Saturday, August 17, 2013


Crestview is home to a Dental School and Pharmacy School, and now a Physician Assistant Program with theirs eyes on Crestview.  Folks, I mentioned this in the past and nothing is really not going to change.  The strategic location of Crestview in the County, as well as, the State, because of Crestview's location on the I-10 Corridor, continues to make Crestview a prime location for growth.  More exciting news on the horizon.   

Medical school eyes Crestview for physician assistant program

By BRIAN HUGHES / News Bulletin
Published: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 at 16:17 PM.
CRESTVIEW — Florida's second-largest university is considering opening a medical campus in Okaloosa County's largest city, local officials said.
At the beginning of July, Dr. Pedro Gutierrez of the Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine's new Physician Assistant Program toured Crestview and met with city leaders.
If the project comes to fruition, the school would teach students rotated from FIU's Miami campus and local students seeking a physician assistant degree.
City leaders are excited about the possibility of a second medical school opening in Crestview. The FIU program would join Florida A&M University, which operates a pharmacy school downtown.
Former state senator Dr. Durell Peaden encouraged the school to consider locating in Crestview, Mayor David Cadle said.
"They wanted to get into the Panhandle," Cadle said. "The student body is predominantly Hispanics from the Miami area. They don't get any experience in rural areas. This would be a big deal for our city and the whole region."
Gutierrez, the PA program’s associate dean and founding chair, is aware of the Crestview area’s benefits, having attended Northwest Florida State College and been stationed at Eglin Air Force Base and later, on the medical staff at Hurlburt Field.
Local and rotating FIU students
An expected source of students is local Air Force personnel with medical training who want to be licensed to practice after separating from the military, Peaden said.
The county's "great school system" was also a draw, Peaden said.
The program would most likely begin by bringing students from FIU to rotations at area hospitals before opening the full-fledged physician assistant program in Crestview, Gutierrez said.
School staff would arrive to establish the PA program several months before opening a campus.
Gutierrez will visit Crestview in September and give presentations on the proposed school for city leaders and the Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce
"I'm looking forward to going up there," Gutierrez said. "We are very excited."
No decision has been made on a site, but Crestview City Councilman Mickey Rytman said that during Gutierrez's previous visit, the Main Street building housing the Spy Chest shop was under consideration.
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


If you are around the Eglin AFB any part of the day and you look up and you see one of the most state of the art airplanes flying over head, you can only smile with pride.  This program not only brings pride to those looking up, it also brings smiles to the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marines, U.S Air Force, as well as, a host of international countries who choose to make the F-35 their plane of the future.  With this said, we will have all these folks training with these planes, which has never been done before in one place.  Not only will we have the pilots training, we will have their maintainers here also.  What does this mean?  A whole lot of folks learning what Okaloosa County has to offer to the folks around the world.

