Sunday, February 26, 2012


As I have alluded to in the past, more military units are on their way. Well, here is an update on one of them. As part of the new challenges in military warfare in the future. You will continue to see military units, which focus on rapid deployment, special operations warfare and high-tech weapons, having their eyes on the Panhandle of Florida as a place to call home. As I have noted time and time again, Eglin’s is now, more than ever, a prime location for further growth because of the focus on all missions of the military (Operations, Training & Testing) being conducted around us. In today’s fiscal climate, Eglin is not only a strategic location; it is also a location, which many will agree provides cost effectiveness in the defense of our nation.

Changes under way for Duke Field
By Paula Kelley
2012-02-24 09:37:14
Relocation of an Air Force Reserve Special Operations Squadron from Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada to Hurlburt Field will bring approximately 140 personnel and their families to the Emerald Coast, said Col. Andy Comtois, commander of the 919th Special Operations Wing at Duke Field. "There are several mission additions and changes being considered for the 919 SOW at Duke Field," Comtois said at a recent Kiwanis Club meeting in Crestview. In addition to the relocation of the squadron from Nellis Air Force Base, a change of mission is planned for the 711 SOS at Duke Field, Comtois said. The 2nd Special Operations Squadron from Nevada is a 919 SOW MQ-1 Predator Remotely Piloted Vehicle (RPA) squadron. Renovations are underway at Hurlburt Field to allow for the squadron's move to Northwest Florida in the next 14 to 16 months. Comtois also said that the use of RPAs, or drones, in warfare is one of the most recent weapon systems advances. "Drones give ground troops a distinct advantage in their overall situational awareness, directly resulting in better intelligence and fewer casualties," Comtois said. "I want to go to war with as many advantages as possible, and drones are a huge part of that advantage in modern warfare.” He said that the debate over the use of remotely piloted vehicles in warfare is similar to the debate that has followed every weapons system change from the time of the long bow through the advent of modern firearms and advanced weaponry. The 711 Squadron will change from an MC-130E Combat Talon I multi-role Special Operations Forces mission to a light, twin engine, fixed wing aircraft to be used in the Combat Aviation Advisory and Aviation Foreign Internal Defense (CAA/AvFID) mission. A decision on the specific aircraft to be used is yet to be finalized, Comtois said. Currently, nine MC-130E Combat Talon I aircraft belong to the 711 SOS, but that number will be reduced to five at the end of this fiscal year, and will eventually be eliminated as the new aircraft take their place. CAA/AvFID missions involve training partner nation forces to employ in order to fight a common enemy. The long term result of CAA/AvFID is that fewer Americans may be required to deploy "boots on the ground," Comtois said, as partner nations begin to employ their own weapon systems. Comtois is responsible for training and equipping 919 SOW Reservists for a variety of missions, and he said that these changes will help the military become more efficient as it evolves. “Current budgetary constraints dictate that we work smarter and more efficiently across the board," Comtois said. "These mission changes help the 919 SOW do exactly that,” he said. The 919 SOW is the main tenant on Duke Field, with approximately 1,500 reservists in the wing. The wing's legacy includes AC-130 gunships, followed by the MC-130E Combat Talon I, and soon to be replaced by the new CAA/AvFID platform.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


With the loosening of lending, I expect our already low supply of quality homes to be grabbed up pretty quickly. Many homebuilders are struggling to still get credit to build, which will cause a strain on our already low supply of homes to meet our unique growth. With the many folks from 7th Special Forces group still looking for that perfect home/development, the folks of the F-35 permanent party folks starting to ramp up, the reduction of military housing available, a number of other companies making our area their home, and a number of “Baby Boomers” migrating south; it will be interesting how we might meet this challenge.

Capital Economics expects the housing crisis to end this year, according to a report released Tuesday. One of the reasons: loosening credit. The analytics firm notes the average credit score required to attain a mortgage loan is 700. While this is higher than scores required prior to the crisis, it is constant with requirements one year ago. Additionally, a Fed Senior Loan Officer Survey found credit requirements in the fourth quarter were consistent with the past three quarters. However, other market indicators point not just to a stabilization of mortgage lending standards, but also a loosening of credit availability. Banks are now lending amounts up to 3.5 times borrower earnings. This is up from a low during the crisis of 3.2 times borrower earnings. Banks are also loosening loan-to-value ratios (LTV), which Capital Economics denotes “the clearest sign yet of an improvement in mortgage credit conditions.” In contrast to a low of 74 percent reached in mid-2010, banks are now lending at 82 percent LTV. While credit conditions may have loosened slightly, some potential homebuyers are still struggling with credit requirements. In fact, Capital Economics points out that in November 8 percent of contract cancellations were the result of a potential buyer not qualifying for a loan. Additionally, Capital Economics says “any improvement in credit conditions won’t be significant enough to generation actual house price gains,” and potential ramifications from the euro-zone pose a threat to future credit availability.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


