From the Director's Desk
By Nathan Sparks, CEcD
As the year winds down, the EDC is now in a full-fledged sprint to the finish. I thought it might be interesting to take a look back at some of our community's economic development "highlights" over the past 11 months. Here goes nothing!
2019 got off to a strong start in January, with MAG Aerospace holding the Grand Opening of its Technology Integration Support Center (TISC) in the Fort Walton Beach Commerce & Technology Park.
The 25,000 SF facility is focused on the integration of Air Force special operations special warfare systems. More than 60 new high wage technology engineering positions have been created as a result of the announcement.
New, high wage technology jobs were once again front and center in May, when Dynamic Software Solutions (DS2) announced that they would be expanding to a second Okaloosa County facility and hiring up to 30 or more personnel. The expansion came as a result of Tapestry Solutions, Inc. (a Boeing company) and DS2 winning a $259 million ceiling Weapons Planning Software awarded by
Air Force Materiel Command, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, Armament Directorate - Eglin Air Force Base. The ribbon cutting for their new 5,000 SF facility located at 310 Government Avenue was held in October.
In August, the EDC and the Building Industry Association of Okaloosa & Walton Counties (BIA) announced that the Washington D.C. based Home Builders Institute (HBI) would be launching a new construction trades training program targeting military Veterans and their family members. Thanks to the generosity and vision of Northwest Florida State College, this program is being hosted on their Niceville campus. A ribbon cutting is currently being planned for late January.
November was an extremely busy - and successful - month for economic development. Things got kicked off with Radiance Technologies' ribbon cutting for their new facility in Shalimar. The new facility is tied to the
Test and Evaluation Technologies for Ranges, Armaments, and Spectrum (TETRAS) contract with the 96th Range Group at Eglin AFB and has a ceiling value of $998M.
Also in November, the Triumph Gulf Coast Board approved a final grant agreement with Okaloosa County for $64.1 million to assist with a $200 million bypass linking Highway 85 to US Highway 10 southwest of Crestview. This project will result in at least 1300 new defense-related jobs over 10 years and provide long term relief for traffic congestion in the county. Congratulations to the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners for achieving this historic agreement!
Yet another "competitive positioning" victory occurred in November, when the Northwest Florida State College Board of Trustees voted to enter into a groundbreaking partnership with the Hsu Educational Foundation. The end result will be a new aviation Airframe & Powerplant (A&P) training and certification program housed in fully renovated facilities owned by Dr. Paul Hsu at the Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview. Talk about a game changer for our aviation sector recruitment strategy!
Last but certainly not least, the EDC announced that RaceChip - a German-owned automotive performance parts company - would be relocating its US Headquarters from southern California to Fort Walton Beach (see full release on page 3).
Any one of these highlights is significant in and of itself, but taken together, it is clear to see that Okaloosa County is enjoying some pretty serious momentum on multiple fronts! Here's to an even more successful 2020!
Defense Support Initiatives, DSI
By Bob Marinan, Chairman
As we close out a successful 2019 for the DSI and look forward to what will be a busy and challenging 2020, let me update you on what we've done and where we're heading.
Our Walton County DSI representative briefed us on the "Hwy 331 Development Plan" which identifies 250 acres of land south of I-10 and west of Hwy 331 for a planned industrial development. A Triumph Gulf Coast application has been submitted to assist in the development expense and a press release is pending along with informational and marketing materials.
Dr. Thomas Piazza, the current Medical Director of the Invisible Wounds Center on Eglin AFB, gave us a very thorough briefing on the Air Force's first, multi-disciplinary facility specializing in the treatment of traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress and pain. The Center offers enhanced outpatient programs and their return to duty rate is 92%.
With the House passing a bill in support of a permanent sustainment of the Military Mission Line (MML), Senator Rubio has sponsored a bill requesting a five-year extension of the MML under the belief that anything beyond that would not pass. The DSI has sent letters supporting the permanent sustainment of the MML to Senators Murkowski, McConnell, and Schumer with copies to CSAF General Goldfein, Senator Rubio and Senator Scott. The MML challenge will remain one of our top priorities next year.
Progress is being made in for our Washington DC Advocacy fly-in early next year. We are currently focused on four priority issues, the Gulf Range Enhancement plan (GRE), the Eglin Gulf Test & Training Range (EGTTR), the permanent sustainment of the MML, and Eglin's NexGen infrastructure upgrades. The schedule for the visit is in flux given the current state of politics in DC.
The Florida Defense Support Task Force has updated the Florida Military Economic Impact Analysis and the Florida Defense Factbook should be released soon. The 2017 analysis reflects a military economic impact of $9.8 Billion annually for Okaloosa County; $22 Billion for Northwest Florida. We look forward to receiving the updated figures
Technology Coast Manufacturing and Engineering Network; TeCMEN
By David Haines, Chairman
I am excited to discover what this coming year holds for the TeCMEN group! As its new chairman, I look forward to working with Nathan Sparks and his very capable team. I was also excited to learn that as TeCMEN chairman, I have a seat at EDC Business Leadership Council meetings and look forward to attending those as well. The dynamic membership of the TeCMEN group has been very busy during our recent meetings and I want to summarize some of the salient points....
