From the Director's Desk
By Nathan Sparks, CEcD
We are fortunate to live and work in a community that has received its share of glowing third party accolades. Over the years, various national publications and list makers have cited the communities of Okaloosa County among the "Best Places to Retire", the "Most Paycheck Friendly Places in Florida" and one of the "Best Cities for Young Entrepreneurs". Heck, according to MSN News, we're even home to one of the top ten "Happiest Cities in America" (here's looking at you, Fort Walton Beach). While these are all noteworthy in their own right, the latest such accolade embedded in the Milken Institute's recent rankings of America's Best Performing Cities may take the cake.
First, a little bit about Milken and their methodology. A non-partisan, non-profit think tank, the Milken Institute compiles the Best Performing Cities index annually. Milken's stated goal with the index is to help businesses, investors, industry associations, development agencies, government officials, academics, and public-policy groups monitor and evaluate how well their metro is promoting economic vitality relative to the rest of the country. In explaining their methodology, Milken states:
Our index uses an outcomes-based set of metrics such as job creation, wage gains, and technological developments to evaluate the relative growth of metropolitan areas. While national and international political and economic forces beyond a region's control can affect near-term performance, the top-performing metros have cohesive strategies that allow them to leverage their assets more effectively."
Another important point - the index distinguishes between "Large Metros" (those with a population of more than 200,000) and "Small Metros" (those with a population of less than 200,000). Two separate indices (rankings) are developed - one for Large Communities and one for Small Communities.
So now that you understand the background of Milken and their "Best Performing Cities" Index, I am sure you are curious to know where our metro area - officially identified as the Crestview-Destin-Fort Walton Beach Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) - stacks up. We are quite pleased to share that our community ranks #44 on Milken's "Top 200 Best Performing Large Cities" index. To put this in the proper context, we are up 13 spots from last year and are the highest ranked metro area in northwest Florida! In addition to being ranked one spot ahead of San Diego, CA, we outperformed many of our aspirational communities including Huntsville, AL (ranked #59), Savannah, GA (ranked #108) and Mobile, AL (ranked #177). Perhaps the greatest news of all, our community's job growth ranked #3 in the nation last year (yes, you read that correctly!) Bottom line, we all have much to be proud of as the Milken ranking is a true testament to the hard work, collaborative spirit and commitment to the future that permeates this great community that we call home.
Defense Support Initiatives, DSI
By Bob Marinan, Chairman
As we reach the 2019 first quarter pole, the NW Florida Defense Coalition had a very successful interaction with our Washington, DC delegation. Over 35 members of the five-county contingent attended despite some challenging weather issues departing Eglin AFB. We visited the offices of Congressman Gaetz, Sen Scott and Sen Rubio the first day. The second day we visited with Pentagon leaders to include the Air Force Military Deputy, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Science, Technology & Engineering, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Installations & Facilities, the Navy lead for Global Naval Operations, the Navy Office of Legislative Affairs, the Lockheed Martin VP for F-35 and an Air Force panel from Test & Evaluation and Installations & Energy office.
On Tuesday, 12 March we began our day with Rep. Matt Gaetz and members of his staff. The Congressman kicked it off with opening remarks and mentioned current successes we've secured to include funding for the Whiting Field north tower and acquired funding for needed Eglin Test & Training Range (ETTR) upgrades. Additional insight was provided on the status of the F-35 training and the ongoing discussions of adding more F-35's to Eglin and rebuilding Tyndall AFB. He mentioned strong support to maintain the Military Mission Line (MML) and understands "more" range is required to support the testing of new weapons development programs like Hypersonics. It was obvious with all the offices we met with that the requirement for a Hypersonic capability is late to need for the US. He also informed us the RDT&E funding is increasing; which is good news for Eglin AFRL in the upcoming years. Finally, the Congressman said he believes Florida is very competitive in securing the new Space Command within Florida. Much thanks to Charles Truxal, the Military Legislative Assistant to the Congressman, for setting up Day one.
Following the Congressman was a panel from members of the Special Operations Forces (SOF) community to discuss the future SOF mission and military readiness. They highlighted the need to do more integrating with conventional forces and increasing the use of artificial intelligence and improved networks.
A second panel, led by Congressman Gaetz, discussed Next Generation Aircraft and Hypersonics. This panel highlighted the need for the ETTR, the securing of the MML and the need to further continue range upgrades to support not only testing but operational training for the F-35 and F-22 going forward.
We then met with a staff member from both Sen Scott's and Sen Rubio's office and relayed the same messages we left with Rep. Gaetz.
All in all, a very productive two-days advocating for our military installations.
