Friday, October 28, 2011


In a recent Florida Trend news story in October 2011, writer describes why Northwest Florida is so attractive to businesses. Read on and learn why yourself.

Northwest Florida
By Christine Jordan Sexton - 10/10/2011

Florida's capital city Tallahassee boasts two public universities, a highly educated workforce and a growing R&D sector. Northwest Florida's abundant pine forests, meandering rivers, natural springs, sugar white beaches and nearly year-round sunshine have long made this region a favorite destination for visitors. Along with a thriving tourism economy, the 16-county region is also home to strong aviation/aerospace and defense sectors and a burgeoning market for research and development. And this region is growing by leaps and bounds. U.S. Census data shows that seven Northwest Florida counties grew 15% between 2000 and 2010; Santa Rosa, Walton and Wakulla swelled by 25%.

Affordability may well be the reason. Most housing in the region is priced below the state's median home value of $211,300. And Northwest Florida's population is younger than in many other regions in Florida, which translates into a ready and growing workforce adept at using the latest technologies.

Who Lives Here:
Northwest Florida has a labor force of more than 661,000. It is home to four of the state's 20 MSAs, including Florida's capital city, Tallahassee. The area also boasts bustling urban centers like Pensacola, Fort Walton Beach and Panama City.

Military personnel: Approximately 40,000 well-trained military personnel. Some 8,000 retire or resign from military service to enter the region's workforce each year — many of them with advanced technical training and highly desired industry credentials.

Students: 60,000-plus students in the region's eight colleges and universities, including Florida State University, Florida A&M University and the University of West Florida.
A growing creative class: In Tallahassee — Florida's state capital and the region's largest city — the share of the workforce with college degrees is almost double the national average.

Northwest Florida: At A Glance
Regional Assets
Universities/Colleges• Chipola College• Florida A&M University• Florida State University• Gulf Coast State College• Northwest Florida State College• Pensacola State College• Tallahassee Community College • University of West Florida
Airports• Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport • Northwest Florida Regional Airport • Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport• Tallahassee Regional Airport
Seaports• Port Panama City• Port of Pensacola• Port St. Joe

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Attention Real Estate Developers. If you haven't been following the trends in housing for Baby Boomers, read on. With Baby Boomers visiting our area for years; they are now deciding to make it their home. So with this knowledge, we need to take heed and build accordingly.
Baby Boomers Seek Smaller, Affordable Homes

Daily Real Estate News Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Baby boomers who plan to move for retirement are looking for smaller, affordable homes that are easily accessible to medical care and near their family, finds a new poll of more than 1,000 adults born between 1946 and 1964 conducted by Associated
Baby boomers who make more than $100,000 a year are the most likely to say they plan to buy a new home during retirement. For boomers who plan to purchase a new home, the most important factors cited in a home for retirement included:
* Smaller home (40%)
* Near medical offices or hospitals (39%)
* Different climate--perhaps warmer (30%)
* More affordable home (25%)
* Being closer to family (15%)
About 10 percent of baby boomers said they will search for a new city to relocate to that offers more services for them in retirement. Only 8 percent of baby boomers surveyed say they want a larger home for retirement, the poll finds.
However, more baby boomers say they don’t have any plans to move after they retire, mostly due to a drop in their home values as well as a drop in their personal investments and retirement plans the last few years, the poll finds. About 53 percent of baby boomers polled say they plan to delay retirement until they recoup some of their investment losses. In the poll, only 9 percent of the baby boomers expect they’ll be able to live comfortably in retirement.
Source: “Many Boomers in Poll say They Won't Move for Retirement; Those who will Seek Affordability,” The Associated Press (Oct. 26, 2011)

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


1. You own it: With no landlord, you make the decisions.
2. You deduct it: Mortgage interest, property taxes and some costs involved with buying a home can be deducted from federal income taxes.
3. Interest rates: The cost to borrow mortgage money is at an all-time low. If you’re going to buy, this is the time to jump into the market.
4. You invest in it: Rent money is gone forever. Mortgage payments build home equity ownership interests.
5. You save for the future: Home equity is a ready-made savings plan. Sell it and you can make up to $250,000 cash without owing any federal income tax on the profit.
6. You can predict expenses: Unlike rent, a fixed-mortgage payment doesn’t get more expensive over time.
7. You pick it: Choose from different neighborhoods, styles and price ranges.
8. You create it: Decorate, renovate, get a pet or paint the walls whatever color you want – it belongs to you.
9. You live in a neighborhood: You and your neighbors take pride in the local schools, roads and more – and you work together to build a friendly community.
10. You spend money on yourself: When you buy a chandelier or hardwood floor or kitchen cabinet, you’re spending hard-earned money on yourself and building your equity at the same time.© 2011 Florida Realtors®


I guess we know why our vacation rentals had a record year now. We had a record year at the Airport. I have said all along, the word is out. The Emerald Coast is a “jewel” of a vacation and has folks around the country and world finding it out.