As of today, the Emerald Coast Association of Realtor Multiple Listing Service revealed 70 NEW HOMES sold or pending sale from January 1 – February 21, 2012 in the Crestview market with an average price of $226,349 for an average size of 2380 sq ft. The tidal wave is coming.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012


As Paul Harvey would say, and the rest of the story. Amid all the rumors and half truths, the bottom line is Eglin is in good shape and is poised to be in better shape amid Defense Budget Cuts. Why some ask. Because we are now a multi-mission base, which consist of operational, training, and testing, the tri-facta of military missions. We are strategically located in the United States, we have a Base the size of almost the State of Rhode Island, the quality of life for service men and women are some of the best in the country. In this day in age in the retention or recruiting for the military, the quality of life is one of the most important in keeping cost down and defending our nation. Some key points the Base Commander noted that were extremely important. They reorganized the management of the 46th Test Wing, not moved it. They invested 1.5 Billion in construction for a Army Base, F-35 Training School, and much more. They are putting 64 Million in the Eglin Hospital. Do you see the writing on the wall? Improve the Base support structure so more consolidation can be made and more military units can be absorbed at Eglin. As my daughter would say, “Just Saying”.

Commander: Eglin in good shape amid budget cuts
Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4448
DESTIN — With another round of Base Realignment and Closure possibly coming in 2013 or 2015, the commander of the 96th Air Base Wing said Eglin Air Force Base remains well-positioned for future growth. Col. Sal Nodjomian spoke at Tuesday’s Leaders in Business Lunch organized by the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce. He gave a broad update on the effect of recent budget cuts on Eglin and local military missions. “While other bases are setting down again trying to build up their fortress walls trying to get ready for the next round of realignment, we’re not worried about that,” Nodjomian said. “We’re not worried about missions flying out of here. What we want to know is what can we possibly do to ensure mission flows in here. So as missions come out of other installations, what can we do to make sure we remain in receiver status for that mission.” Faced with budget reductions of almost $500 billion, the Air Force Materiel Command announced last year it would do away with seven of its 12 centers, one of those being Eglin’s Air Armament Center, which houses the 46th Test Wing and the 96th Air Base Wing. Concern arose in the community about the impact that would have on Eglin. But Nodjomian said the only effect was the elimination of some management positions, and that the 46th Test Wing and the 96th Air Base Wing were combined to operate as one “super wing” that would report to the Air Force Test Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. “The missions are going to remain the same and will continue to do great things in the area. The mission is not going away,” Nodjomian said. “Everything that the 46th Test Wing does today, it’s still going to be done out here. Everything that the 96th Air Base Wing does is still going to be done. The middlelevel management that existed is what took the hit. That’s to the tune of about 350 or so people. “That doesn’t mean that 350 people got pink slips, either,” he added. Nodjomian said Eglin has been under a hiring freeze since last August. When the management positions were eliminated, all but about two dozen people were realigned to unfilled posts. “Despite all the doom and gloom you hear on budgets and personnel cuts and everything else, the reality is we’ve done extremely well,” Nodjomian said. “We’ve invested over $1.5 billion in just the last couple of years. But we’ve also continued to invest in our child development centers, our playgrounds. Fitness continues to be a big issue for us, so we’re investing in our fitness program. We’re going to put $65 million into our medical complex and create one of the Air Force’s absolute best facilities. “The future continues to be extremely bright for what we’re doing out at Eglin, and we continue to position ourselves for continued growth,” he added.

Thursday, February 9, 2012


Great Job to all concerned. It has been proven, if you got a good thing and you let them know about it, they will flock to you. The secret is out and folks have found the “Emerald” Coast their jewel of choice. As the result of this surge of visitors, we have seen a number of them looking for their retirement home or second home, while they are visiting. Prices are right, interest rates at historical lows, and a location, which is second to none.

