Tuesday, December 18, 2012

TRUST PLATINUM BLOG - L-3 Crestview Aerospace Announce Expansion - 340 Jobs Created with Help of Government/Private Money

As I promised,   More jobs on the way to Crestview, and don’t think it will stop here.  This was a great effort by a group of folks, which consisted of government and private sector coming together for the greater good.

Gov. Scott and L-3 Crestview Aerospace Announce Expansion of Aircraft
Manufacturing Operations

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Today, Governor Rick Scott and L-3 Crestview Aerospace (L-3 CA http://www.L-3crestview.com ) announced that the company will create 340 jobs within two years through the expansion of their aircraft manufacturing operations in Okaloosa County.

The project also marks an investment of more than $13.7 million, which will include $7 million in facilities upgrades and the retrofit of hangar space
at Bob Sikes Airport<http://flycew.com/> in 2013 and 2014.

Governor Scott said, "After visiting L-3's facility in October, I am proud they are continuing to help Florida's families with the creation of 340 more jobs. Florida is an aviation and aerospace leader because of the growth and innovation of businesses like L-3 CA. These are hundreds of jobs that will positively impact Florida's communities - and is a great sign of Florida's growing economy. Since taking office, the private sector has created nearly 175,000 jobs, Florida has experienced the largest drop in unemployment in the nation - and as families get more jobs, residential real estate is projected to rise for 2013, which is great news for Florida communities."

L-3 CA, a division of L-3's Integrated Systems Group, is a world-leading provider of aero structure fabrication and assembly and aircraft modification. Since June 2011,158 of these jobs have already been added.

"We're a vertically integrated, one-stop shop for detail parts fabrication and machining through end-item aero structure assemblies and fixed- and rotary-wing modifications," said Jeff Barger, L-3 CA's vice president and general manager. "The continued growth of our facility and workforce increases our capacity to provide high-quality aerostructure fabrication and aircraft modification services to our existing and new customers."

Organizations that partnered to support L-3 CA's expansion included the Bob Sikes Airport, City of Crestview, Crestview-Okaloosa Industrial Air Park, Economic Development Council for Okaloosa County, Enterprise Florida Inc., Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners and Workforce Development Board of Okaloosa County.

"As one of Okaloosa County's top employers, the Economic Development Council has been honored to assist L-3 Crestview Aerospace on their business expansion needs," said Kay Rasmussen, interim president for the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County. "Larry Sassano, the EDC's previous president, started working with L-3 over a year ago as a targeted industry for high growth and high wage job potential. This is a wonderful success story of utilizing multiple partners to bring a project to fruition."

Headquartered in New York City, L-3 employs approximately 51,000 people worldwide and is a prime contractor in C3ISR (Command, Control,
Communications, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) systems, aircraft modernization and maintenance, and national security solutions. L-3
is also a leading provider of a broad range of electronic systems used on military and commercial platforms.



Just another vote of confidence by the Air Force that Eglin AFB is where they will train pilots and maintainers for the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. 
Air Force OKs F-35 training school at Eglin
Published: Monday, December 17, 2012 at 17:33 PM.
EGLIN AFB — The Air Force on Monday gave their F-35 training school the go-ahead to officially open its doors to teach pilots how to fly the military’s newest stealth fighter jet.
Gen. Edward Rice, who heads the Air Force’s Air Education and Training Command, visited Eglin Monday to give his formal approval.
“It’s a great day for us,” said Col. Andrew Toth, commander of the 33rd Fighter Wing, which oversees the training program. “It really solidifies the teamwork and dedication that all the men and women have put into making this happen here.”
The training program at Eglin is the only one of its kind in the country. It serves as a schoolhouse for pilots in the Air Force, Marines and foreign services to learn to fly the new jets, which cost about $70 million each. The Navy is set to begin training on its own variant of the jet next year.
The program situates Eglin at the forefront of development of new combat aviation technology, which will likely be used for the next 40 to 50 years, said Lt. Col. Eric Smith, director of operations for the 33rd Fighter Wing.
Monday’s announcement comes just days after the Department of Defense said that it has signed a $3.8 billion contract with Lockheed Martin to purchase a fifth batch of F-35s after months of contention regarding cost-overruns. The deal could eventually bring 14 new jets to Eglin, including eight for the Air Force, according to preliminary numbers.
The Air Force currently has nine F-35s at Eglin. That is expected to ramp up to 20 by the end of next year, Smith said.
The Air Force now has the go-ahead to take on their first official class of six pilots who will start training Jan. 7. They plan to put 36 through the program next year.
This year they graduated 12 pilots who trained while the school awaited official approval.
While some of the graduates will stay at Eglin, others will be stationed with their own wings at Edwards Air Force Base in California or Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.
The course includes about six weeks of academic training and six weeks of flight training. It uses state-of-the-art flight simulators, at a cost of $25 million apiece, that allow instructors to recreate almost any scenario that could arise in the air, said Maj. Greg Frana, who oversees the simulation program at the academic training center.
The program also relies heavily on about 130 aircraft maintainers who work to keep the Air Force’s F-35s ready for safe flight.
The maintainers are highly qualified but had to learn to care for a brand new aircraft in a relatively short time period, said Master Sgt. Shannon Wood, who oversees maintenance on the flight line for the 33rd Fighter Wing.
“This is an awesome milestone,” Shannon said. “It’s been extremely challenging, but (the maintainers) took it head on and they surpassed expectations with what they’ve done with this jet.”
Toth said that the visiting general did not report finding any major changes the program needs to make as far as execution or safety.
“He’s excited for us, excited for the Air Force,” Toth said of Rice. “He’s very proud of what we have done and accomplished in the last year and getting us to where we are.
“He said, ‘Keep up the great work,’ ” Toth said.
In a news release issued Monday, Rice said the program was robust enough to conduct the planned instruction at Eglin.
“The (evaluation) showed the men and women at Eglin are ready,” he said in the news release. “I'm very proud of both those in uniform and the contracted support who put in years of hard work.”
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Lauren Sage Reinlie at 850-315-4443 orlreinlie@nwfdailynews.com. Follow her on Twitter @LaurenRnwfdn.