Airport has record year
Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4448
This year will go down in the record books as the biggest in the 54-year history of the Northwest Florida Regional Airport. A record 900,562 passengers flew into or out of Northwest Florida Regional Airport during Fiscal Year 2011, which went from Oct. 1, 2010, to Sept. 30, 2011. That represented a 22.8 percent increase from last year and even beat the previous record of 816,875 passengers served in 2000. “You always like to see a positive growth in your total passenger numbers, but 23 percent for the year is really unheard of for an existing airport,” said Mike Stenson, business development manager for the airport. “It is beyond what we had anticipated. “It would be nice to see that kind of growth next year,” Stenson added. Much of the growth can be attributed to Vision Airlines, which calls Northwest Florida its “hub.” Vision began here with service to Niagara Falls, N.Y., and Miami in December 2010 and expanded to almost two dozen cities, before scaling back to five destinations. They are expected to announce their expanded spring and summer schedule in December or January. Other airlines contributed significant gains, too. Delta, which typically serves the most passengers of any of the airlines each month, was up 7 percent for the year. US Airways was up 8 percent, American Eagle increased its passenger count by 10 percent and Continental Airlines was up 12 percent. Three times this year, the airport broke its record for the most passengers in a single month. “It seemed like every month we were having a record-breaking month,” Stenson said. “A lot of it has to do with Vision, no doubt about it, but all of our airlines did exceptionally well.” N o r t h w e s t F l o r i d a Regional Airport has offered 32 daily departures to 24 nonstop cities through its five airlines during Fiscal Year 2011. Members of airport staff are working on ways to increase that in the future. Stenson said the airport is very active in speaking with existing airlines about their ongoing needs. Earlier this year, Delta upgraded two flights from the 50-seat Canadair Regional Jet to the 149-seat MD-88 aircraft. The airport also goes to other airlines that do not serve Northwest Florida, he said. This year’s Eastern Region — Small Airports Air Service Development Conference is scheduled for early November at Sandestin. Stenson said that will be a great opportunity for local airport staff to meet with airline representatives from around the country. “They’re going to be seeing our area for the first time and no doubt they’re going to be blown away with what this area has to offer,” Stenson said. “Having the numbers like we had this year, it’s an eyeopener to any airline to see what is possible from this airport when you bring new air service into a community,” he added. “It’s really incredible what we’ve experienced this year.”

