From the Director's Desk
By Nathan Sparks, CEcD
Happy New Year! As we approach the fourth full week of the year, "happiness" may be at a premium as the national picture remains murky at best. The stock market has been a test in patience over the past year. After reaching a peak of 26,149 in January 2018, the Dow closed out the year with steep declines in the final two months of the year to finish at 23,062. While I am far from an expert, it seems that much of these declines were rooted in investor fears associated with trade agreements and the potential for rising interest rates not so subtly signaled by the Fed. Since that time, however, the market has trended upward - seemingly buoyed by more measured comments from the Fed and a good jobs report that saw payrolls grow by 312,000 in December, thus blowing the doors off the 184,000 that was projected. While all of that is well and good, the Federal Government Shutdown - now in a record 34th day - is a major outlier that we're all hopeful will be resolved soon. While impacted Federal workers are guaranteed back pay when it is all said and done, the same can't be said for government contractors. In addition to impacting real people with families to feed and bills to pay, the lost income has to impact the economy at some point.
Shifting gears to here in Florida, thankfully we live in a state that continues to be an economic powerhouse. Consider this, Florida has the 4th largest state economy in the US with a $1 trillion GDP and the 17th largest global economy if we were a sovereign nation. Not bad! Then take into consideration that we have the 4th Best Tax Climate among the 50 states (according to the Tax Foundation), the 3rd largest workforce among the 50 states (according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics) and were ranked as the #1 State for Infrastructure (according to 24/7 Wall Street). Bottom line, it is easy to be bullish on Florida's future.
Our confidence in the future is also rooted locally - where the real work happens and the stage for success is being set every day. One such focal area for the EDC is in the realm of workforce and talent - recognizing that talent truly is the new "coin of the realm". If you're interested in an insightful discussion on one aspect of this strategy - specifically Talent Attraction - consider joining us for our first Roundtable breakfast of 2019, scheduled for March 4 at The Island Hotel (details inside). We hope to see you there!
Defense Support Initiatives, DSI
By Bob Marinan, Chairman
Happy New Year! Your DSI is already off and running in preparation for 2019 but first, let's wrap up 2018. At our December meeting, we had Kent Wimmer, Senior Representative for the Defenders of Wildlife in Tallahassee pay us a visit. He provided the DSI with how they help to coordinate the NW Florida Sentinel Landscape, which incorporates all of our ground ranges, with private landowners, conservationists, military installations and government agencies to protect the military mission. We also sent a letter to then, Governor-Elect DeSantis requesting an opportunity to meet with him and/or his staff to educate them on the role of the DSI and the types of issues we work.
For 2019, we are busy working and planning for our Washington DC fly-in. This is an annual five-county NW Florida trip to carry a united regional message to Congressional and Pentagon leadership in support of critical defense industry impacts to our area. We are scheduled to meet with these folks on 12 & 13 March, 2019.
At our January meeting, we welcomed two new members to the DSI, Mr. Mike Ruff from GD-OTS and Mr. Joe Staton from DS2. Navy CAPT Bowdich, Commander Whiting Field provided us an insightful update on the Whiting Field mission and his roles & responsibilities to support it. Impressive was how large his AOR (Area of Responsibility) is which covers two states and five counties. The CAPT said Whiting Field activities make up appx. 35% of the Santa Rosa County total gross regional product.
We continue to support and work issues related to the Tyndall AFB rebuild. Locally, Eglin AFB has incorporated the F-22 training squadron on an "interim beddown" proposal which could lead to them being here for three years. In all, there will be 31 F-22's, 18 T-38's and the supporting maintenance for both platforms importing up to 800 personnel to Eglin AFB. An environmental impact study will be conducted which will help determine whether or not Eglin AFB will become a permanent home to the training squadron.
Technology Coast Manufacturing and Engineering Network; TeCMEN
By Paul Jernigan, Chairman
In·fra·struc·ture: the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g., buildings, roads, and power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.
In December a TeCMEN full-house had the privilege of having Gulf Power, (Bernard Johnson), CHELCO (Steve Wolform) and Okaloosa Gas (Gordon King & Eddie Springle) come and update the TeCMEN group. Not only do we have great infrastructure but we heard where the services are continuing to improve and expand in our area. In January we heard from Annie Brock, CEO of the Leader Transition Institute which serves our Veterans as they transition to civilian careers.
What would we do without infrastructure? My answer is the world we live in would be vastly different, i.e. slower, hotter, colder, chopping wood, fireplace, inefficient, candles, dangerous, horse and buggy, out houses, all come to mind. I remember a fellow I worked with many years ago saying when he was a kid he had to watch TV by candle light! Wouldn't that be a bummer! I am happy to have infrastructure! And, by the way without infrastructure, Tesla would just mean "a unit of magnetic flux density in the meter-kilogram-second system equivalent to one weber per square meter" whatever that means, but we have a TeCMEN member that can explain it, for sure, since he has a Tesla electric car!