F-35s take next step

Published: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at 17:08 PM.
EGLIN AFB — The F-35s soaring through the sky are continuing to ramp up their training operations and have started to simulate some combat-type missions.
For the first time last month, the Joint Strike Fighter was controlled by an air battle management squadron on the ground at Tyndall Air Force Base.
Until then, little F-35 training had involved air battle managers.
“It’s much more realistic. It’s what we would do in the real world,” said Col. Stephen Jost, commander of the 33rd Operations Group at Eglin Air Force Base.
He said the development is a reflection of the maturity of the F-35 program.
As more aircraft have arrived at Eglin in recent months, the training schedule has become more predictable and the group has flown more sorties and put more students through the program, Jost said. The F-35s now are ready to fly missions that more closely simulate what they might see in combat.
The air battle managers are with the 337th Air Control Squadron, which falls under the 33rd Operations Group but is stationed at Tyndall in Panama City.
The 337th trains about 130 students a year to become air battle managers.
Their radar equipment provides a much broader view than the radars inside the F-35 — a “God’s-eye view,” as Jost calls it. The equipment can pick up anything flying over the Gulf of Mexico from Houston to down and around the Florida peninsula and then up the East Coast to Virginia Beach.
The managers’ job is to communicate any information to the pilots that might be needed regarding other aircraft or flight conditions — to paint a picture for the pilots of what is going on in the air. They also are charged with managing various aircraft and deciding where to use them in a combat situation.
From the command post at Tyndall, known as the Doghouse, the air battle managers talk to F-35 pilots over a radio.
“It’s a phenomenal first step for us,” said Lt. Col. Todd Smith, commander of the 337th at Tyndall. “Our instructors were vying over who got to be the first on the Doghouse radio to be able to talk to the F-35. It’s the bright, shiny penny; something they can brag about.”
The partnership also is the beginning of learning how air battle managers in the future can support the F-35.
“It’s a small event in the course of a day, but in the course of what we are trying to do it’s significant,” Smith said. “We are now starting the process of fully understanding what an F-35 brings to the fight and, more than that, what they don’t bring that they are going to be reliant on others for.”
The squadron at Tyndall will work with the group to develop procedures and help put its mark on a program that will be around for decades, he said.
Since they started about two weeks ago, the group has flown three to four formations a week using air battle managers. The formations of usually four aircraft practice loading simulated weapons, calling those weapons up once an aircraft has been targeted and simulating employment of the weapons in a tactical environment, Jost said.
By next year the jets will be able to use data links, which air battle managers will use to send electronic information to the planes, he said.
For now, it’s the fundamentals on both the F-35 side and the air battle management side, but it’s good practice for everyone, Jost said.
Air battle management has a language of its own.
All new F-35 pilots are required to have previous experience with other fighter aircraft, but with little combat practice recently they might have become rusty in their command of the air battle management lingo, which uses few words to convey a lot of meaning.
“We are kind of dusting off the cobwebs of working with air battle managers,” Jost said. “There’s an entire library of terms we use in a tactical environment that requires practice and keeping proficient.”
The air battle management students are all undergraduates who also benefit from the practice.
When they complete training at Tyndall they will be assigned to operational units. Most will fly in E3 planes that provide battle management from the air in a combat zone.
 F-35s from Eglin also recently took to the sky to fly in formation with F-22s, which are based at Tyndall and receive air battle management support from the 337th.
Both developments reflect the F-35s movement toward coordinating with other squadrons and other aircraft, Jost said.
 “This is where the Air Force is growing toward and where the fifth generation (aircraft) is going,” he said. “Everything that has taken place just in these last few months has been really foundational but absolutely vital to where we are going to be going in the future.”
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Lauren Sage Reinlie at 850-315-4443 Follow her on Twitter @LaurenRnwfdn

Sunday, July 21, 2013


The British are going, the British are coming.  As the F-35 Program is ramping up, our International partners of this program are finding out what Northwest Florida has to offer.  These are exciting times for this community as the International community puts their eyes on the Panhandle of Florida.  If you don't think with the arrival of international pilots and their maintenance and support staff, they aren't telling their countryman about this place, you just don't get it.  What does this all mean?  It means, if you want to see continued economic prosperity in our area, I recommend you jump on board and support economic growth, or some other community just might steal it away.