Friday, October 14, 2011


Okay folks, we have said enough about the military and its impact to the area. Guess what, the time has arisen for another industry to flourish in the Crestview area. That being education with FAMU’s Pharmacy School, which is anticipated to generate 269 jobs and a number of students. If you been following this project, you will know a Drug Manufacturing Company is looking hard to bring their manufacturing plant to the Crestview Industrial Airpark (Florida Enterprise Zone) with the help of the Florida Governor’s Office on down. In fact, this school is a big reason this Drug Manufacturing Company has targeted this area. Stay tuned. Are you getting the idea, something is going on here? Again, stay tuned. It doesn’t stop here. More to come.
Work on new FAMU center starting to bring jobs to Crestview
October 13, 2011 6:07 PM
Brian Hughes
Florida Freedom Newspapers
CRESTVIEW — Jobs already have started to trickle into town as work continues on renovations to the Alatex building to convert it to Florida A&M University’s pharmacy school. “We’ve started reaching out to the community to get resumes,” said David Delancy, president of One Day Came, the project’s construction management firm. Delancy said between 20 and 40 construction jobs will be available. Delancy joined community leaders and officials from FAMU, the state, Okaloosa County and Crestview for a meet-and-greet Thursday at the Crestview Community Center. “The thing that really made us feel at home is when we had former employees of Alatex come out and sit in that hot sun with us to see that wonderful building transition from a factory to an educational center,” FAMU President James Ammons said. Bradley Will, vice president of operations for prime contractor Peter Brown Construction, said his company has hired local subcontractors through the state competitive bid process. The project is well-timed, given the state of the economy, he added. “It’s not creating jobs, it’s saving jobs,” Will said. Project architect David Vincent, senior vice president of Panama City-based JRA Architects, agreed. “This has been a godsend to us,” Vincent said. “Work has been slow.” Vincent said his firm’s design will repurpose many of the wooden components salvaged from the original construction. Floors and baseboards are being refinished and the heavy wooden columns with their distinctive Y-braces will find new uses. He also praised the soundness of the historic Alatex building. “We were shocked when we had a restoration expert look at the building,” Vincent said. “He said it was built like a tank.” JobsPlus and Trojan Labor are helping place workers. Representatives of the groups also attended Thursday’s the event. “Our plan is to gather people from the local community,” said Amy Freeland of Trojan Labor. Seven full-time professional positions have been filled, said FAMU pharmacy school Associate Dean Dr. Myron Honeywell. Of those hired, five are Crestview residents. Crestview City Council President Charles Baugh Jr. said research by the University of West Florida Haas Center for Business Research and Economic Development shows the pharmacy school eventually will generate 269 jobs and ultimately have as much as $20 million impact on the community. Sam Houston, FAMU’s director of facilities, said the project is on schedule. Construction is expected to wrap up in June 2012 and the first class will begin in August. The school will be called the Rural Diversity Healthcare Center. FAMU officials plan to admit classes of 30 students each until the school reaches its 120-student capacity, Honeywell said. The school will offer a PharmD degree that leads to a pharmacy license.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


The next step of many takes shape to make the Crestview Industrial Airport a centerpiece of the aerospace industry. Yes, the 7th Special Forces is here and with more of them to come, but I must continue to inform you. The State of Florida has given this Airport millions of dollars for improvements, which has placed it on radar screen for a large number of businesses. I would say thanks that the 7th Special Forces are here and will be growing for years, but with the F-35 Training Program, which has just completed their close to a half of billion dollar facility, and brings 9 NATO countries to the area with it. This is not the only thing, which will bring aerospace jobs, you have the unmanned drone programs, aircraft rehab, and much, much, more. I say look out. There is more coming, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise. FOOT NOTE: Senator Gaetz, our sitting Senator in NW Florida, has been selected as the President of the Senate. His top agenda, JOBS, JOBS, JOBS, and MILITARY, MILITARY, MILITARY. Do I say more?

Okaloosa’s first avionics shop moving to Crestview
Capital Avionics will expand operations at Bob Sikes Airport
Florida Freedom Newspapers
CRESTVIEW — Capital Avionics’ aircraft services operation already is working in a rented hangar space next door to Emerald Coast Aviation at Bob Sikes Airport. By Nov. 1, the airport’s newest tenant expects to have its component repair division moved to Crestview’s airport from Tallahassee Regional Airport, said Peter Mohylsky, company’s manager of business operations. “It is going to be a great opportunity,” said Mike Stenson, Okaloosa County’s airports business development manager and acting manager at Bob Sikes. “For the first time, we’re going to have an avionics shop in Okaloosa County. It’s a very desirable service that eventually all airplanes need, and we’re very happy we’re going to offer it out of our airport. It’s a very specialized industry.” Founded in Tallahassee in 1978, Capital Avionics became increasingly frustrated with the business environment at Tallahassee Regional. Company owners began talking with Okaloosa County officials about moving to Crestview after meeting at a trade show last year. After the Tallahassee airport was privatized, a group of businessmen forced out most companies except his, Capital Avionics President Al Ingle told the Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce’s Airport Committee. Ingle said he has been impressed by the reception his company has received locally. “This is such a different environment than Tallahassee,” said Ingle, who founded the company at age 24. “It is so nice to be wanted.” “Tallahassee is not an aviation town,” said Donna Ingle, Capital Avionics’ comptroller. “It’s a government town.” In preparation for the component repair operation moving to Crestview, the company hired a local technician, Dan Smith, who is training at the Tallahassee location. Mohylsky said 14 employees with the division will move to Crestview, and six to 10 people will be hired when the division is operational. Before Capital Avionics’ test equipment manufacturing division can move to Crestview, more space will be needed, Donna Ingle said. That division now is in a 10,000-square-foot hangar, and no comparably sized facility is available near the airport. Stenson said the test equipment manufacturing facility might be located off airport property.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