Bed tax surge continues
Okaloosa, Walton record their best Decembers ever
Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4448
Last year ended strongly for the tourism industry, as all three local counties posted double-digit increases in their bed tax collections compared to December 2010. Bed tax collection data for December recently was released for Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties. Okaloosa and Walton counties posted their biggest Decembers in their history. “We’re very pleased, and that is six months in a row that we have had big positives,” said Jon Ervin, director of marketing and communications for the Walton County Tourist Development Council. “Being 14 percent over last December is worth being very proud of for all the lodging providers and service industry. It’s a great sign. And December is not the biggest month of the year. So if you can still see those positive increases, there’s a lot to be excited about.” Okaloosa County collected $289,594 in December, a 32.89 percent increase from December 2010. Walton County brought in $394,492, a 14.13 percent increase from December 2010. Santa Rosa collected $42,511, an increase of 14.56 percent. Bed taxes are collected on short-term rentals and are indicators of how many tourists are visiting the Emerald Coast. The funds are used primarily to promote the area to potential visitors. Mark Bellinger, executive director of the Okaloosa County Tourist Development Council, said the TDC focused its promotions for the winter season in the upper Midwest and mid-Atlantic regions and Canada. “Businesses want to keep the momentum alive in order to exceed 2011 tourism statistics in 2012,” Bellinger wrote in an email. “We cannot ever get complacent or become comfortable about the success in 2011. Everyone should remain progressive and aggressive in our destination’s marketing and public relation endeavors. “In addition to our ongoing advertising efforts, the TDC will soon be launching very innovative national marketing campaigns and sweepstakes to help increase our visitors’ attendance during the spring season,” Bellinger added. Kate Wilkes, executive director of the Santa Rosa County Tourist Development Council, said the agency has beefed up its print and online advertising to prepare for the upcoming spring and summer season. “I’m hearing nothing but good reports on reservations for spring and summer,” Wilkes said. “Hopefully, it will keep up. I think it will. We got enough people down here to Navarre Beach to discover us during all of this and the extra money from BP, and I think we’ll be able to build on it.” Ervin also believes the region can match and potentially exceed last year’s record-breaking tourism figures. “All signs point to a continuation at this stage,” Ervin said. “I think everybody in the region knows how lucky we are that the visitors are loyal. They come and enjoy it and make it a tradition. “After a big year last year and so many people going home with fond memories, there’s no reason to believe they’re not coming back. That’s been our history,” he said.

Monday, February 6, 2012


This article was contributed to The Log by the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors.
In another banner year for real estate along the Emerald Coast, total residential units sold in 2011 increased by 24 percent over 2010 according to data from the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors. A total of 5,290 residential units were sold last year; 4,266 sold in 2010. The total number of units sold is the highest since 2005, one of the infamous boom years in real estate in the last decade. “I said throughout the year that the market was positive,” said Jean Floyd, 2011 ECAR president. “The year-end numbers show that, based on units sold, the real estate market is recovering.” While the number of units sold has steadily increased over the past three years, both the average and the median price of homes have fallen slightly in the past three years. When compared to 2005, the dip in price is much more dramatic. Looking at the units sold versus pricing trends over the past 10 years, the boom years caused a dramatic spike in the curve. Although units sold and prices have been lower than the 2003 to 2005 timeframe, current sales are higher than 2001 and 2002. It is clear that the number of units sold is on the rise, while prices have dropped and are holding relatively steady at current levels. The silver lining in the price drop is that homeownership has become more affordable. Couple lower prices with record-low interest rates, and purchasing a home in 2011 was a smart and affordable move for those able to buy. “Inventory is being absorbed,” said Floyd, “and although the average price was down about five percent from 2010, the market is only going to continue to improve.”
Looking at the individual categories, both condos and detached single family units experienced an increase in 2011. Condo sales along the Emerald Coast increased 32 percent and detached single family sales increased 18 percent in 2011 when compared to 2010.
Individual areas across the Emerald Coast fared well in 2011, as well. Destin sales increased 34 percent; South Walton County 26 percent; and Crestview 28 percent. All real estate is local, even between towns and counties. Crestview’s market was driven primarily by the 7th Special Forces moving into the area, while South Walton County and Destin increases were driven by condo sales which experienced greater increases individually than total residential sales. Destin condo sales increased 37 percent, while condo sales in South Walton County rose by 30 percent over 2010 sales. Looking to the future of the local real estate market, a full recovery will need more than one solution. One avenue to recovery in Florida is the international buyer.
“According to Florida Realtors, reports suggest that international home buyers are a significant component of the Florida real estate market,” said Judi Rutland, 2012 ECAR president. “Last year more than $82 billion of U.S. residential real estate was sold to a foreign buyer or recent U.S. immigrant. The housing recovery in Florida can gain a competitive advantage in serving multicultural clients from around the globe.” According to data released by the National Association of Realtors, using a Realtor to sell property fetched, on average, more than $50,000 per transaction in 2010. Working with a Realtor to purchase property allows for peace of mind that a professional is overseeing the transaction from start to finish. Whether purchasing or selling real estate, remember to rely on a Realtor.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


