Northwest Florida Manufacturing News Monthly
FloridaMakes Success Story: Rex Lumber in Jackson County
W. D. McRae established Rex Lumber Company, a family-owned business, in 1926 in Graceville, Florida. The mill started as a cypress sawmill, and later became an oak flooring manufacturer. The Graceville site has been completely redesigned and modernized into a high volume southern yellow pine sawmill. Currently Rex Lumber operates three sawmills, located in Graceville and Bristol Florida, and another in Brookhaven Mississippi, producing a total of 575 million board feet annually. The company currently employs approximately 500 people and they are expanding by adding an additional sawmill in Alabama. Rex Lumber operates some of the most technologically-advanced sawmills in the Southeast.

As a progressive technologically advanced company, Rex Lumber understands that professional development is key to their continued success, growth strategy, employee satisfaction and retention. Finding the right opportunities for employee engagement is difficult and expensive.

Key Rex Lumber employees participated in a three-day project management professional technical engagement promoting professional development sponsored by the Northwest Florida Manufacturers Council (NWFMC), the local regional manufacturers' association, in partnership with the University of West Florida and FloridaMakes. During the engagement, employees learned valuable tools and techniques to help them improve the success rate of their ongoing projects by applying standardized and proven project management principles. By better utilizing personnel, equipment and resources, they are now able to complete their projects on time and within budget while maintaining excellent customer quality and satisfaction. The direct impact of the engagement to Rex Lumber included the ability to increase annual sales, project future growth of the business, and invest in plant and equipment to meet future demands.
Manufacturing Profile: Santa Rosa County
Manufacturing is a targeted industry in Santa Rosa County. “With the recent Triumph award to build infrastructure to 40 acres in the Whiting Aviation Park, county leaders focus on aviation manufacturing in particular,” reports Shannon Ogletree, Executive Director of Santa Rosa Economic Development.
Currently, Santa Rosa County has a mixture of manufacturing employers, including major employers such as Eastman and Avalex Technologies. Eastman is a global leader in the production of advanced materials and specialty additives for a broad range of products found in everyday items. Eastman serves customers in more than 100 countries and reports revenues of approximately $9 billion (2016). Eastman’s site in Pace, Florida produces a range of amine products that are used in the food, feed, and agriculture markets. Avalex Technologies is a lead innovator in the design and manufacture of rugged surveillance equipment. With 25 years of experience, Avalex incorporates innovative technologies to customize products such as smart displays, tablets, mapping systems, digital video recorders, cockpit management units, and mission computers (including hardware and software integration). 
Whip-It Inventions, also located in Santa Rosa County, manufactures and distributes an all-natural cleaning solution called The Amazing Whip-It. NWFMC members may have seen this in Bed Bath & Beyond or on the Home Shopping Network. 
In 2013, 702 people were employed in manufacturing organizations within Santa Rosa County. Since that time, manufacturing jobs in this county have increased by 41 percent, with an estimated 988 people employed.
MAKE MORE Manufacturing Summit
The MAKE MORE Manufacturing Summit is a leadership-focused meeting designed around connecting ecosystem stakeholders with the needs and realities of industry leaders from the manufacturing sector. Keynote speakers, TED-style talks, and panel discussions will lay the foundation as Florida’s manufacturing stakeholders, public and private, begin to leverage their collective assets and capabilities for a more competitive manufacturing sector.  

Florida Sterling Manufacturing Business Excellence Reception
The Florida Sterling Council and FloridaMakes honor and celebrate the manufacturing companies named as finalists for the third Florida Sterling Manufacturing Business Excellence Awards. The winners, chosen from the finalists, will be announced later in the evening at the 2019 Governor's Sterling Awards.

2019 Governor's Sterling Awards and Florida Sterling Manufacturing Business Excellence Awards Banquet
Six Florida companies will receive statewide recognition as the 2019 winners of the third annual Florida Sterling Manufacturing Business Excellence Awards. The awards, recognizing high performing manufacturers in six categories, are announced and presented at this prestigious statewide formal event.

Register now for all events at a special rate. More information about the event and sponsorship opportunities is available here.

FloridaMakes is a great resource and can help your company address current challenges, create new opportunities for growth and achieve measurable results. To learn how FloridaMakes’ services can unlock growth opportunities and cost savings for your company, contact your FloridaMakes’ Business Advisor Daniel Krug at, (850) 612-5895 (cell), John Davis at, (850) 384-5275 (cell), or Mary Nutial at, (850) 426-9145.