Things are doing quite well and I am certain, they will be getting even better in the residential market. Why, a number of reasons. One, a good percentage of the 7th Special Forces Group are sitting in rentals (homes and apartments) looking around for the right place to live; two, a number of folks did not move their families yet from Fort Bragg, because they have not decided to move yet; Three, 7th Special Forces Group has another Battalion on the way; Four, the F-36 Training Squadron folks are beginning to ramp up, as the new F-35’s are arriving; Five, the Housing Privatization Program is on hold; Six, the military is not the only folks coming to our area. In my travels as the President of the Northwest Florida Military Officers Association, I get to hear some really interesting stories. The latest in regards to the housing situation was the fact, a number of guys are renting homes and living together without their families (Geographical Bachelors) waiting for some quality homes and developments take shape. So in closing, I saying, you haven’t seen anything yet. Yes, the 7th Special Forces Group is operational here at Eglin. However, many have not move into their homes of the future. If you been in the military, which I have, you will understand how this works.

Real estate market better than a year ago
Relocation of 7th Special Forces families is the reason, Realtor says
Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4448
September was the second good month in a row for the local real estate market, as the number of single family homes and condominiums sold outpaced last year’s levels. Metro Market Trends recently released the latest sales reports for Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties. Although there was some fluctuation in home prices, the number of single-family homes and condominiums sold in all three counties increased last month compared with September 2010. “I think (September) went very well. Everything was up,” said Jean Floyd, a local Realtor and president of the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors. “I saw a leveling out of pricing and we had another good month. “It’s very telling to me that Northwest Florida and our area in particular is really doing well,” she added. Single-family home sales in Okaloosa County were up 19.8 percent in September compared with September 2010, according to Metro Market Trends. Condominium and townhome sales increased even more and were up more than 35 percent. Walton County saw similar increases, with single-family home sales up 13.1 percent and condo/townhome sales up 31.3 percent. Santa Rosa County’s sales increased 14.2 percent for singlefamily homes and 10 percent for condo/townhomes. Property values also increased in Okaloosa and Walton counties but slipped in Santa Rosa County. The average price of a single-family home sold in Okaloosa County in September was $219,251, up slightly from last September’s average price of $215,472. Condominiums and townhomes had a larger increase, going from $218,417 to $240,247 year over year. The margins were even larger in Walton County, where the average single family home price jumped almost $20,000, from $413,483 to $433,016 in a year. Average sale prices for both single-family homes and condominiums/ townhomes fell in Santa Rosa County, although condo/townhome prices were down only two-tenths of a percent. The average single-family home price fell from $180,389 to $163,117. Floyd attributes the differences in sales prices to the influence of the 7th Special Forces relocating to the area. She said Okaloosa and Walton counties’ real estate markets were seeing more of an effect from the almost 1,000 families than Santa Rosa County. In Niceville alone, the average sales price increased from $213,000 last September to $251,000 this year, Floyd said. “We’re doing very well,” Floyd said. “Sales are up, and I just look forward to that trend through the end of the year being the same.”

Saturday, October 8, 2011


The question was, Is Okaloosa County poised to be the silicone valley of the east coast? From what I know and have seen, I would have to say a big “Roger that”. Once you understand the history of Eglin, the latest missions it was been given (i.e. Special Operations and Training), you can only come away with the same answer. Our area, community support, and our strategic location, make this area a place to help streamline military spending in a number of ways and will make it very attractive for future Base Realignment and Closure Commissions to move more military assets here. Last note. How did we get Bin Laden and some of his associates? Special Forces and Unmanned drones? Do I need to say more?