F-35 program welcomes new members

Published: Friday, July 19, 2013 at 17:38 PM.
EGLIN AFB — The international F-35 family that has come to call Northwest Florida home has welcomed its newest members.
Twins Kareem and Raya Aokal were born two weeks ago to their United Kingdom parents who are stationed at Eglin Air Force Base’s 33rd Fighter Wing. They are the first international babies to be born into the program.
About 18 airmen and sailors from the United Kingdom are stationed at Eglin along with service members from all branches of the U.S. military to train to fly and maintain the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
Although more than 4,000 miles from home, Royal Navy Chief Petty Officer Ihsaan Aokal and his wife, Hebah Badarneh, said their family has been welcomed with open arms.
Aokal, 36, said the 60 or so airmen, sailors and their families who traveled to Eglin to work with the F-35 program have become very close and supportive of one another.
“It’s like having a bit of an extended family while we’re out here,” he said.
Near the 33rd’s hangar Thursday, men from the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force gathered around a stroller to get a peek at the tiny babies.
Even though it’s not a tradition in the United Kingdom, the wing threw a baby shower for the couple before the infants’ birth, Aokal said.
He said having the babies here has added to what has already been an amazing encounter working with the F-35 program.
“Coming to America to live, working on this cutting-edge program, now twins,” he said. “It just added another dimension to our experience.”
Badarneh, 31, who is from Jordan, found out she was pregnant just a few weeks after the couple arrived in the United States with their young son last September.
Shortly after, she was being treated for dehydration when medical staff asked her if she had twins in her family.
“I said, ‘No, not twins,’ and started crying,” she said. “I was scared. It’s shocking, really.”
Aokal said he tried to be sympathetic with his wife after they found out that two babies were on the way, but really he was happy. Ever since he was young he’d dreamed that an ideal family would include boy and girl twins.
Badarneh said she learned to cope with what was to come, and now she really doesn’t see it as a difficulty.
“It’s just two babies instead of one,” she said. “Extra Pampers. Extra bottles.”
Aokal said he and Badarneh actually are a lot more relaxed with these babies than they were when they were new parents with their first child, now 2 years old.
Having the twins while stationed in the United States was not in their plans. Any dreams they had had of what they would do during their stay were displaced by the pregnancy, but the experience working with the fledgling F-35 program has been a highlight of Aokal’s career.
“To have been given this opportunity to be one of the select few, that is not wasted on me at all,” he said.
The opportunity has afforded his children opportunities of their own.
The babies are American citizens, which gives them chances for travel to the United States and even across the world that they might not have had otherwise.
And it’s something special for the baby book, giving the children a unique history of their birth and first years.
“They won’t know now, but when they grow up and look back they will know that we’ve done something good for them,” Badarneh said.
“It’s great for the memories,” Aokal said.
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Lauren Sage Reinlie at 850-315-4443 Follow her on Twitter @LaurenRnwfdn.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Well folks, what does this mean. As you will read on, another 600 personnel are being moved here to support this program. This does not reflect the number of folks associated with the Defense Contractors and associated support elements, which normally accompanies these types of programs. It can not be underscored enough how important this plane is to the United States and our allies.

Eglin receives first upgraded F-35
Published: Tuesday, May 7, 2013 at 20:32 PM.

EGLIN AFB — A brand new F-35 with additional capabilities landed Monday afternoon.  The new jet marks the beginning of a significant ramping up of Air Force training at the F-35 schoolhouse and an increase in some capabilities for the program.  The Air Force’s 58th Fighter Squadron at Eglin Air Force Base is set to receive an additional 13 of the new F-35s, known as Block 2 aircraft, by the end of the year.  “It’s exciting,” said Lt. Col. Lee Kloos, the squadron’s commander. “We haven’t had a new aircraft in this squadron for about nine months. We’re at that point where we’re expanding again.”
The squadron already has nine limited-capability versions of the F-35 that it has been using to train an initial cadre of about 12 instructor pilots and some development and test pilots.  Now, Kloos said the foundation is set and the squadron is ready for a period of rapid growth, which will require more aircraft.  The squadron plans to train 45 pilots by the end of the year.  The F-35 is the military’s newest stealth fighter jet. Students from all military branches who are learning to fly the plane go through the schoolhouse at Eglin, including some from international services.  Eglin’s first Block 2 jet includes some improvements over the first batches of planes. The F-35 is still in development stages and the actual flight training has been limited by the lack of capability in the early versions.  While a few of the improvements are related to design, the biggest difference is the new software, Kloos said.  Pilots for the first time will be able to begin using the state-of-the-art distributed aperture system, a series of six sensors embedded in the skin of the F-35 that provides a complete spherical view around the jet, day or night.  The sensors — essentially infrared cameras with the ability to detect heat and other sensory information — are embedded in the front, sides and back of the F-35. When the pilot uses the system, it’s as if the walls of the plane are been stripped away; there are no visual restrictions. The system doesn’t exist in any of the military’s previous fighter jets, Kloos said.  “This is one of the unique systems that is going to make a big difference for the F-35,” he said. “It will always be monitoring the environment to help find the good guys, the bad guys, things being launched.”  The new capability will allow pilots to begin figuring out how the system can be used tactically. They will be able to expand some of the limited air-to-air and air-to-surface combat training they already are undertaking, Kloos said.  The image will be displayed in the cockpit for now, but eventually should be available inside the pilot’s helmet.  The Block 2 jet is still restricted from certain maneuvers, including flying at night, aerobatics, taking off or landing in formation and flying during certain weather events or at certain speeds. Additional capabilities should arrive with new versions of the jet and software updates that already are in the pipeline.  Kloos said an Air Force pilot should be able to fly the newest jet within the next two to three weeks, and then a small group of instructor pilots will begin training to fly it.  The program will need to implement a new curriculum for the jets, which should become the primary instruction by late summer or early fall when the squadron is set to have six of the new aircraft, Kloos said.  The early versions of the jets, Block 1, will require some hardware and software upgrades to reach full capability, although that was not initially in the Pentagon’s plan. Those upgrades are still years away, so until then the squadron will have to figure out how to incorporate the older jets into their training program.  The Navy contingent at Eglin should receive its first two F-35s, which will also be Block 2 capable, by the end of the month.  The addition of at least 16 new aircraft this year will add more permanent personnel to the 33rd Fighter Wing, which oversees the schoolhouse.  The wing now employs more than 1,300 people. That could increase to 1,900 by the end of the year, with an additional 300 projected in 2014, said Ellis Vancil, the 33rd’s chief of manpower and personnel.