Monday, December 17, 2012


The following is the 2013 Military Housing Allowance for Eglin AFB area for military members with dependents. This allowance is a tax-free entitlement paid to service members, who reside in off-base housing. If you have any questions about this entitlement, please don't hesitate to give me a call.   As a former, Military Housing Director, I am quite familiar with this entitlement and the process surrounding it.
E-1 - E-4                       $1194.00
E-5                               $1215.00
E-6                               $1353.00
E-7                               $1491.00
E-8                               $1638.00
E-9                               $1800.00
W-1                              $1356.00
W-2                              $1551.00
W-3                              $1734.00
W-4                              $1824.00
W-5                              $1932.00
O1E                              $1521.00
O2E                              $1707.00
O3E                              $1842.00
O-1                               $1230.00
O-2                               $1350.00
O-3                               $1725.00
O-4                               $1974.00
O-5                               $2148.00
O-6                               $2169.00
O-7                               $2193.00

Friday, November 30, 2012


Guess what folks.  The pilots to fly this plane will be trained at Eglin AFB in Northwest Florida.  Oh, by the way, this number does not include the remaining planes purchased by the Navy and Marine, which will total an estimated purchase of 2,400 for the U.S.  On top of that, you have the United KingdomItaly, the NetherlandsCanadaTurkey,AustraliaNorway and Denmark, who have agreed to purchase additional planes from Lockheed Martin, which will make the total acquisition of F-35’s to 3,100.  Don’t think Lockheed has stop there.  Talks are in the works with Israel and Japan for some more planes.  WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR NORTHWEST FLORIDA?:  It means a very dynamic economy and a new and a diverse demographic.  As the planes come off the assembly line, so does the new pilots and their supporting casts begin to show up for training, meetings, negotiations, and just plain enjoy the Emerald Coast. 

“I seen it up close and personal.  It is lethal”

