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
By DUSTY RICKETTS
315-4448 | @DustyRnwfdn firstname.lastname@example.org
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.