Contact Daily News Staff Writer Lauren Sage Reinlie at 850-315-4443 or Follow her on Twitter @LaurenRnwfdn.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


All about the Shadow Inventory
By Sarah Parr
Sarah Parr

Recent statistics show a good trend for the United States housing market. A Corelogic report from last week illustrates how the shadow inventory of homes has decreased 28 percent from when it peaked in 2010. As of January, the shadow inventory contains about 2.2 million housing units, or in real estate terms, nine months of supply. CoreLogic gauged data on very delinquent homes, properties in foreclosure and homes held as REOs (real estate-owned) by mortgage servicers but not yet listed on multiple listing services (MLS) to figure out the shadow inventory figure.

What comprises the shadow inventory?

When banks hold onto homes and don’t put them on the market, they become a part of what is known as the shadow inventory. Other properties in the shadow inventory include homes that people are waiting to put on the market because they want to wait for optimal prices, and “zombie foreclosures.” These properties are vacant, as sometimes people anticipate foreclosure and abandon the home.

How it’s formed

RealtyTRAC states that the finalization of the National Mortgage Settlement in April 2012 contributed to the growth of the shadow inventory because of a 59 percent spike in properties in some stage of foreclosure. Under the settlement, banks and lenders have been obliged to work with homeowners on loan modifications, preventing foreclosure and keeping these homes off the market. The states in which the shadow inventory grew are mostly judicial process states since these states are more prone to having a buildup of foreclosure cases in their courts, as St. Cloud foreclosure lawyers would tell you. Foreclosure cases in these states on average take much longer to process.

How it impacts real estate

Experts in the real estate field initially feared properties in the shadow inventory would be listed simultaneously, leading to a decrease in properties values in certain communities. Though, according to Reuters, properties in the shadow inventory have been listed in small batches, and the low inventory has actually caused an increase in prices in some areas. Investment firms have also helped diminish potential flooding of the market by purchasing some of the shadow inventory, according to a TIME article. Investors buy out distressed real estate when it first hits the market. They often beat individual buyers with cash offers, sometimes before properties are listed.
Florida has 16 percent of the nation’s shadow inventory. As foreclosures are settled and the banks release some of these homes, the housing market will have a nice increase in supply.

Friday, March 15, 2013


Okaloosa-Walton ranks third nationally in growth rate
Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 18:28 PM.

Okaloosa and Walton counties have been recognized as one of the fastest growing regions in the country.  The U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday released a list of the 10 fastest-growing metropolitan statistical areas. The Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin MSA, which takes in all of Okaloosa and Walton counties, ranked third.  Larry Sassano, interim president of Florida’s Great Northwest, said the ranking will be a great way to market the area as one that is vibrant and growing. “That’s impressive,” Sassano said. “If you show that you have the third fastest-growing MSA in the country, that’s going to say something about the potential for growth for companies. Companies want to grow from a larger pool of potential employees.  “I think this is a good marketing tool for the region,” Sassano added. “Even though it’s really isolating it to two counties, it’s two counties in Northwest Florida. Anytime you can promote even one county, the other counties will have a positive impact as well.”
The Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin MSA had a population of 239,021 in July 2011. That grew to 247,665 by July 2012 for an increase of 3.6 percent. Only the Midland, Texas, and Clarksville, Tenn.-Ky., MSAs had higher growth rates, at 4.6 percent and 3.7 percent, respectively.  Sassano said one of the biggest factors companies consider when they are deciding where to operate or expand is the availability of a strong workforce. A growing population helps with that.  “The larger the population, the more opportunities employers have to select qualified employees,” Sassano said.  Local economist David Goetsch said part of the growth in Okaloosa and Walton counties during that time frame was because of the addition of a new battalion to the Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) and the continuing migration of retirees.  “Nobody’s growing very much because of the economy,” Goetsch said. “It’s good news for us, but we’re kind of one of the fastest growing in a very slow-growing economy.  “We’re leading a very slow pack,” he added. Goetsch said he doesn’t expect the Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin MSA to remain one of the fastest-growing areas for much longer.  “Even without sequestration, I wouldn’t expect it because you get the benefit of the 7th Special Forces once, and we’ve got that now,” Goetsch said. “The small amount that we typical grow out of retirements will continue, but that is small, and with sequestration that will probably even be slower.  “With sequestration we will probably lose some also. Not military, not retirees, but we’ll probably lose some defense personnel.”
Contact Daily News Business Editor Dusty Ricketts at 850-315-4448 or Follow him on Twitter @DustyRnwfdn.