Seems like the TeCMEN Industry Day (TID) was just yesterday but we have already begun preparing for next year's event in earnest. Many of the members have indicated an interest to assist in the TID planning stages so we are kicking that off with an updated survey to address the areas we think members could be the most help. So far the inputs have not disappointed and have provided some "outside the box" ideas that we may not have thought of without their help.
During our October meeting, Brian Anderson showcased the impressive capabilities of Vertex AIS (Aircraft Integration & Sustainment). Based in Crestview at the Bob Sikes Airport, Vertex
specializes in high-end aircraft engineering, fabrication, installation, modification, systems integration, and logistics support for both government and commercial platforms.
During our November meeting, Ben Osborne highlighted his employer SURVICE Engineering, a Maryland-based corporation with a local presence in Fort Walton Beach. SURVICE has a wide array of capabilities, including modeling of weapons effects / lethality, precision measurments and rapid prototyping to name just a few.
We are also excited to welcome Matthew Parker of ATC Group Services as a new TeCMEN member. ATC is a consulting firm providing environmental consulting and engineering services nationwide. I would be remiss if I didn't also mention Pam and Bob Bechtold, the owners of Certified Manufacturing in Holt, who were able to reconnect with the group attending our last meeting. It was great to see them.
In conclusion, I shared my goals with the group for my tour as chairman, which simply put; To grow the TeCMEN membership, reconnect with some of our "missing in action" former members and help local companies gain a greater share in providing the services and products needed by our local military bases. With that in mind, we will keep you posted on our future successes.
The EDC is pleased to announce the location of RaceChip, also known as Project Nitro, into Okaloosa County. RaceChip is the market leader for electronic high-performance automobile chip tuning and has selected Fort Walton Beach for it's new US headquarters. The Fort Walton Beach facility, to be located at 50 Hill Ave in the Fort Walton Beach Commerce & Technology Park, replaces the company's previous US headquarters in Orange County, California.
Established in Germany in 2008, RaceChip has experienced rapid growth and now has a global presence. Today, RaceChip's aftermarket automobile engine performance technology is available for more than 3,000 individual vehicle models from more than 60 automobile manufacturers. Customers utilizing RaceChip's proprietary electronic chip tuning can achieve up to 30% more horsepower along with 20% savings in fuel economy.
The company cited Fort Walton Beach's comparatively lower operating costs, market access and quality of life as factors in their decision to relocate their US headquarters from California.
"We are very excited to be in Fort Walton Beach, grow within the community and expand our business within the State of Florida," said Chris McCollum, Chief Operating Officer of RaceChip Americas, Inc.
"We are pleased to welcome a respected, German-owned enterprise like RaceChip to Okaloosa County, and we're confident that they will find our county to be a favorable place to operate their US headquarters. We stand ready to support their future growth objectives," said Commissioner Kelly Windes, Chairman, Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners.
"We proudly welcome RaceChip to our community. The City of Fort Walton Beach has been diligently working to shape the Commerce & Technology Park into a premium business center by diversifying commercial uses and providing quality-of-place enhancements that attract viable businesses. RaceChip's move here is proof that these efforts are paying off, and I expect to see more movement like this in the future," said Mayor Dick Rynearson, City of Fort Walton Beach.
"RaceChip's decision to locate their US headquarters in our community is proof positive that foreign-owned enterprises see great value in the business-friendly environment that our local and state leaders have worked so hard to provide. We sincerely appreciate Enterprise Florida's role in bringing this opportunity to our attention," said Nathan Sparks, Executive Director, Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County.
Please join us in welcoming the RaceChip team to Okaloosa County!
Members in the News
Fort Walton Machining was recently awarded the Marshall Space Flight Center FY 2019 Small Business Subcontractor Excellence Award. Congratulations!
Beast Code has been awarded Fortune Magazine's Top 50 Best Small Workplaces. Coming in at number 17!
If you would like more insight, visit the EDC's blog written by Kelly Murphy-Redd, CEcD. You'll find topics such as Incubators and Accelerators, Retiring Military, Talent Attraction, Hypersonic Weapons, and more!
Click here to read the EDC Blog
EDC Executive Committee Members and Staff
Katie Sharon, Chairman; Lee Lewis, Vice Chairman; Ron Whitfield, Treasurer; Brian Anderson, Secretary; Leslie Sheekly, Member-at-Large; Glenn Scharf, 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
Kevin Lovelace, Director Business Expansion
Hailey Medeiros, Administrative Assistant
Linda Sumblin, TeCMEN Manager
Sal Nodjomian, TCPI Consultant
Roxanna Reece, Accounting