As you will read below, the F-35 Program is alive and well. As the world changes and the way we defend our country and interest around the world changes, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and our Special Forces will be our tip of our spear in meeting our needs in defending our country. As Lockheed has noted, the present reduction in F-35’s by the U.S will be made up by some of our allies. What should be noted is the training of these pilots and maintainers will be at 33rd Fighter Wing at Eglin AFB. So I say, be prepared to walk the streets and enjoy the many new cultures, who will be enjoying what we have to offer them; and don’t be surprised they tell the rest of the world about our Emerald Coast treasure.

Lockheed: Foreign investors will offset F-35 program
2012-02-04 17:07:39

FORT WALTON BEACH — Eglin Air Force Base may be able to boast the largest F-35 fleet in the world, but the Joint Strike Fighter is most certainly a global project. Representatives from Lockheed Martin’s F-35 team met with local media recently to present a program-wide update on the Joint Strike Fighter. The $50 billion development program for the U.S. government is being offset by more than $35 billion in investments from foreign countries. The United Kingdom, Netherlands, Italy, Australia, Turkey, Canada and Norway are partner countries that have contributed to the development of the F-35 and have been involved with the program since 2002. The seven countries have committed to buying a total of about 800 of the jets. “That means since this is the only maintenance training base for the F-35, (Eglin) will be hosting all seven countries,” said Stephen O’Bryan, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program integration. “You have a significant amount of international commitment to the program, and obviously you have the three services which will have jets and all three versions will be down here this year.” The U.K. and the Netherlands will be the first partners to receive its jets at Eglin. All F-35s coming out of Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth-based aeronautics center next year are expected to remain in the United States. In 2014, F-35s will be delivered to Italy and Australia, followed by more deliveries to the U.K. and Turkey in 2015. Japan, Norway and Israel will get them in 2016, along with Canada in 2017 and Denmark in 2018. Although they have not helped fund the development of the F-35, Israel, Singapore, Japan and South Korea have agreed to purchase Joint Strike Fighters, O’Bryan said. In addition to the $65 million price tag for each jet, those countries will pay a recoupment fee to help make up some of the program’s development costs. O’Bryan said Israel, Singapore, Japan and South Korea were expected to order more F-35s than the seven partner countries that contributed to the program’s development. Construction is ongoing in Italy on its $1 billion Final Assembly and Checkout Facility. The project is designed to take the parts completed in Fort Worth and finish the final 20 percent of assembly on the Italian F-35s.

Thursday, February 2, 2012


Okaloosa County School District does it again. Excellence found once again in our local school district. Great job folks.

Collegiate High School named best in Florida
Ruckel, Seaside middle schools are ranked in the Top 10
Northwest Florida Daily News 315-4440
Several local schools are among the best in Florida, according to rankings released this week by the state Department of Education. Collegiate High School at Northwest Florida State College was the top high school in the state, and Seaside Neighborhood School and Ruckel Middle School were ranked in the Top 10 middle schools. The school-by-school rankings were released Monday, about a week after the DOE released a similar ranking for all 67 school districts in Florida. It’s the first year the state has released a breakdown of school and district rankings. The rankings for elementary and middle schools were based solely on FCAT scores. The high school rankings combined FCAT scores with other components, including graduation rates and participation and performance in advanced level courses. For Ruckel Middle School Principal Debra Goolsby, the No. 10 ranking came as a welcome surprise that confirmed what she already had seen by comparing this year’s scores to last year’s. “When you’re a high performing school, it is really difficult to show gains,” she said. “But to go from 91 to 97 percent of your eighth graders showing growth in one year is nothing short of amazing.” Goolsby said her school of 930 students is able to see that kind of improvement from one year to another because teachers work with students individually and parents play a hands-on role. “We have a great community with great parents and students who are highly motivated,” she said. “The teachers are extremely dedicated to showing learning gains with every student.” Collegiate Principal Anthony Boyer said a similar team approach is why his school consistently ranks near or at the top year after year. The school, which selects students through an application lottery system, had a 100 percent graduation rate last year and extremely high FCAT scores, thanks to support from both teachers and parents. “I think it’s a team effort,” Boyer said. “It really is.” He didn’t discount the efforts of students, either. “Our students are high achievers,” Boyer said. “They work hard.” At Seaside, Principal Cathy Brubaker also gave credit to students, teachers and parents for the school’s high ranking. “I didn’t anticipate third place, but I knew we’d be pretty high,” said Brubaker, who added that her eighth grade students had the second highest math scores overall on the FCAT. The charter school in Walton County has 116 middle school students, but only about 18 of them have been identified as gifted, Brubaker said. “We really have a good mix of students,” she said. She said her school also uses local professionals to help show students how what they are learning applies to real life. Almost all other schools in Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties were ranked in the top half of the state. Of the nine schools ranked in the lower half, district officials citied socio-economic issues as part of the reason for the lower scores. “Many of those students aren’t exposed to a lot of technology … and reading and engagement in academics at home,” said Okaloosa County Superintendent of Schools Alexis Tibbetts. Walton County Superintendent Carlene Anderson said issues not reflected in the rankings also played a role in at least one of her district’s lower-ranked schools. Walton Middle School was placed in the combination school category because of a dropout prevention program the district established there. Students who had failed eighth grade the previous year were put in an accelerated program designed to get them back to grade level. This ended up classifying the school differently and dropped it significantly in the rankings, Anderson said. The district plans to continue the program next year, but has put in a request to reclassify the school as a regular middle school, Anderson said. Overall, she said she was pleased with how students performed. “This is excellent,” Anderson said. “I’m very happy with how far we have come.” In the school district rankings released last week, Walton County was 17th, Okaloosa was sixth and Santa Rosa was second out of 67 school districts.