A magnet for tomorrow?
Local economic leaders say a facility to test unmanned air vehicles could have big impact on Okaloosa County
Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4448
The late Apple founder Steve Jobs knew as he was creating products that revolutionized the digital music player, smart phone and tablet computing industries that you don’t focus on what’s big today. Especially when it comes to high-tech industries, leaders must focus on what are going to be the hot items in the future. Local economic development leaders believe one of the biggest military and commercial industries over the next 25 years is going to be the development of unmanned air and ground vehicles. They hope to put Northwest Florida at the forefront of that industry. “You try to look down the road. What are the emerging technologies and industries?” said Jim Breitenfeld, who is leading a subgroup of the Okaloosa County Economic Development Council’s TeCMEN group. Breitenfeld’s panel is devoted to expanding the unmanned air vehicles (UAV) business in the county. “When you look down the road, I don’t think there’s any question that this unmanned or remotely piloted vehicle is the wave of the future both militarily, commercially and with so many uses,” he said. “We’re trying to position ourselves. You want a magnet, something that’s going to attract folks.” The magnet could be the proposed 45,000-square-foot UAV test center planned for south of the University of Florida’s Research and Engineering Education Facility (REEF) on Lewis Turner Boulevard. The EDC is conducting a feasibility study on the facility and hopes to receive grants to help fund the estimated $1.5 million project. “This is the future. The growth potential for this industry is enormous,” said EDC President Larry Sassano. “It’s a multi-billion dollar industry. Right now, most of it is being done in the military. We see more DOD dollars being spent on unmanned vehicles than just about any other area other than Special Ops. “Everybody has used the word diversification to revitalize the economy,” Sassano added. “This is diversification. It’s technology diversification and it’s emerging technology. It’s innovative and it has all the buzz words that the state and federal government are looking at today to support with funding for the creation of good, high-paying jobs.” The University of Florida already does UAV research at its REEF building, but is limited because of space, said David Jeffcoat, a systems engineering professor with the university. Unmanned vehicles can range in size from an insect to a Boeing 737. The proposed facility would be used to test the smaller unmanned vehicles. “The idea of a new facility is to give us more space, space to actually test some prototype vehicles,” Jeffcoat said. “Right now, we don’t really have that. We have to go outdoors or try to go onto the Eglin reservation, which is difficult to schedule.” The unmanned or remotely piloted vehicles are definitely a growing market. The Department of Defense has 35 times more unmanned vehicles in its inventory today than it did 10 years ago, said Terry Proulx, senior staff analyst for the defense contracting firm ARINC. Proulx said the Air Force has more unmanned aircraft in its inventory than it has bombers. While the primary application for unmanned operations now is the military, Proulx said that is changing. Unmanned air vehicles are being used to assist in law enforcement, firefighting and border security. A power company in Australia is even using them to inspect utility lines for damage rather than have an employee climb poles. “The military applications for this technology are all well and good, and they’ve made a significant impact in the wars at this point, but I think everybody will agree that the potential for the commercial applications of this are really going to dwarf that,” Proulx said. “It’s really going to take off.”

Friday, October 7, 2011


Below 4 percent for Home Mortgages. Unbelievable. Who would have thought? As noted below, for folks with jobs and stable finances, this is once in a life time opportunity. For us here in Northwest Florida with a growing military population, who have jobs and stable finances, it makes the housing ownership market very attractive. Not only do you have the military population increasing in our area, our tourism is growing again, non-defense companies are moving into the area, new higher education opportunities are growing, and much more. The questions comes, will the commercial lending be able to keep pace to provide the needs of all of these new residents? I say yes, but not necessarily from our banks. More and more investment firms are providing the funding at reasonable rates. So in closing, this news and some of the other great opportunities taking off, we should be a bright spot in the country. So stay tuned as we move ahead with our growing pains. Growing pains. One pain, we could live with.

Mortgage rate below 4 percent WASHINGTON (AP) — The average rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage has fallen below 4 percent for the first time in history. For the lucky few with good jobs and stable finances, it’s a rare opportunity to save potentially thousands of dollars each year. For most people, it’s a tease and a reminder of how weak their own financial situation is. On Thursday, Freddie Mac said the rate on the 30-year fixed mortgage fell to 3.94 percent from 4.01 percent last week, the previous low. The average rate on a 15-year fixed loan, a popular refinancing option, dipped to 3.26 percent, also a record. Mortgage rates are now lower than they were in the early 1950s. The average rate reached 4.08 percent for a few months back then, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research. Although mortgages at that time typically lasted only 20 or 25 years. Super low rates haven’t been enough to lift the housing market, which has struggled in recent years with anemic sales and declining home prices. Rates have been below 5 percent for all but two weeks in the past year. Yet sales of previously occupied homes this year are on track to be among the worst in 14 years. And homeownership has dropped over the past decade by the greatest amount since the Great Depression, according to 2010 census data released Thursday. “Considering how far mortgage rates have fallen, we’d expect to see more people refinancing and buying,” said Celia Chen, director of housing economics at Moody’s Analytics. “It’s still the lack of jobs and the difficult credit environment that’s pushing most people away.”