FloridaMakes is an industry-led public-private partnership operated by participating Regional Manufacturers Associations throughout Florida. As part of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership network, FloridaMakes is the official representative of NIST MEP in the State of Florida. Learn more at
UWF's GeoData Center
University of West Florida’s GeoData Center is currently seeking manufacturing internship placements for its students. The GeoData Center focuses on advanced skill development in computational modeling and management decision support and addresses the growing need for geographic information system (GIS) developers, managers, and analysts. Approved internship experiences are supervised GIS applications in business, government, non-profits, education, and other related fields. Experiences involve field work, data processing, geospatial analysis, and conference attendance.

The GeoData Center is the source of the FloridaMakes GIS Map on the NWFMC homepage and is a valuable tool for discovering information on local manufacturing and planning Council trips and meetings. Many of the Center's projects would be useful to Council members, such as this map highlighting cyber attack origin density in the US.

Recently, Gulf Power awarded the Center a grant for a water quality testing project. This project will allow the Center to assist students from Booker T. Washington High School's Marine Science Academy in using an online mapping platform to study and evaluate the data.
WC Pryor Middle School in Okaloosa County
Sierra Anderson, Northwest Florida District Director for Senator Rick Scott, joined Tim McDonald and Dee Anderson at Curt Palermo’s SolidWorks class to learn more about the successes and obstacles in teaching middle schoolers about manufacturing opportunities. NWFMC provides Curt’s classroom with SolidWorks software, and in turn, he has certified more than 40 students over the past five years.  
Mr. Palermo’s students demonstrate their communication skills while explaining their robotics and 3D modeling projects to Ms. Anderson. 
Florida Panhandle Technical College in Washington County
Washington County School District Superintendent Joseph Taylor, UWF Office of Workforce and Industrial Innovation Director Nicole Gislason, Welding Instructor Eddie Beckworth, and FPTC Director Martha Compton discuss with Sierra Anderson the capabilities of the program in providing NWFL with needed expertise. 
Florida Panhandle Technical College Instructor Curtis Green explains how the Electrician/Electrical & Instrumentation Technology program wraps instrumentation, OSHA requirements, and soft skills into the curriculum. Terry Ellis, V.P. of U.S. Operations at West Point Home and founding NWFMC BOD Member, joined the conversation to help us understand that the region's needs in these areas also extend into infrastructure development and construction.  
General Membership Meeting at Vertex Aerospace in Okaloosa County
Overall, 70 people attended the Vertex Aerospace General Membership Meeting to hear our speakers discuss the talent pipeline. Speakers included Daniel Potts from Ascend Performance Materials, April Branscome and David Johnson from Okaloosa County Schools, and Sam Russel from UWF. 
Ben Shuman and Tatum Knowles talk to NWFMC members, partners, and affiliates about how the robotics team has helped to introduce the community to teamwork, communication, and technical skills. Tatum, who comes from a non-mechanical background will be attending school at USF to become an engineer. When asked, every manufacturer in the room said they want to hire her right now. We have no doubt that the investment the Council has made in the Manufacturing Academies is paying off after seeing Tatum’s dynamic speech.
Rural Strong Community Expo in Jackson County
FloridaMakes Board Member, Nicole Gislason, sat on a panel alongside Dr. Patrick Wnek of the North East Florida Educational Consortium to discuss advanced educational initiatives around the development of workforce solutions at the 1st Annual Rural Strong Community Expo in Jackson County. 
FloridaMakes Business Continuity Advisor Lerissa Rowe spoke at the Rural Strong Community Expo in Jackson County about FloridaMakes Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Assessments. Manufacturers have the opportunity to highlight their strengths and weaknesses in case of business disruptions through these assessments. 
Regional Manufacturing Calendar
Lunch & Learn: Leadership Development in Pensacola
Thursday, May 2
11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.
Lunch & Learn: Employment Law in Pensacola
Thursday, May 16
11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.
ISO 45001 in Fort Walton Beach
Tuesday, May 7 and Wednesday, May 8
8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.

Have an event you would like to add? 
Email information to
Lunch & Learn: Employment Law in Panama City
Thursday, May 9
11:30 a.m. - 1 p.m.
This newsletter was developed in collaboration with the University of West Florida and FloridaMakes.