By Andrea Shalal-Esa
NEW YORK | Thu Nov 29, 2012 8:12pm EST
(Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force affirmed on Thursday its plans to buy 1,763 F-35 fighter jets built by Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) in coming years, as Lockheed and the government neared agreement on a multi-billion dollar contract for a fifth batch of planes.
Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told an investor conference that the service remained committed to the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which alone accounts for 15 percent of the service's annual investment spending, and had no plans to revise its projected purchase of 1,763 of the new radar-evading jets. "I don't think there's any reason to revisit that anytime in the near future," Donley told the Credit Suisse conference, underscoring his support for the Pentagon's biggest weapons program.  He said it was not feasible to consider cutting orders or make other major changes to the $396 billion F-35 program, which has already been restructured three times in recent years to allow more time for technology development and to save money. The Pentagon is looking closely at every aspect of its budget given mounting pressure to cut defense spending, and programs as large as the F-35 are always potential targets. But Lockheed executives argue that the Defense Department has already reduced production of the new plane sharply from projected levels, cutting into the economies of scale that were supposed to make the new warplane more affordable. Donley said he had heard proposals about cutting F-35 purchases to save money for other priorities, but said such ideas did not make sense at this point in the program. "These are good theoretical discussions, but when you look at where we are in the program, it makes no sense to have these discussions until about 2025," Donley said. "There is nothing in the near-term about this program that will change; there is nothing that it will contribute to deficit reduction in the next ten years with the exception of its cancellation." And cancellation of the program, he said, was something no one would recommend. Donley said the U.S. government was "getting close" to an agreement with Lockheed about a fifth batch of F-35 jets. Lockheed President Marillyn Hewson told the conference earlier on Thursday that talks with the Pentagon - which have been under way for about a year - were going well and an agreement was likely before the end of the year. "Those negotiations are progressing well," she said at her first major presentation to Wall Street investors since being named Lockheed president and chief operating officer earlier this month. "I do feel confident that we're going to get to closure on Lot 5 this year," she said. Lockheed and the Pentagon were also making progress in talks about additional funding for early work on the sixth batch of F-35 jets, said Hewson. She will become Lockheed's CEO in January, succeeding Christopher Kubasik, who was forced out after admitting to having an affair with a subordinate. Lockheed Chief Financial Officer Bruce Tanner said Hewson had played a key role in the company's talks with the Pentagon, and the two sides had "closed a lot of our differences." Details of the expected agreement were not immediately available, but sources familiar with the negotiations said they expected it to include a reduction in the cost for each F-35 fighter jet from the fourth production contract, although the number of jets to be ordered will not increase. The Pentagon's chief weapons buyer, Frank Kendall, told Reuters on Wednesday that the two sides were "getting close" to an agreement on the fifth production contract. He said he had "a very positive meeting" on Tuesday with Hewson about a range of issues, including the F-35. Lockheed, the Pentagon's largest contractor, and its suppliers are already building the fifth batch of F-35 planes under a preliminary contract, but the two sides have been struggling since last December to finalize the deal. In September, Air Force Major General Christopher Bogdan, who is moving up to head the F-35 program next week, said ties between Lockheed and the U.S. government were "the worst" he had ever seen in his years working on big acquisition programs. Hewson told analysts earlier this month that the F-35 program would be one of her top priorities in her new job. Agreement on the terms of the fifth F-35 contract would free up additional funding for early work on a sixth set of planes, which the company has been funding on its own for some time. Lockheed last month told investors that it faced a potential termination liability of $1.1 billion on that sixth batch of planes, unless it received more funds soon. The Pentagon has refused to release any more money for the sixth batch of planes until the two sides resolve their differences and sign a contract for the fifth batch.
(Reporting By Andrea Shalal-Esa; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick, John Wallace and Tim Dobbyn)

Saturday, November 24, 2012


As promised, the British have arrived.   These pilots, as well as, the pilots for the Air Force, Marines, Navy, and other pilots from around the globe, who bring their supporting casts and their families, and make Northwest Florida their home for some time to come.  This program will continue to grow and bring more and more pilots and maintainers from around the world to receive their training on the newest state of the art fighter plane of the future.  What does this mean to our area?  International recognition, high-tech investment, and a community which will become more and more diverse.  With these factors alone, you can expect an economic boast and investment to be on the rise. 