Thursday, October 6, 2011


Folks, stand by. Job growth. It is my belief from what I know, you haven't seen anything yet. As the F-35 Training Squadron begins to order their folks into the area on the heels of the standing up of the 7th Special Forces, and more construction for both commercial/residential takes off, our job growth will grow tremendously from the restaurant workers to the scientist and engineers. So if you are thinking about investing, think about one of the major bright spots in the country.

Note to Self: Army 7th Special Forces Group operational in Northwest Florida, however, many the families have not made the move, YET.

Region has seen healthy job growth
That comes despite hurricanes, recession and the oil spill, economist Rick Harper says
Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4448
SANDESTIN — Despite hurricanes, a worldwide recession and last year’s oil spill, Northwest Florida has seen healthy job growth the past decade. The Fort Walton Beach and Panama City areas each have experienced about 15 percent job growth from 2000 to today, said Rick Harper, executive director of the office of Economic Development and Engagement at the University of West Florida. The Pensacola and Tallahassee areas had about 5 percent more jobs in the same time period, he noted. Harper spoke Tuesday during the second and final day of the 2011 Gulf Power Economic Symposium. While a large portion of Monday’s speakers focused on economic issues facing the state and nation, most of Tuesday’s discussions focused on Northwest Florida. “Panama City and Fort Walton Beach are really the Energizer bunnies of the Northwest Florida economy,” said Harper. “They just keep growing and growing.” Harper contrasted Northwest Florida to the Mobile, Ala., area, which is about flat in job growth over the past 11 years. In the 16-county region of Florida’s Great Northwest, 43 percent of all jobs are supported by the government, which Harper characterized as high-earning positions. That percentage is much higher than the state average of 19 percent of jobs because of the large military presence. Tourism accounts for 9 percent of all the jobs in the region, despite that only half of the counties are along the coast. “The challenge in the visitors sector is that those jobs tend not to be as well paid as the excellent jobs driven by military, defense spending and contracting,” Harper said. “Still, it’s a large part of the economy, not quite as many (tourism) jobs as in the rest of Florida, but a substantial level.” Another large source of income was retirees, which is the top source of revenue for Florida as a whole but placed second in Northwest Florida because the region skews younger than the state average. However, that could be changing. Harper said much of the population growth in the region in the next five years is expected to come from retirees. “We have to figure out what are the best business opportunities to ser ve them,” Harper said. Manufacturing currently only accounts for 3 percent of the jobs in the region.
In the next five years, Harper projected military occupations would grow only about 1 percent. Retail jobs, which are dependent on tourism, are projected to grow by 10 percent. Harper said he also expects larger job growth to occur as the construction and goods and services markets recover.


Their BACK, and they have come back in a major way. In my opinion, our efforts to dispel the rumors caused by local media outlets and others that our beaches were covered in oil, marketing to our visitor base in the Southeast, and the fact we have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, as noted by a number of Travel Magazine, help bring us back in a major way in our tourism. This major upswing also brought back buyers into the vacation rental mark with low interest rates, great pricing, and access to financing. Oh yea, KNOCK ON WOOD, no hurricanes hitting the coast.