Thursday, February 28, 2013


The F-35 Program continues to grow and will for many years to come.  As the U.S. Military and a number of other countries continue to put their future air power in the hands of this new fifth generation jet fighter; I am very confident the eyes of this country and around the globe will learn more and more about the Panhandle of Northwest Florida, and specifically Fort Walton Beach and Destin.  

Seven F-35Cs should arrive at Eglin in April

Published: Thursday, February 21, 2013 at 20:14 PM.
At last, but not least, the Navy should receive its first F-35 jets this spring at Eglin.
A production model of the F-35C, the Navy’s version of the military’s newest and most expensive stealth fighter jet, took to the sky for the first time last Thursday in Fort Worth, Texas. Lockheed Martin, the company that makes the planes, is set to deliver that jet and six others to Eglin Air Force Base the first weekend in April.
Their arrival will be a welcome sight for about 70 Navy F-35 pilots, maintainers and support staff at Eglin. Some have been on base for almost two years without a plane to fly or to work on as the arrival was pushed back.
“Everybody’s getting really excited about the opportunity to get their hands on the airplane,” said Navy Cmdr. John Enfield, who heads the Navy’s first joint strike fighter squadron, VFA-101, at Eglin. “Getting the airplane finally is going to be great for morale.”
It’s also going to nearly triple the size of the squadron.
Another 70 or 80 sailors are scheduled to arrive this year. F/A-18 jets should come this summer to fly along with the F-35s, and that will bring another 60 or 70 maintainers, Enfield said.
They all likely will be stationed at Eglin for three-year stints.
Eglin already has a fleet of 22 F-35s for the Marines and the Air Force. Both forces have started putting pilots through the schoolhouse there.
Navy maintainers work on other planes in the fleet. Pilots have been able to go through the Air Force’s academic training program and use their simulator software, but haven’t been able to get into any jets.
The F-35C is unique in that it’s made for landing on aircraft carriers. That means the wingspan is a little wider and the jet is designed to carry more fuel for longer flights. It also is a little slower so it can land in tighter spaces.
Landing on an aircraft carrier takes precision. A traditional runway is about 6,000 feet. On a carrier, the landing space is only 600 feet. Of that space, pilots really only have about a 3-foot by 3-foot window to drop the head of the plane on, Enfield said.
Steel arresting wires, usually about three on a ship, run across the landing space. A tail hook lowers from the bottom of the plane, and the pilot must put the jet down so the hook lands between the second and third wires.
The wire then drags out and stops the plane from going off the carrier into the water.
“The first time you do it its a little disconcerting when you realize you’ve got a 35,000-pound airplane and an inch-and-a-half steel cable and this little tail hook, and it all works together to stop the airplane,” Enfield said. “It’s pretty remarkable, actually.”
Because of the precision required, Navy pilots practice takeoffs and landings more than the other forces.
The ones at Eglin will practice at a relatively remote landing strip at Choctaw Field on the west side of Eglin’s reservation, Enfield said. They will circle for landing at 600 feet, much lower than the 1,600 feet landing pattern for the Air Force.
“You can imagine how loud these things are. If we were flying over Valparaiso at 600 feet, it probably wouldn’t endear our neighbors,” Enfield said.
Working with the Air Force and Marines at Eglin has been invaluable, Enfield said. They’ve been able to share information more easily than if they were at different locations.
For example, when the Air Force and Marines got their planes, there was a big learning curve: how they operate, what breaks, what doesn’t and basic procedures.
“We spent a lot of time writing down those lessons so we don’t have to learn them on our own,” Enfield said. “They did a lot of plowing the field and pulling all the rocks and tree stumps out for us.”
He said it is amazing to be at the forefront as a new aircraft is added to the Navy’s fleet. They are starting from ground zero and then leading the way for future generations, he said.
“I tell (them) ‘your son or daughter is going to come back and tell you if you did a good job or a bad job,' because what we do now is setting the standard for the Navy for the next 30 years,” he said.
With what they already have learned, Enfield said they should be able to take to the skies within a month after the jets arrive.
He said hopes to get a chance to fly one before he leaves for his next post later this year.
Contact Daily News Staff Writer Lauren Sage Reinlie at  850-315-4440 or Follow her on Twitter @LaurenRnwfdn.