I had a person come to my house several years ago for a visit and upon seeing my computers, televisions, cell, ceiling fans, cameras, various other electronics and my natural gas fireplace at the push of a button, she said; "you are spoiled". My response was; "yes I am, I like it this way and what is your point."
The fact is we are all spoiled and have high expectations when it comes to infrastructure! Just let there be a power outage and we all start to whine and call the power company. Interestingly enough we did hear that Okaloosa Gas has never had an outage! Let's face it we expect them to work 24/7 and have no idea what it really takes to create, deliver and maintain the infrastructure provided to us on a daily basis by companies like our presenters at the December TeCMEN meeting. We also had a speaker in January that is helping to supply some of the best employees a company could ever hope for, our Veterans, which we all need and have as a part of our employee base. I know at Boeing Veterans are in the majority as part of our work force and are some of our best employees.
Here's to hoping you had a great Christmas and a happy New Year with the support of our great infrastructure and Veterans to support our companies. Hope you sent them a Christmas card! They deserve it for keeping us spoiled! See you next month.
By Caroline McCoy, CEcD
The EDC continues to move forward with our 21 active projects. Behind the scenes, the EDC continues to assist our local companies with local or state incentives. All incentives require annual compliance with contracts that can range from 4 years or up to 10 years and the EDC remains committed to the project for the entire duration of their contracts with the respective governing entities. Also, Enterprise Florida has released the average wage requirements for economic development incentives. For 2019 applicants, the average Okaloosa County wage is $41,126 and companies will be required to meet thresholds of up to 115% to qualify for State incentives.
Did you know that Okaloosa County and 5 of its municipalities offer local incentives? Okaloosa County and the cities of Crestview, Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Mary Esther and Valparaiso have the Economic Development Ad Valorem Tax Exemption (EDATE), is a local option tax incentive for new or expanding businesses. The incentives are granted at the discretion of the Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners and the respective municipality and can be layered together or granted separately. To be eligible, applicant companies must commit to creating a minimum of ten (10) jobs for a business that manufactures, processes, fabricates, or produces items for sale or twenty five (25) to fifty (50) jobs for other industries. In addition, the average wage of the new jobs being created must be at least 110% of the average wage in Okaloosa County as determined by Enterprise Florida Inc. For 2019, 110% of the average wage is $45,239.
The projects that the EDC continues to see identify workforce as a key decision driver. With unemployment at a consistent low, companies want to know where the workforce will be coming from. I encourage you to attend our first EDC Roundtable event of the year focused on "Brain Chasing: Talent Attraction as a Community Strategy" to learn what others in the area are doing to recruit talent and information from an outside analyst who will share what they are seeing in regions similar to the Emerald Coast.
Members in the News
President Donald J. Trump has announced his intent to appoint
Dr. Paul Hsu, Hsu Education Foundation, and Past Chairman for the EDC to be a Member and co-chair of the President's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Congratulations to MAG Aerospace on their new facility dedication and ribbon cutting in the Fort Walton Beach Commerce and Technology Park! The Technology Integration and Support Center is focused on the integration of Air Force Special Operations and Special Warfare systems.
The Boeing Company has awarded the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast a $50,000 grant for BGCEC's STEM Outreach Program. The funding will help expand Boys & Girls Club's STEM programming in 2019. The goal of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Emerald Coast STEM Outreach Program is to broaden science, technology, engineering & math (STEM) programming at BGCEC's eight Club sites in Northwest Florida, and to bring together community organizations that share a common goal of providing high-quality STEM and technology-based programming.
Congratulations to Bernard Johnson, Director of Economic Development, Gulf Power Company for his nomination to serve as a Civic Leader for the Air Force Special Operations!
As of January 1, NextEra Energy, Inc. has completed its previously announced acquisition of
Gulf Power Company from Southern Company. NextEra Energy, Inc. is a leading clean energy company headquartered in
Juno Beach, Florida. NextEra Energy owns two electric companies in
Florida Power & Light Company, which serves approximately 5 million customer accounts in
Florida and is one of the largest rate-regulated electric utilities in
the United States; and Gulf Power Company, which serves approximately 450,000 customers in eight counties throughout northwest Florida.
Thank You New EDC Investors
EDC Executive Committee Members and Staff
Glenn Scharf, Chairman; Katie Sharon, Vice Chairman; Ashley Rogers, Treasurer; Lee Lewis, Secretary; Ron Whitfield, Member-at-Large; Kim Wintner, Past Chairman
County Commissioner: Trey Goodwin
Educational Partners: Dr. Devin Stephenson, Dr. Melinda Bowers, Mr. Marcus Chambers
Utility Partners: Steve Rhodes, Gordon King, Bernard Johnson
Nathan Sparks CEcD, Executive Director
Kay Rasmussen CEcD, Associate Director / DSI Manager
Caroline McCoy CEcD, Director Business Expansion
Kathy Barber, Administrative Assistant
Linda Sumblin, TeCMEN Manager
Sal Nodjomian, TCPI Consultant
Roxanna Reece, Accounting