Okay my readers. I have warned you before. The Army families continue to make arrangements to move to the area and make home choices. On the heels of the 7th Special Forces, we know have the F-35 Training Squadron ramping up in a big way (See below). Not only do you have the military folks of the F-35 Training Squadron arriving, you also have Lockheed Martin and other supporting defense contractors arriving as well and setting up shop. Spent the day with some of my fellow Building Industry Association of Okaloosa/Walton Board Board of Directors today to prepare for the 2012 Parade of Homes and saw a lot of building, but nothing close to the numbers needed. Oh yea, did I remind you the number of local housing units was drastically reduced during this growth period and the military no longer has a mandatory assignment policy. This sure does make you want to think, “Where in the heck are all these people going to live”. The mass amount of 2012 military orders will be coming out soon and folks will be learning about their new duty station. This is on stop of all this other stuff, as well. Interesting.

F-35s expected: 'This is a big year in the program'
2012-02-01 16:45:24
FORT WALTON BEACH — Eglin Air Force Base now has the largest fleet of F-35s in the world, and that’s a status it will maintain until the end of the decade.Representatives from Lockheed Martin’s F-35 team met with local media Wednesday to present a program-wide update on the Joint Strike Fighter. If you look at what’s on schedule for Eglin in 2012, we’re going to deliver you 20 jets,” said Stephen O’Bryan, vice president of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 program integration. “You’re going to deliver the first international jets here to the U.K. and the Netherlands and you’re going to see the flying begin on both the F-35A and on the F-35B, and you’re going to have all three variants here. “This is the home of the F-35,” O’Bryan added. “This is a big year in the program and Eglin is a big part of it. Eglin now has nine F-35s — six of the conventional takeoff and landing A variants and three of the short takeoff and vertical landing B variants, which arrived last month.Another 17 F-35s are scheduled to be delivered this year, including the base’s first F-35C, which is designed to take off and land on an aircraft carrier. Eglin’s final 33 F-35s are expected to arrive by the end of next year. All the jets to be based at Eglin have begun to be built at Lockheed’s Fort Worth-based aeronautics center. Eglin’s 59 F-35s are expected to remain the largest fleet of the fifth generation multi-role fighters until the end of 2019, when Marine Corps Station Yuma is expected to overtake it. The next F-35 is expected to be delivered to Eglin in March, O’Bryan said. J.R. McDonald, Lockheed’s vice president of corporate domestic business development, said pilots at Eglin have been conducting engine runs and taxiway tests. However, he said he is not sure when the Air Force and Navy will give the go-ahead for the F-35s to begin test flights. “The biggest difference between the Eglin flying and all the other flying that’s going on out there (at other sites) is those airplanes are monitored airplanes,” McDonald said. “They are specially designed test airplanes that are giving data to control rooms where there are teams of guys watching them fly. These (at Eglin) will be the first on-your-own flying airplanes, which is why we’re making sure everyone is comfortable before we start doing that.”