Check out what's happening in Okaloosa County, Florida
Where you can find superior lifestyle, leading technology and boundless opportunity!

January 2018 

From the Director's Desk

By Nathan Sparks, CEcD
      Last month, Okaloosa County's potential for transformational economic development success took a giant step forward when the Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to enter into a Purchase Option agreement for approximately 1,600 industrially-zoned acres located within the 10,500 acre Shoal River Ranch. For those that may be unfamiliar with the parcel, it is located on US Hwy 90 some 7 miles from downtown Crestview. Accessible from Hwy 90, the site features considerable frontage on Interstate 10 and CSX railroad. Gulf Power, CHELCO and Okaloosa Gas all have existing infrastructure located either adjacent to - or directly into - the site. While water and sewer lines are 4 miles and 3 miles to the east, respectively, it is noteworthy that the Board of County Commissioners has also applied for $1.5 million in funding from Triumph Gulf Coast to cover the extension of this vital infrastructure - thus serving to effectively "unlock" the full value of the industrially-zoned acreage now under Option.
     Having had the opportunity to showcase various acreage configurations within Shoal River Ranch to prospective industries for the better part of the past three years, I can tell you that while the site has largely been well-received, the lack of water/sewer services has been a frequently cited hurdle. (Hardly surprising too, given that the site selection process is essentially an exercise in risk mitigation for the prospective business, and the site's current lack of existing water/sewer equates to time, money and risk). Thankfully though, Triumph funding is a solution that appears both appropriate and attainable in the relative near term.
     For those wondering why these things matter, I offer up Toyota-Mazda's recent announcement of a $1.6 billion, 4,000 job manufacturing facility on a 2,500 acre site near Huntsville, Alabama as Exhibit A. As has been reported, the Huntsville site was originally considered by Volkswagen nearly 10 years ago when the company ultimately chose Chattanooga. However, the site's lack of infrastructure and due diligence studies led to the scales being tipped in Chattanooga's favor. Huntsville took VW's feedback to heart and systematically eliminated the hurdles that resulted in their elimination. Now, some 10 years later, Huntsville stood at the ready and the decision went their way. Thanks to some bold leadership by the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners, we too are working to ensure that, when opportunity knocks, we are ready.
Defense Support Initiatives, DSI

By John Wilcox, Chairman
     As the new DSI Chair for almost 4 months now, it has been a great opportunity for myself and I'm deeply humbled to be working with such a great team as we continue to enhance and preserve our local support to the military installation missions and their economic impact to the NW Florida Panhandle region. Pete Gandy recently stepped down after an incredibly successful tour as our leader. Pete and his team had a strong record of accomplishment upon which we are greatly thankful to him. The DSI's work to preserve the Eglin Test and Training Complex (ETTC) and the regional installation contributions to national defense has never been more important as we see unprecedented growth and change in the military mission here.
     The New Year has already been very busy for the Defense Support Initiatives committee given the president's recent economic initiative to expand offshore oil drilling on the US continental shelf. Congressman Gaetz is busy advocating for our Military Mission Line (MML) and restricting oil drilling and exploration east of this line to prevent major disruptions to the military test missions over the Gulf. Governor Rick Scott and Sen Bill Nelson have also been helping to preserve the moratorium against drilling east of the MML. Due to the efforts of these three leaders, the administration issued a statement to continue the ban on offshore drilling for the state of Florida. While this is certainly a positive development, the fight is hardly over. In fact, on February 8 in Tallahassee, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM - will conduct meetings and hearings on national outer continental shelf oil and gas leasing programs under an open house format. The DSI is working with the Eglin AFB 96th test Wing to ensure we have good representation and ensure the importance of the ETTC mission to national security is highlighted as companies pursue leasing in the 2019-2024 timeframe. Should you have interest in attending this important hearing please contact the EDC for more information or you may enter a public comment into the on-line portal at --
      February 6-7, 2018, will be the Northwest Florida Defense Coalition's Annual Fly-In to Washington DC where, DSI representatives will meet with congressional leaders and senior DoD officials. As always, the DC Fly-In will be a great opportunity for the team to discuss the important issues affecting the military mission in our area. DSI was also able to update and welcome the new AFSOC commander at Hurlburt AFB, LGen Marshall B. 'Brad' Webb, on the DSI mission and its opportunity to add value to the Air Force Special Operations Command mission. Eglin AFB is also facing considerable growth challenges in its military mission. The Eglin AFB Civil Engineering Group is working with the DSI on options to support short to midterm solutions to alleviate an immediate shortage of 227,000 sq. ft. of office and secure workspace. These options include on base MILCON planning and support for private development options to support mission needs.
Technology Coast Manufacturing and Engineering Network; TeCMEN

