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 
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.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


The Crestview Airport keeps growing and growing.  This established Florida Enterprise Zone by the State of Florida continues to be an attractive area for growth.  With the expansion of the Airport and some recent announcements of new companies released and some to be released, it is quite obvious some folks have Crestview in their crosshairs for a place to call home. 

New terminal in works at Bob Sikes Airport
Emerald Coast Aviation plans to break ground Jan. 1
682-6524 | @cnbBrian 
CRESTVIEW — When Emerald Coast Aviation became Bob Sikes Airport’s fixed-base operator, President Jonathan Dunn promptly started dreaming of building a bigger and better passenger terminal.  In a year or so, he expects his dream will become a reality. “We’re going to break ground on the first of January, and we’re still continuing the research on putting a small restaurant out here,” Dunn said. “We haven’t made a final decision. We’d really like to put it out here, but we need to do more market research.”  Dunn said the airport’s location 17 minutes from downtown Crestview could be a drawback to attracting customers.“I would always appreciate local input,” he said.  In addition to a large public lounge, preliminary plans call for a larger pilots’ lounge, a new parking lot and a courtyard. Emerald Coast Aviation offices also will move into the new terminal, Dunn said.  No decision has been made about what to do with the existing terminal, which is attached to the company’s hangar, he added.  Meanwhile, Emerald Coast Aviation recently brought in Gary Hamilton as the company’s new director of maintenance and operations, and has become an authorized service center for Cirrus Aircraft, Dunn said. The company also continues its popular flight school, offering an allinclusive private pilot training package, Dunn said. Licensed pilots can work on their next level of certification on Emerald Coast Aviation’s Redbird flight simulator. New pilots can also gain valuable air hours by practicing in it. In September, Dunn and his team will host the Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Business After Hours gathering. The public is invitedNov.3 to the second yearly fly-in, which will feature free food, music and airplanes.
 For more information, call Dunn at 398-6739 or visit www.emeraldcoast .

Sunday, August 5, 2012


U. S. Senator Bill Nelson for the State of Florida will be the guest speaker for the Northwest Florida Military Officers Association at their monthly meeting on September 5, 2012 from 11:00 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. at the Northwest Florida Regional Airport.  Ken Wright, President of the Northwest Florida Military Officers Association, wants to invite all military officers, either Active, Retired, or Former, to this speaking engagement.  Topics to be discussed will be the future of Eglin AFB, TRICARE Healthcare system and other questions important to the membership.  Details for attending this meeting can be found by contacting Ken Wright at 850-582-6442.   


The word is out and the future continues to get brighter and brighter for the high tech industries surrounding Eglin AFB. In an effort to reduce military costs, military leaders are seeking to use new high tech weaponry and special operations units to defend our country.  With this new defense strategy, we seem to be in the middle of it with the move of the 7th Special Forces Group, Special Operations Headquarters, and of course the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Training Squadron to name a few, coming to our local area. 

Looking to lead industry
Local leaders seek funds for unmanned vehicle testing
315-4448 | @DustyRnwfdn 
Local economic development leaders want Okaloosa County to be at the forefront of developing and testing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and are developing the first indoor UAV test site in the region.  The Economic Development Council has completed a feasibility study for the Autonomous Vehicle Center and is working with agencies and organizations across Florida to develop a 45,000-square-foot building that will be used to test small unmanned air and ground vehicles.  Design work is being completed by the University of Florida.“We see it as an opportunity to bring together a real diverse group of players,” said Jim Breitenfeld with the EDC’s Tec MEN group. “In the grand vision, you would walk in there and you would see high school students doing their field work. You would see college undergraduate students studying. You would see research projects from grad students. You would see private sector companies partnering with each other and the universities. You would see a variety of little autonomous vehicles in various test stages. “The real value comes from the synergies and the collaboration that grow out of all of those players in the same sort of operational think tank,” Breitenfeld added. “But it’s going to have to pay its way.”The Autonomous Vehicle Center will be built on UF’s Research and Engineering Education Facility property off Lewis Turner Boulevard. The EDC is trying to secure grant funding to build the estimated $4.5 million test center.  The domed building would allow small vehicles to fly up to 50 feet in the air.  The EDC has asked UF to submit a federal Economic Development Administration grant application and has asked Space Florida to provide a match to fund construction.  Breitenfeld said the EDC is probably six months away from securing all of the financial commitments it needs to build the center. After funding is secured, he said constructing the domed building would be relatively quick and that it could be open this time next year.“As complicated as what goes on inside the facility may be, it’s not that complicated of a facility to build,” Breitenfeld said. “It’s like building a garage and putting your Ferrari in it.”EDC President Larry Sassano plans to attend a trade show in Las Vegas next week sponsored by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International. While there, he will distribute information on the proposed test facility and try to attract interest from companies to lease space there to test small air and ground vehicles.  Sassano said the Autonomous Vehicle Center would be a huge draw for manufacturers.“There’s nothing like it that exists,” Sassano said. “Everything now is being tested outside. This is the first controlled airspace for testing these vehicles that we’re aware of.”  In addition to the military applications for UAVs, Sassano said there are even more commercial uses. Electrical companies, the oil industry, security firms and police and fire departments could use them for a number of tasks, such as inspecting power lines for damage and monitoring major corporate facilities.“There are more commercial applications for this than there are military applications,” Sassano said. “We see large multibillion dollar applications for UAVs in the next 10 to 15 years.”