Technology Coast Manufacturing and Engineering Network; TeCMEN
By Paul Jernigan, Chairman
THE FUTURE IS HERE AND PREPARING FOR THE FUTURE TO COME
is an ever increasing theme at our TeCMEN meetings. As my Mother used to say "you never get a second chance to make a first impression". We really have our first impressions covered from technical competitions in our schools to the same or similar competitions among our fellow contractors. There is a real sense of accomplishment when we listen to the combined talents we have in our area. Not only do we live in a wonderful area but we are accomplished in our work and scholastics to be even better. Put it all together and Silicon Valley has nothing on us but higher taxes and a long drive to an ugly beach!
In February our speaker was Maynard Factor a product of the Okaloosa County School system representing KRATOS, a World Leader in Unmanned Systems Solutions, which was started right here in Fort Walton Beach in 1976 and is growing and doing well. Oh if we could keep all the talent we are producing through our school STEM programs like Maynard to stay in our area. We are certainly building the infrastructure to do just that!
In March our speakers were Tim Shoop and James Todd from Digital Boardwalk to present "How to Implement National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Here again as we develop and win with new technologies we have to protect the data. Sounds like a great TeCMEN training opportunity subject in the near future.
A big thank you goes to Marcus Chambers Okaloosa County Schools Superintendent who introduced us to Brooke Barron, Principal at Pryor Middle School and Grant Meyer, Principal at Destin Middle School who are promoting our future with curriculum in support of the technical community that we represent.
TeCMEN is doing exactly what it was founded to do when created by the EDC and it is my privilege to be a part of it. We had a great group but if you have not been lately we can pull out some more chairs or get a bigger room. Come and hear what is going on at TeCMEN!
Business Expansion Assistance
By Caroline McCoy, CEcD
ank goodness March is over! Much like the upcoming tax deadline, local companies with local or state incentives were required to file annual reports and compliance paperwork to several governing entities. We are happy to report that all Okaloosa companies with incentives filed their reports on time!
When we look at our current projects, we can't help but notice the amount of international manufacturing companies seeking to establish a US location. The companies are seeking cost comparisons as they decide if establishing a US location makes sense fiscally. Another trend that has been evident in the last 6 months is the increase in the Aerospace and Defense (A&D) industry projects. As you will see in the project chart, Aerospace & Defense accounts for 33% of our projects, up from 25% two months ago. This isn't just a local trend. Based on a January 2019 report from Deloitte Consulting, they are finding that the Aerospace & Defense industry is recuperating nationally and globally. There has been strengthened passenger travel demand and a continued rise in global military expenditures. The industry is expected to continue its growth trajectory in 2019, led by growing commercial aircraft production and strong defense spending.
Regardless of whether it is an international prospect, stateside prospect or Aerospace & Defense prospect, workforce continues to be a key decision driver. We feel that our region is ahead of the game with employer driven skills training programs at Northwest Florida State College, Okaloosa Technical College, Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and the University of West Florida. Also, there continues to be a steady stream of technically skilled men and women who separate or retire from Eglin Air Force Base and Hurlburt to the tune of 1,400 or so a year!
Members in the News
Veterans, active-duty service members and their families now have a one-stop shop for education and other services at the new Veterans Success Center at Northwest Florida State College. The new Veterans Success Center will provide specialized military education services such as GI Bill processing and assistance in securing scholarships. A representative from the Department of Veteran Affairs will assist with everything from home loans to health benefits. Healing Paws for Warriors, a nonprofit that trains service dogs to place with qualifying veterans, will also have a presence at the center.
The Town of Cinco Bayou was named as a 2018 Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation in honor of its commitment to effective urban forest management.
The Tree City USA program is sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service and the National Association of State Foresters. Cinco Bayou achieved Tree City USA recognition by meeting the program's four requirements: a tree board or department, a tree-care ordinance, an annual community forestry budget of at least $2 per capita and an Arbor Day observance and proclamation.
North Okaloosa Medical Center earned a four-star rating from Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Out of 171 hospitals surveyed in the state of Florida, only 21 hospitals, 12%, received a four star rating. An even smaller group, 2%, received a 5-star rating.
Northwest Florida State College recently won a silver and a bronze award from the National Council for Marketing & Public Relations (NCMPR).
The silver award was in the "original photography - manipulated" category. The winning photo was used on the College's social media accounts to promote the College's basketball teams' blackout games which debuted the teams' all black uniforms.
The College was awarded a bronze designation for its Twitter profile's design, content, engagement, strategy, effectiveness and frequency of posts.
NCMPR's prestigious Paragon Awards recognize outstanding achievement in design and communication at community and technical colleges.
Northwest Florida State College President Dr. Devin Stephenson has been selected by the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society to receive the Paragon Award for New Presidents. These awards are given to new college presidents who have shown strong support of student success by recognizing academic achievement, leadership and service among high-achieving students at their college. Recipients were nominated by the students on the respective colleges.
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