This growth does even address the growth just outside the City limits of Crestview.  With much of the new developments being built outside the City limits, I can see this number being quite a bit higher.  We are also seeing a number of those Army folks deciding to move their families this year after being around the area and deciding where they want to live.  On the heals of this, you have the ramp up of the F-35 Training Squadron. With growth comes challenges, but I will say, they are challenges our local economy will benefit from.  Thanks to all, who make this area inviting to planners and visitors.  

Crestview rises in UF’s population survey

By BRIAN HUGHES / Crestview News Bulletin
Published: Friday, January 11, 2013 at 17:04 PM.
CRESTVIEW — An influx of neighbors arriving with military reassignments has boosted the population and propelled the city into the University of Florida’s Top 100 growing cities in the state.
Crestview was ranked 100 in 2010. UF’s December report covering 2012 found the city had nudged its way to 97th place.
The university’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research, using U.S. census reports, determined that Crestview has 22,742 residents. That’s up from 2010’s population of 20,978 and is a 42 percent leap from 2000’s 14,766 residents.
Mayor David Cadle attributed the recent growth primarily to the Army 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) cantonment south of town, which brought nearly 6,000 soldiers, support staff and their families to the area.
As the city diversifies its businesses, particularly at Bob Sikes Airport and through the city’s Enterprise Zone, more growth can be expected, Cadle said. That will translate into more and better job opportunities and an increased tax base, he said.
“I’m very excited about the continued growth of Crestview, and I think we’re going to see more of that to come as we expand our industrial base,” Cadle said.
Crestview’s growth far outpaced nearby communities on UF’s list. The nearest was Pensacola at No. 51 with 52,202 residents. It saw a 7.7 percent population decline since 2000 and a 0.2 percent growth since 2010.
Panama City was at No. 73 with a population of 35,800. It had a 2.5 percent population decline since 2000 and 0.8 percent increase between 2010 and 2012.
No other city in Okaloosa, Walton or Santa Rosa County made the list.
But Crestview’s growth brings growing pains.
Most noticeably, the evening commute from the south end of the county has increased in recent years. The traffic clogs feeder roads such as P.J. Adams Parkway and John King Road.
The city expanded its water and sewer systems in expectation of the 7th Special Forces’ arrival. However, traffic remains a headache because the county or state controls the roads that need widening the most, officials say.
“The city’s growth creates opportunities but it also creates challenges, and I think we have to be careful not to pursue growth simply for growth’s sake,” said Okaloosa County Commissioner Nathan Boyles. “We want to make sure we are growing in a way that allows us to develop economically, but also allows us to preserve our unique quality of life.
“One important component of that is infrastructure. If we grow so fast that we can’t maintain the necessary levels of service with our infrastructure, we won’t be a very good place to live and we won’t stay on that (UF) list very long.”
Boyles cited plans for widening P.J. Adams and a P.J. Adams-Antioch Road bypass around Crestview’s southwest corner as examples of the county’s greater focus on the Crestview area.
“I think the job of equitably distributing the limited resources of the county is a challenging one,” Boyles said. “I think having two commissioners from the north end of the county for the first time will help assure our area will get its fair share of those resources.”
Crestview News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes can be reached at 850-682-6524 or Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.