First 2 U.K. pilots begin F-35 training
They and 12 maintainers are attached to a Marine unit at Eglin
   315-4443 | @LaurenRnwfdn lreinlie@nwfdailynews.com 
  EGLIN AFB — Last week, the first two United Kingdom pilots started training to fly the F-35. They join an elite rank. Only 30 pilots in the world have been or are in the process of training to fly the new stealth fighter jet, which still is in testing phases.   “It’s an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Royal Air Force squadron leader Franki Buchler, one of the two pilots. “I feel very privileged and lucky. I hope I do the aircraft and the Air Force justice.”  Buchler and fellow pilot, Royal Navy Lt. Cdr. Ian Tidball, have joined the U.S. Marines Fighter Attack Training Squadron 501, which is conducting initial training and instruction on the F-35B at Eglin Air Force Base.  The Air Force is conducting similar training on the F-35A variant. The U.K. pilots will take academic courses for about six weeks before they go on their first flights.  In addition to the two pilots, 12 aircraft maintainers, two supervisors and their families moved from the United Kingdom to the area to join the Marines and learn about the F-35.  In 2014 this group, along with another pilot and 50-odd more maintainers, are set to head to Edwards Air Force Base in California to stand up their own United Kingdom squadron to test the plane for combat use.  While at Eglin, wing commander Jon Millington, who heads the U.K. group, said he and his men effectively are operating as Marines.  “I told them, ‘You are part of that Marine squad. Embrace it. Enjoy it. You won’t have a chance to be a Marine again,’ ”Millington said.  Buchler said being embedded with the Marine Corps is different than the Royal Navy. He has been taking part in squad runs and has noticed the Marines require much more physical training time, which he said is a good thing. “It’s going to get my fitness back into shape,” he said. He was honored to become a temporary part of the force. “Just to be around the guys, it’s great,” Buchler said. “They’ve bent over backwards to make us feel that we’re Marines, too.” The United Kingdom has had a hand — and money invested — in the development of the F-35 from the beginning.    “The F-35 would not be here today if it wasn’t for the U.K.,” said Marine Col. Art Tomassetti.  He said the United Kingdom has the most knowledge on Earth about short takeoff and vertical landing capabilities, which the F-35B variant has. The U.K. has purchased three of the planes, two of which already are at Eglin. The third is expected in February. For now, those planes are added to the Marine fleet of 11 F-35Bs. The three planes are expected to be flown to the U.K. by 2018. Millington said the community has been extremely supportive of his men and their families, including the 21 children who were brought to live here while the team trains. Most have settled in Bluewater Bay, he said.  Royal Air Force Capt. Steven Grant, who graduated from his weapons maintenance course Monday, relocated his wife and 3-year-old son from northern Scotland.  He said it was “a bit of a different climate” in Florida. The family arrived in September when it still was warm enough to go to the beach. “It’s been very hectic since we got here, but everybody’s been really helpful,” he said. “Everybody we spoke to, they realized who we are. They seemed to know we were coming before we were even here.” He said many locals invited the families to their homes for Thanksgiving.  Tomassetti said the Marines, the United Kingdom’s Navy and Royal Air Force and the U.S. Air Force have formed a uniquely qualified team with wide-ranging experience to work through initial test phases with the F-35. “Other than the fact that people are wearing slightly different clothes, it would seem that everybody’s a part of one big operation,” he said.

Friday, November 2, 2012


Great job Okaloosa County for looking to the future in job growth and recognition of the Fort Walton Beach/Okaloosa Island area.

Lease approved for Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge
315-4438 | @KariBnwfdn kbarlow@nwfdailynews.com 
OKALOOSA ISLAND — The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge will pay Okaloosa County $1 a year to lease 3.6 acres of the old Island Golf Center property. County commissioners approved the 10-year lease in mid-October. It gives the refuge two years to start building its medical clinic, education center and marine center.“Our founder years ago had pinpointed that piece of property as their dream for where the refuge would end up,” refuge Director Amanda Wilkerson said. “It’s perfect for us because it’s centrally located in our coverage area.”The refuge is finalizing design and construction plans for the clinic and education center. Wilkerson hopes to have a development order in hand within in the next 45 to 120 days.“I’ve been with the refuge since 2000, and we’ve been waiting for this since then,” she said. “I’m definitely excited.” The medical clinic — where the staff will rehab injured and sick animals — will be about 4,000 square feet. “It’s going to be a lot different from what we’re normally used to because it’s going to be an interactive building,” Wilkerson said. “Our ICU, nursery, exam rooms and surgery center are all going to be viewable by one-way glass. There will be an intercom system so people can actually communicate with people on the inside and see what’s going on.” Speakers will allow workers to explain to visitors outside the room exactly what they’re doing to an animal. That setup is designed to educate the public about the service the refuge provides. “Until people really see a heron that has been maimed by fishing line and the procedures it takes to get that animal back on its feet, they have no idea,” Wilkerson said. “Then it becomes more serious to them.” She said the refuge is “working on potential financing” for the clinic, which could open by late 2013. The proposed education center will house the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge Academy of Zoological Sciences, a charter school that initially will serve sixth- and seventhgrade students. “As soon as the building is done, we’re ready to go,” Wilkerson said. “If the funding that we need … comes through, that will open the fall of 2013.” The refuge also plans to build a marine center that will be used for stranded marine life, research and necropsies. The 3.6-acre site sits on 35 acres of the old golf course. The land includes a heron rookery, a pine and oak hammock, coastal dunes, drainage ponds and several acres of wetlands. “The property is beautiful,” Wilkerson said. “It has a lot of educational benefits … with its different kinds of habitats.” County commissioners agreed in June to allow Destin nonprofit AquaGreen to build a $20 million fish hatchery on 4.4 acres of the property and Destin-based Dominion Capital to build Wild Willy’s Adventure Zone on 2.8 acres there. Wilkerson said she is confident the three groups can co-exist while also preserving natural areas for visitors. “We’ve already talked about different ways we can partner with each other,” she said. “I think it’s going to strengthen all of our organizations by being there.” The refuge plans to kick off a campaign in December to raise money to build the clinic and other facilities.  For more information, go to www.ecwildliferefuge.com  or call Amanda Wilkerson at 650-1880.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Great job Okaloosa County Commission for their foresight in bringing more excitement and things to do in the Fort Walton Beach area.   