Emerald Coast completes record-breaking summer with solid August figures
Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4448
The final month of summer capped off a record-breaking tourism season in which area counties saw double-and even triple-digit increases over last year. Tourist development agencies in Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties recently released their bed tax collection data for August. Collections were up 61.99 percent in Okaloosa County, 63.88 percent in Walton County and 101.3 percent in Santa Rosa County. “I was certainly hoping people would realize (the oil spill was) over,” said Kate Wilkes, executive director of the Santa Rosa County Tourist Development Council. “I have to say, it’s less than I hoped for but more than I expected. I’m not shocked by the figures. Our ad agency really got the word out there.” Bed taxes are collected on short-term rentals in Walton, Santa Rosa and southern Okaloosa counties and are indicators of how many tourists are visiting the Emerald Coast. The funds are used primarily to promote the area to potential visitors. All three counties posted huge increases this summer compared to the same period last year. For the months of June, July and August, Okaloosa County’s bed tax collections were up 57.81 percent from 2010. Santa Rosa County was up 63.11 percent and Walton County was up 42.26 percent. Earlier in the summer, Okaloosa and Walton counties broke records on the amount of bed taxes collected in a single month. The recovery from last year’s oil spill even caught the attention of Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who visited the area earlier this week. “You had a great tourist season,” Scott said. “We think you’re headed in the right direction. All of your regional efforts had a big impact.” John Russell, president of Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort, said it was a tremendous summer. He said he saw in March and April that the year was going to be stronger than he originally thought. At the end of March, Sandestin revised all of its projections for the rest of the year based on the strength of spring break. Even then, it underestimated August and September. “Down here, you expect June and July to be good,” Russell said. “That’s a given, and they were great months and so much better than last year. What’s encouraging is not only was the summer strong, but the spring was strong and the fall was strong. For this economy, this is really what we need. We need to do well in the shoulder months. “What has been the most gratifying for us has been the way August performed,” he added. “August is kind of the shoulder season, but our leisure business in August was up 156 percent over last year and our group business was up 40 percent over last year. It was just an incredible month.” Mark Bellinger, executive director of the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council, said several factors contributed to the strong rebound from last year. “Visitor numbers this past summer far exceeded the majority of businesses’ pre-summer forecasts and expectations,” Bellinger wrote in an email. “The Emerald Coast received a fantastic positive economic boost from our destination’s record-breaking months of June and July of 2011. “I think a number of things contributed to the recent summer success,” he continued, “such as repeat guests who skipped vacationing here last summer (but) really wanted to return to enjoy our world class beaches and southern hospitality, the amount of national advertising by Northwest Florida’s Tourist Development Councils and regional tourism-related businesses, the wonderful weather and the continued lodging incentives and package plans.” Bellinger and Wilkes said they are focusing their marketing efforts to increase the shoulder and off season. Santa Rosa’s TDC recently completed its second annual sand sculpting contest that drew more than 20,000 people to Navarre Beach last weekend, and Wilkes said there already is talk of bringing it back next year. Russell said October is off to a good start at Sandestin. Reservations from snowbirds already are running 20 percent higher than last year, which was a record-breaker for the resort.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


The State of Florida is getting very serious about bringing businesses to State of Florida. With the new Pharmacy School being built in Crestview and beginning classes in the Spring of 2012, Crestview should be at the top of the list. As mentioned numerous times before, Crestview is in the center of some exciting growth opportunities, which are focused on a wide range of industries. Diversification of new businesses has been the key and being in the center of the I-10 corridor with rail, highway, and air systems, it makes Crestview very attractive to these businesses.

State makes offer to drug maker
Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4438
State officials have presented a final incentive package to a pharmaceutical company considering building its next manufacturing plant in Crestview. Enterprise Florida, the state’s official economic development agency, finalized the offer to the Alabaster, Ala.-based Pharmacy South Inc., which makes the respiratory drug Albuterol. “There is an official offer on the table,” said Henry Kelley of Cobalt Blue, the local firm working to bring Pharmacy South to Okaloosa County. “It’s in the hands of the client to decide.” Kelley and his partner, former Destin Mayor Craig Barker, said the pharmaceutical company’s presence could introduce a third leg to a regional economy based largely on the military and tourism. Under Florida law, Pharmacy South has 120 days to accept the state’s offer. “We’re optimistic. We feel the offer was solid,” Kelley said. “It’s competitive with the other states to the best of our knowledge.” Pharmacy South also is considering locations in New Jersey, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi and Pennsylvania. Kelley said Okaloosa County has a competitive edge with its available workforce, quality of life and the Florida A&M University pharmacy school planned for the old Alatex building in downtown Crestview. “FAMU could partner with this company,” Kelley said. “The benefits just go on and on.” FAMU officials participated in the development of the incentive package and have shown interest in forming a research and development partnership with Pharmacy South if it moves to Crestview. The company’s 45,000-squarefoot plant initially would generate about 120 jobs. “Most of these jobs will be high paying, blue-collar manufacturing jobs,” Kelley said. “There will be a number of professional jobs.” A second phase planned within five years could increase the number of jobs to about 500. County and state officials are banking on landing one pharmaceutical firm to eventually form a cluster of similar companies. “We really believe you get one, you get a lot,” Kelley said. “It’s really a chance to diversify this region’s economy.”