A great snap shot of the economic impact the 7th  Special Forces Group is making and will continue to make to this community.  On the heals of this group, we have the ramping up of the F-35 Training Program, which includes about 9 US friendly nations bringing their pilots, maintainers, and supporting cast.  With all this, you have the growth of the vacation community, the annual migration of snowbirds/baby boomers from around North America, as well as, others industries wanting to move their companies to the area.  Why not?  Most people come to visit or move here, and never want to leave.  Can you blame them?  I am a little bias because I am a native.  But, as a retired military officer, I also understand what this community means to our military both active and retired and the defense industry, as well.  I close with this.  AIRBUS.  More to follow.

Special Forces to the rescue
Army has given area a needed economic boost
315-4445 | @LaurenRnwfdn 
 EGLIN AFB — The arrival of the Army’s 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) more than a year ago has been a welcome boost to a slumping local economy. The group, which officially opened its cantonment in October 2011, should pump about $3.2 billion into Okaloosa County’s economy between 2010 and 2016, according to a report from the Haas Center at the University of West Florida.  It’s enough to offset the departure of 50 F-15s from the Air Force’s 33rd Fighter Wing in 2009, which will result in a loss of $3.3 billion during the same time period, the report said.  Although the report calls it an almost even trade, the area felt the economic boost when Army families began arriving from Fort Bragg, N.C., last year because the economy was so depressed, said Rod Lewis, director of the Haas Center. Their arrival came on the heels of the housing bubble burst in 2008 and then the loss of the F-15s in 2009.  “It was a double whammy,” Lewis said. After two years of significantly negative population growth in Okaloosa County, the 7th Special Forces Group brought about 6,000 new people, including 2,200 soldiers and their families, to the area. People had been used to operating in the slump, Lewis said. “Then, boom.” The county has felt the impact, especially in Crestview where most of the families settled.  “We’re very pleased with the outcome,” said Kay Rasmussen, interim president of the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County. “The community has embraced the families moving into our neighborhoods.”  She described a ripple effect on the local economy as the new families started purchasing and leasing homes and taking advantage of retail.    Also, many of the soldiers’ spouses opened small businesses, primarily in the Crestview area, Rasmussen said. The departure of the F15s, the arrival of the Special Forces Group and then the arrival of the first F-35s at Eglin Air Force Base all were called for in a Base Realignment and Closure Commission report in 2005. The F-35s — the first of which arrived at Eglin in July 2011 — have brought about 1,300 people to the community, said Col. Tony Douglas, vice commander of the Air Force’s 96th Test Wing, which oversees operations at the base.  “It has been a big transition (for Eglin),” Douglas said.  It’s going well, though, he said.  At a sprawling 724 square miles — about the size of Rhode Island — Eglin is the Department of Defense’s largest installation and was ready to absorb the new missions, Douglas said. The community also welcomed the new personnel with open arms.  “It’s been great, not just for TEAM Eglin, but for the local community as well,” he said. “We’ve got more people coming into what is, in my opinion, a very exciting and diverse installation.”  Many people had expectations that the new Army jobs would be low pay and would not offset the loss of the F-15s, which relocated about 2,000 airmen, Lewis said.  They were a bit afraid. The Army’s coming. The Army’s coming,” he said. “But these people are very well-paid. This is not a private first class making $20,000 a year.”The 7th Special Forces soldiers are largely welleducated and earn $70,000 to $90,000 a year.  That’s quite a different (economic) impact when you look at it,” he said.  Lewis said 65 to 75 percent of the families settled in north Okaloosa County. The soldiers deploy regularly and military spouses wanted to live close to each other for support. They also are a tight-knit group, having all been stationed together at Fort Bragg for years. “Crestview got out ahead,” Lewis said. “They were very welcoming and worked to promote Crestview as the place to be.” NMany of the families just didn’t look anywhere else, he said. Lewis said he was somewhat surprised more families didn’t move south because housing was much more affordable closer to the beach and Choctawhatchee Bay than it would have been before the housing market crashed. He said the lingering question about the military’s economic impact remains what level of growth the area will see from the F-35 program. At one point, the Air Force estimated there would be 107 planes at Eglin. Twenty-two jets have arrived so far.  The effects have been positive, but just how much economic benefit will come from the program is yet to be determined, Lewis said. “They are just not here in the numbers we initially thought they would be,” he said.