Okaloosa to mark newest park on island
315-4432 | @AngelMnwfdn amccurdy@nwfdailynews.com 
OKALOOSA ISLAND — A groundbreaking has been set for the newest park on Okaloosa Island that will house 14 acres of wildlife habitat as well as a new adventure land, fish hatchery and home for the Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge.  What to do with the old Island Golf Center property had been debated for years. The topic was discussed by several Okaloosa County Commissions, and everything from an amphitheater to a dog park was considered.  Now, the talk is over and the planning has begun.    “We’ve talked about what to do with the property since (Hurricane) Ivan,” said Kathy Newby, the county’s public information officer. “We floundered for a long time. Now, something was finally decided at a workshop last year.”  A groundbreaking is set for 10 a.m. Nov. 9 to celebrate Veterans Park, which was named last month. The 35 acres will house Wild Willy’s Adventure Island, the wildlife refuge’s veterinary clinic and zoological school, and the Gulf Coast Marine Science Center’s fish hatchery. “Pretty much, we’re in the infant stage of what we’re going to do,” said James Puckett, operations manager for the county‘s parks and recreation department. “Some of the ideas we’ve discussed were walking trails, a natural area, maybe some picnic tables. We’re trying not to impact vegetation.”Puckett said 14 of the 35 acres will be kept natural, but will have walking trails. The other 17 acres will be for Wild Willy’s, which will include a 3,000-square-foot restaurant, yogurt shop and zip line.  The Emerald Coast Wildlife Refuge has plans to expand. It hopes to have a veterinary clinic with viewing area, marine mammal stranding center and its zoological school within the next two years. “We’re working on our development order and finalizing architectural plans now, but we should get under way soon,” said Amanda Wilkerson, director of the refuge.  County Commissioner Don Amunds has been a big supporter of keeping the park natural and getting the right people involved with the developed part.  “I think the public will really enjoy it,” Amunds said. “We listened to the public and they were consistent with what they wanted — green space not structures — and that’s what we’re giving them.”

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME.   Words, which hold true for the panhandle of Florida.  As noted, the Airport in Panama City and  the Northwest Florida Regional Airport in Fort Walton Beach, are experiencing much growth.  Why?  Well it was a, Good thing/Bad Thing.  BP Oil Spill cause significant damages to Gulf.  BP Oil spends millions of dollars in advertising around the country.  This advertising and awareness has cause a significant increase in tourism, which also has led to investment in the real estate market for both vacation rentals and second homes.  The secret is out, and the Emerald Coast is somewhere to spend some time, invest in real estate, and/or make it their home of the future, which many have done already.  I expect with the International pilots of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter School ramping up, we will also have the eyes of the International world on us in a big way, as well.

Airport projecting ‘impressive growth’
 747-5076 | @valeriegarman vgarman@pcnh.com 
PANAMA CITY — Air travel in Northwest Florida has changed since Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport opened in May 2010.  At a public workshop Tuesday at the Bay County Library to discuss the airport’s master planning process, project manager Paul Puckli reminded audience members how Beaches International has changed the face of air travel in the region since its opening. “You’ve got an airport now that has enhanced facilities, improved facilities, state-of-the-art facilities, that provides you an even better link to the air transportation system,” Puckli said. “It’s really promoting air transportation in this area like your other airport just couldn’t do.” The meeting provided an overview of the 16- to 18-month master planning process that, once complete, will outline five-, 10- and 20-year planning horizons for the airport, and give officials a tool to design the airport of the future.  Officials are in the process of forecasting future airport activity, and significant growth is expected. With the airport growing at a rate of 5 percent per year, considerably higher than the national average of 2 percent, Puckli outlined a 20-year activity forecast for the airport that projects passenger activity to double.  “In the next 20 years we’re looking at 950,000 passengers,” Puckli said. “Based on the growth we’ve seen, that’s not way out of line. It’s pretty impressive growth.”  Beaches International has almost tripled the passenger rate of the old airport, from 150,000 to 427,000, and has increased the market share from 9 percent to 23 percent. “Now that we’ve seen the growth, can that terminal building accommodate that growth? No it can’t. Can that parking lot accommodate that growth? No it can’t,” Puckli said. “We’re looking at what we can do to improve it as an air transportation facility and an economic engine for the region.”    Puckli said a major part of the planning process will be to determine the best use for the 4,000 acres of land the airport sits on, the majority of which is undeveloped. He said a crosswind runway most likely will be constructed within the 20-year planning period, but there are no plans for a new runway at this time. After activity forecasts are finalized, an appointed Technical Advisory Committee will determine facility needs and recommend a development program for the airport. A second public workshop will be in February to discuss the committee’s progress and gather further public input, and the airport board should be set to adopt a final plan by mid-2013.  A master plan is needed for airports to be eligible to receive state and federal funding for improvement projects. The process is funded primarily through grants from the Federal Aviation Administration and the Florida Department of Transportation. Puckli encouraged the community to get involved in the process because public input is an essential part of the airport of the future.  “We’re trying to be as open as we can be,” Puckli said. “Truly, this is your airport.”

