malls across Florida,” Hauserman said.

While Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy has collected $5.7 million, Hometown Democracy through mid-July had collected $1.6 million, with $138,573 coming in the latest quarter. But Hometown Democracy has managed to spend virtually all that it has collected, according to campaign finance reports.

Citizens has bankrolled all but $440,000 for what is likely to prove a heavy television advertising campaign this fall.

The flood of comp-plan amendments and even the sizable contributions coming from building and real estate industries hit hard by the economy are “just another unintended consequence of Amendment 4,” said Ryan Houck, executive director of Citizens for Lower Taxes and a Stronger Economy.

“The whole purpose of Amendment 4 is to kick development proposals into court,” he added. “It’s really just a stimulus package for environmental lawyers.”

But Florida industries financing the opposition acknowledge the spending comes at a bleak time. Sebree, of the Florida Realtors, said his organization, which has 115,000 members, is more than 25 percent smaller than it was at the 2005-06 height of the state’s real estate boom.

The Florida Home Builders Association, with about 10,000 corporate members, is about half of its former size, said Doug Buck, the organization’s director of governmental affairs.

“We are a reflection of the devastation,” Buck said. “But everybody in this state is affected by construction. We’re going to do all we can so citizens understand what this amendment will do to this state’s economy.”

Source: News Service of Florida