By Timothy McDonald, Chairman

      First and foremost, I would like to wish all EDC members a very Happy New Year! Many of you might have taken some extended time off from our daily work duties, I know I did, and it was time well spent with family and friends!
     Two TeCMEN meetings have transpired since my last briefing, and let me emphasize what a great two meetings they were. Member spotlights were phenomenal with Certified Manufacturing (CMI) presenting at our December meeting. Mr. Wayne Bernheisel, VP/GM at CMI, shared a comprehensive capabilities briefing. CMI is a Woman-Owned Small Business that specializes in design, fabrication, integration, and test of many different electrical components to include, but not limited to, RF & wire harnesses, circuit cards, electrical panel & chassis assemblies, and mechanical assemblies. They are recognized by their customers as a world-class supplier and their first choice for Rapid Response High Quality Electronics Manufacturing. In our January meeting, we had two member spotlights, the first being Gexpro Services. The presentation was given by Mr. Al Roy who described the valuable supply chain solutions that Gexpro Services provides to its many industries served, to include energy, transportation, and aerospace just to name a few. Our second member spotlight was Mr. Jeremy Goss, Director of Professional & Workforce Training at Northwest Florida State College. Mr. Goss described the many training services his program has to offer to include but not limited to, professional development, customized training, and apprenticeship programs. We as members of TeCMEN will be utilizing their services to help further the cause of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) industries.
     Also in the last two meetings, we heard from Mr. Michael Beedie (FWB City Manager) and Mr. Jim Heald (Defense Support Initiatives member). Mr. Beedie gave an update on the FWB Commerce & Technology Park Master Plan. The City has hired a consultant firm to evaluate the best use for Commerce & Technology Park located by the Santa Rosa Mall. We at TeCMEN are excited to see what their consultants come up with as it will have an impact on several members who have facilities in the Park. Mr. Heald gave a very informative overview of Defense Support Initiatives (DSI) which is a five-county partnership focused on preserving and enhancing Northwest Florida's contribution to national defense. With seven military installations in Northwest Florida generating over $22B of economic impact, it is vital to ensure that our corner of Florida is on the leading edge of technology and manufacturing to ensure our countries military power readiness.
     Two TeCMEN/UWF Training Programs opportunities were announced at the January meeting which we are very excited about:
  • Principles of Problem Solving
  • Process Mapping
     Please do not miss out on these incredible opportunities to not only advance your skill sets, but the skill sets of employees and colleagues. 
Business Assistance

By Caroline McCoy, Director of Business Expansion
     The EDC continues to move forward with 22 active projects. Thanks to a connection from one of our bank investor partners, we have recently added an Information Technology project for a local company that is expected to grow by 70 jobs in the next 4 years. We are also moving very quickly with two current projects whom are expected to have announcements within the next 30 to 90 days. Stay tuned for those announcements in the next newsletter! Behind the scenes, the EDC continues to assist our local companies with local and/or state incentives. All assistance programs 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.
      With the City of Mary Esther Economic Development Ad Valorem Tax Exemption (EDATE) right around the corner, we offer this refresher of the benefits of having this tool at the municipality level. 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) 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 2018 EDATE applicants, the average Okaloosa County wage is $40,146 and the required 110% is $44,161. If approved, both real property and new tangible personal property may be exempted. Note, however, that exemptions cannot be granted for improvements to real property or purchases of tangible personal property which were previously included on local tax rolls prior to the effective date of the ordinance specifically granting an EDATE exemption. Furthermore, the exemption does not apply to taxes levied by the school district, emergency services, water management district, or to taxes levied for the payment of bonds or taxes authorized by a voter of the electors. If you reside in the City of Mary Esther, please consider voting "Yes to Jobs" on March 13, 2018. If approved, the City of Mary Esther will be the 5th municipality in Okaloosa to add this economic tool to their toolkit.
Thank You New EDC Investors
Join Us in Congratulating This EDC Investor

American Elite Molding has been selected as a 2017 Florida Manufacturer of the Year by the Manufacturers Association of Florida. The company was chosen as a winner in the Medium (101-250 employees) category. For more than a decade, the MAF annual awards program has identified the top manufacturing and distributing companies in the state of Florida.  
EDC Executive Committee Members and Staff

Kim Wintner, Chairman; Glenn Scharf, Vice Chairman; Katie Sharon, Treasurer; Ashley Rogers, Secretary; Kelly Murphy-Redd, Past Chairman; Lee Lewis, Member-at-Large

Ex Officios
County Commissioner: Trey Goodwin
Educational Partners: Dr. Devin Stephenson, Dr. Melinda Bowers, Mrs. Mary Beth Jackson
Utility Partners: Steve Rhodes, Gordon King, Bernard Johnson

Nathan Sparks CEcD, Executive Director
Kay Rasmussen CEcD, Associate Director / DSI Manager
Caroline McCoy, Director Business Expansion
Christiahna Jordan, Administrative Assistant
Sal Nodjomian, TCPI Consultant
Linda Sumblin, TeCMEN Manager
Roxanna Reece, Accounting
The EDC is a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit organization.