Thursday, October 4, 2012


This is another indicator of the influence Eglin AFB has in the military to streamline and take advantage of the unique strategic value it has and the efficiencies it can produce with actions, such as this.  I would expect you will see more opportunities like this at Eglin AFB to take control and host other commands from all services at one of the largest facilities in the U. S. military, which is about the size of Rhode Island. 

33rd Fighter Wing takes command of new squadron
337th Air Control Squadron will continue to operate at Tyndall
315-4445 | @LaurenRnwfdn lreinlie@nwfdailynews.com 
EGLIN AFB — The 33rd Fighter Wing took command of a new squadron Wednesday. Commanders now oversee about 300 people at Tyndall Air Force Base near Panama City. The move to take command of the 337th Air Control Squadron (formerly the 325th) is part of the process to reassign Tyndall’s 325th Fighter Wing from education and training to air combat command. The reassignment officially took effect Monday.  Because the 337th Air Control Squadron will remain a training center, it will fall under command of the training wing at Eglin Air Force Base while continuing to operate at Tyndall.  “It makes sense to leave them there and have command and control under another air education and training unit,” said Lt. Col. Randal Efferson, deputy commander of the 33rd Operations Group, which will oversee the new squadron.  Navy Capt. Michael Saunders, who commands the group, attended a brief ceremony at Tyndall on Wednesday. The 337th Air Control Squadron is currently training about 130 students to be air battle managers. They will be tasked with collecting and controlling information for pilots to use during war, said Lt. Col. Gary Smith, commander of the squadron at Tyndall who will remain in his position through the reassignment. The squadron also has about 70 other airmen, 45 officers and eight civilians.  Smith said the squadron’s move to the 33rd Fighter Wing will be positive. “It’s a very amicable change,” he said. “The leadership there at Eglin has already been very supportive in trying to bring us into the organization and to make sure we have everything we need.” He said the squadron will continue to work closely with Tyndall, but is looking forward to building a closer relationship with Eglin.  The change in command will not greatly alter the day-to-day operations right away.    Eventually, as the 33rd Fighter Wing becomes certified as a training school and expands its scope, air battle management students at Tyndall will be able to work closely with student pilots learning to fly F-35 jets at Eglin, Smith said. They will be able to run simultaneous training missions. “Our students will work with their students out in the airspace over the Gulf of Mexico,” he said. “As the F-35s come onboard, we can go ahead and have these relationships made and be ready to train with these guys.” While about 80 miles separates the two bases, it’s only about 10 minutes by military jet. By pilot standards, that makes Eglin and Tyndall practically neighbors, Efferson noted.  “We feel like we’re in the driveway when we’re within 100 miles.”

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


(Click Above to Sign Petition)

It is widely known for a downtown to survive and prosper, infrastructure must be improved to entice customers to patronize local businesses.  One of the improvements, which is always on the top of minds of Fort Walton Beach Downtown business owners, is the need for a Parking Garage to accommodate their present and future needs of their customers.  Not only will this accommodate the business owners, it will attract many new customers to the historic downtown area to enjoy a great shopping experience, which many have not had. It is also understood to attract investors, developers, restaurant, and retail owners, the City must invest in infrastructure improvements, such as a Parking Garage, to further entice investment in the City of Fort Walton Beach.  Why is this important now?  In today's financial world, the opportunity to find a lending source willing to invest in a community is few and far between.  With a Lender willing to loan over $25M to the Developers of the Landmark Center today, a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) source will be created over a 12-14 year period to pay for the construction of the Parking Garage only, which will be accessible to the public at no charge.  If the Landmark Center Project with Parking Garage is not constructed the TIF is not created.   Not only has the developer found a Lender to loan the money for the project, the developer will also assume the Design, Construction, Management, and Maintenance of the Parking Garage for the life of the project and at NO COST TO THE CITY.   When you have a Lending Institution interested in investing in your area, you should not only open the door, you need to invite them in and welcome them with open arms.  If not, they have the tendency to move on to another location. 

Petition Letter

I'm writing to plead with the City Council of Fort Walton Beach to support the investment of Tax Increment Funding created by the Landmark Center Project Development to assist in the construction of the adjacent Parking Garage which will be accessible to all of the public so they may enjoy the Downtown businesses. This public/private venture is a unique opportunity for residents, tourist, and guests to visit the businesses of the Historic Downtown District Fort Walton Beach to help stimulate growth in this area and relieve the tax burden on the City of Fort Walton Beach and their citizens. The investment in our downtown business district will have a number of other financial benefits, which comes with economic growth, such as reduce crime, increase investment, and sense of pride that will be seen by hundreds of thousands of passerby’s.

With the Developers designing, managing, and maintaining the Parking Garage for the life of the Development at no extra cost to the City, it is without a doubt one of the best investments the City of Fort Walton Beach can make to benefit our community.

We can’t afford to continue to pass up opportunities to improve our City. This opportunity does not exist if the Developers don’t invest $25M in our community and I hope the City Council and other responsible parties understand the need to make this investment and others which will bring this project to completion.


Thursday, September 6, 2012


Senator Nelson visits the Military Officers of Northwest Florida and speaks on a number of issues, such as sequestration, Eglin AFB, and RETORE ACT.  For real estate developers in Northwest Florida, the latter is very important.  Senator Nelson noted a bi-partisan delegation past a law overwhelming which will require BP Oil to pay the 5 affected states in fines, billions of dollars to address the environmental and economic damages caused by the BP Oil Spill.  It was noted, with the profits made by BP, these fines will not adversely affect them and they expect them to be paid in the near future.   

Sen. Nelson calls for more cooperation in Washington

2012-09-05 17:24:26
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U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is asking for more bipartisanship in Washington and a less “my way or the highway” attitude to move the country forward.  Nelson was the guest speaker Wednesday at the Northwest Florida Military Officers Association meeting at Northwest Florida Regional Airport. He discussed the threat of sequestration, health care reform and the challenges of being in Washington when elected officials are more divided by party lines than they have been in decades.  “This is a different time in politics. I’ve never seen it like this before,” said Nelson, a Democrat who faces Republican Connie Mack IV in the Nov. 6 election. “There’s a lot of intolerance out there, a lot of intolerance that they don’t want to hear the other fella’s point of view. And you can’t run a country with that mindset. The beauty of this country and our constitutional system is that you respect the other fella’s point of view and then you work out your differences.  “Remember in the old days where partisan politics stopped at the water’s edge?” Nelson said. “On anything that had to do with foreign affairs or national defense, it was always bipartisan. When I went in as a young congressman, that’s the way it was. A lot of that’s gone now and we’ve got to get it back.”  Nelson said there have been recent examples of the two parties working together.  He used as examples the RESTORE Act, which guarantees 80 percent of all penalties BP pays for violating the Oil Pollution Control Act go to the five Gulf Coast states most affected by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010, and the Veterans Skill Act, which makes it easier for veterans to receive civilian credentials in the same field as their military training.  Nelson said he is confident that $1 trillion in defense cuts from sequestration scheduled to be implemented next year can be avoided, but it will take both parties working together.  Although he does not expect that to happen before the general election, Nelson said he believes new budget reforms can be decided during the lame-duck session of Congress that starts a week later.  “We’re not going to let sequestration go into effect,” Nelson said. “We’re going to have to come up with a budget solution (on tax and spending reforms) as I have outlined here because you can’t take a half trillion out of defense and not hurt our defense preparedness, and you can’t take another half trillion willy-nilly right across the board away from everything else. You’ve got to do it intelligently and surgically.”  Nelson also defended the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, as not perfect but a good first step. Among the good things it does is allow parents to keep their children on their family insurance policy through age 26, prevent insurance companies from canceling policies in the middle of medical treatment or deny someone coverage because of an existing condition. “Yours truly has read it. Yours truly helped write it,” Nelson responded after being asked how Congress could approve the act without reading it. “I didn’t get what I wanted because we had to get 60 votes to get this thing passed, and there are a lot of things in there I would have had different. I would have gotten a lot more out of the pharmaceutical industry than is in there. “Now that the Supreme Court has said it’s constitutional, we will be able to fix it where it needs fixing,” he added.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


Local real estate sales up in July
Median prices rose in Walton, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa counties
 315-4448 | @DustyRnwfdn dricketts@nwfdailynews.com 
 It’s been a tough five years, but the local real estate market showed signs of improvement in July. Florida Realtors, the largest real estate organization in the state, recently released its market updates for July sales in Okaloosa, Walton and Santa Rosa counties. Median sales prices for single-family homes and townhomes and condominiums increased in all three counties compared to July 2011. “What it means when the prices start going up is the inventory that was created by the recession has basically been foreclosed on, resold or taken out of the market in some way,” said David Goetsch, a local economist and chairman of the Okaloosa County Economic Development Council. “What’s happening now is you’re actually beginning to see new houses be built and get sold. That’s the little trigger; that’s how you know that prices are going to go up when that inventory is gone.” In Okaloosa County, 231 single-family home sales closed in July at a median price of $188,000. That was 5.6 percent more than July 2011, when the median sales price was $178,000.  The median sales price of the county’s townhomes and condos increased 5.8 percent, from $198,450 in July 2011 to $210,000 in July of this year. Median prices jumped even more in Walton and Santa Rosa counties.  Walton County’s median sales price for single-family homes in July was $320,000, an 8.8 percent increase from July 2011, when the median price was $294,000. The median price of each townhome and condo increased 21.2 percent, from $195,000 in July 2011 to $236,250 last July. In Santa Rosa County, the median sales price of single-family homes in July was $193,500, a 17.3 percent jump from July of last year, when the median price was $165,000. The median sales price of a condo and townhome increased 43.4 percent, going from $198,750 in July 2011 to $285,000 last July. “I think the prices will continue to go up just slightly, but very, very slowly because our economic recovery is not strong enough to make them go up very much,” Goetsch said. “What you’re seeing right now is good news. It’s not going to level off where it is, but it’s not going to go up that much more, either.”

Thursday, August 16, 2012


I recently was briefed by the Vice President of the Economic Development Council (EDC) on some businesses, who have made plans to move to our area and others, who have targeted this area in their growth plan.  This was some very exciting news for our area, as many of these businesses are here to enhance the high technology brain trust already here working on the national defense strategy of tomorrow.  If you have not been to our area, you are missing a treat.  Not only are we sitting on a center of influence of defense technology, many of them are looking at the civilian application of this technology in other areas of our daily life.   Oh, by the way, did I tell you, the experience of visiting or living on the Emerald Coast of Florida is a nice bonus, as well. 

I have attached the powerpoint briefing on these matters.  If you need any further explanations, please give Kay Raymussen, Vice President of the EDC a call.

Proposed test center sparks lots of interest at drone trade show
315-4448 | @DustyRnwfdn dricketts@nwfdailynews.com 
FORT WALTON BEACH — Construction on a proposed unmanned vehicle test center isn’t expected to start until next year, but several companies have committed to leasing space there when it is completed.  Larry Sassano, president of the Okaloosa County Economic Development Council, attended the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s trade show in Las Vegas last week to discuss the county’s proposed Autonomous Vehicle Center. He met with about 25 companies that are developing unmanned air and ground vehicles. Sassano said the firms came away impressed with the EDC’s plan for the test center. One large company that develops smaller nanotype drones and vehicles stopped him in the middle of his presentation to bring in their business development manager to hear it, he noted.    “We had that kind of response (from other companies) because they haven’t seen anything like this,” Sassano said. “If you’re out west, there are some areas like Kansas, Oklahoma where you can do some testing outside. “What we feel is an advantage to have a facility like this is that it can be tested in a safe, controlled environment,” he added.  Several company representatives told Sassano they would lease space in the test center when it is ready, he said.  Among the local companies that attended the show were Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and DRS Technologies as well as the Air Force Research Lab.  “Each show that we go to gets more crowded and gets more and more activity,” Sassano said. “I was able to talk to several companies, some which are right here in Okaloosa County.” The next Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s trade show is scheduled for February in Washington, D.C.  The test center is a joint venture between the EDC and the University of Florida. The 45,000-square-foot building will be built on UF’s Research and Engineering Education Facility property off Lewis Turner Boulevard. The EDC provided the university with a state grant to design the facility, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year. UF will then seek a grant from the U.S. Department o f C ommerce E c o n o m i c Development Administration to build the estimated $4.5 million center. Space Florida has agreed to provide a match to the grant, Sassano said. Sassano also has applied for a three-year, $1.5 million grant from the Industry Recruitment, Retention and Expansion Fund overseen by the University of West Florida’s Office of Economic Development and Engagement. The $30 million fund was created to improve economic development in the eight Florida counties most affected by the 2010 BP oil spill. If approved, the money will be used to offset some of the day-to-day expenses at the center.