From the Director's Desk
By Nathan Sparks, CEcD
In our January newsletter, I wrote about how Okaloosa County's potential for transformational economic development success had taken a giant step forward due to the Okaloosa County Board of County Commission's decision to enter into a Purchase Option agreement for 1,667 industrially-zoned acres located within the 10,000 acre Shoal River Ranch. As a quick refresher, Shoal River Ranch is located on US Hwy 90 some 7 miles east of 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. I also noted that the parcel's one deficiency is the absence of water and sewer service, with water and sewer lines currently being located 4 miles and 3 miles to the east respectively.
At the time of my column in January, the Board of County Commissioners was awaiting word on its $1.5 million Triumph Gulf Coast grant application to cover the extension of this vital infrastructure. For those that haven't yet heard, the wait is now over. With three previous grant approvals for other worthy projects under their collective belts, the Triumph Gulf Coast Board of Directors opted to consider the County's grant application in their April 27 meeting at Northwest Florida State College.
Following a presentation by Okaloosa County Commission Chairman Graham Fountain, Okaloosa County Water & Sewer Deputy Director Mark Wise and yours truly - coupled with some very thorough discussion and statements of support from other economic development groups like Florida's Great Northwest and the Walton County Economic Development Alliance - the Triumph Directors voted unanimously to fund the project for the full amount being requested. This, my friends, was a red letter day for the future of economic development in northwest Florida. (I specifically emphasize the entire region because with the expanse of property available at Shoal River Ranch, the types of opportunities that will land there will certainly have transformational economic impact well beyond the boundaries of Okaloosa County).
We greatly appreciate the confidence that the Triumph Gulf Coast Board of Directors has placed in "Team Okaloosa", and just as I shared with Speaker Allan Bense, we intend to do our dead level best to ensure that Triumph's investment is paid back many times over in the form of new, high wage jobs and significant capital investment.
Defense Support Initiatives, DSI
By Beach Wilcox, Chairman
Your Defense Support Initiatives team has been very busy working important issues for our tri-county region as the military operational pace increased remarkably for new capabilities via the acquisition process. As the DSI Chair, I am truly fortunate to meet the young men and women of our military services. They are an amazing national asset for our great nation. Along with these great military folks serving, often a military spouse remains the foundation of the military family while their loved one deploys for up to one-year periods or even two years for remote tours. May is Military Appreciation Month which includes a Spouse Appreciation Day. Please take the time to reach out to these military families, and especially the spouse, and thank them during this special time for their service.
The DSI is excited to host the Florida Defense Support Task Force (FDSTF) in September of this year here in the local area. The governor, or his designee, will lead the Task Force on their visit to the tri-county region. The mission of the task force is to make legislative recommendations to preserve and protect military installations and to support the state's position in research and development related to or arising out of military missions and contracting. The Task Force also seeks to continually improve the state's military-friendly environment for service members, military dependents, military retirees, and businesses that bring military and base-related jobs to the state. They further collaborate through joint planning with host communities, such as ours, to best accommodate military missions and prevent base encroachment. They lead advocacy efforts on the state's behalf with federal, civilian and military officials; assist school districts in providing a smooth transition for the large numbers of military-related students; assist in job training and placement for military spouses, and promote the state to military and related contractors and employers. We are looking forward to their visit later this summer.
Colonel Patrick Colloton, a Purple Heart recipient and local hero, was hosted by the DSI in April. Col Colloton, commander 7th SFG, presented the mission of the 7th Special Forces Group and an overview of the men and women serving in the proud tradition of the local Special Forces and highlighted their immense contribution. Early this month, as part of military spouse appreciation month, Col Colloton conducted a Community Appreciation Day and invited the local civic leaders and community families on base for an overview of the base, its key mission, and to participate in many fun activities for the whole family.
Alan Baggett, Executive Director Building Industry Association (BIA) shared the March 8, 2018 Home Depot press release on the $50M skilled trades training offered by the Home Builders Institute for separating military personnel (www.hbi.org) to advance and provide education, career development, training and placement of men and women serving the building industry. The EDC and BIA are working with HBI and The Home Depot Foundation on the possibility of launching a trades training program for separating military members and veterans in the local area. The 12-week pre-apprenticeship certification program, provided at no cost to students, uses industry-based curriculum recognized by the Department of Labor that integrates work-based learning with technical and academic skills. The program, which has a job placement rate of more than 90 percent, will be rolling out on additional bases across the United States.
Technology Coast Manufacturing and Engineering Network; TeCMEN
By Timothy McDonald, Chairman
As the summer months approach and the temperature and humidity rise, we at TeCMEN continue to promote sustainment, growth, and advancement in science, technology, engineering and math businesses and educational institutions. Our mission is clear, concise, and as the temperature outside rises, we continue to put the heat on our mission statement!
Our last two meetings were jam-packed with great Member Spotlights, a wonderful cybersecurity presentation by the Department of Energy, and some outstanding open forum collaboration discussions. In our April meeting, we hosted Amanda Negron and Dr. Paul Hsu from The Hsu Educational Foundation. Amanda serves as Executive Director. Dr. Paul Hsu, a successful immigrant tech entrepreneur and community leader, founded the Hsu Educational Foundation. Dr. Hsu, a true example of the American Dream, has long given back to his community in support of students and education. He later developed the foundation as a way to join together with those who share his vision to grow the mission and encourage great success for more students. Dr. Hsu was also instrumental in the implementation of TeCMEN and a long-time supporter of the EDC. The impact that The Foundation has made over the years is evident, and we as community leaders applaud their efforts and commit our full resources to its continuing success.
Our second Member Spotlight in the April meeting was AA Tactical, Inc. out of Crestview. CEO Andrew Rencich presented, and I can personally say 'WOW'! AA Tactical is a veteran-owned; family operated Class 7/SOT Federal Firearm Manufacturing Company, launched in the spring of 2013. Their current, but ever-growing, capabilities include retail with a significant national e-commerce web presence, education, and manufacturing services. In July of 2015, Mr. Rencich secured a 1,200 square foot commercial retail building in northern Crestview. Growth was rapid from the moment their doors opened to where they have designed and are now constructing a new 7,635 square foot facility, allowing them to house and expand on their retail, and provide a heavier focus on custom design and manufacturing services. As most TeCMEN members can relate, Andrew did express challenges in hiring and retaining a qualified/skilled workforce. Well, Mr. Rencich, you came to the right place! With our TeCMEN mission statement, we are eager to assist in your shortcomings and look forward to your contribution to our organization and community!
Our May meeting TeCMEN spotlight was not from a current member, but from Y-12 National Security Complex out of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. This complex is the United States Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration facility. Dennis Miller, Y-12 Global Security Programs Project Lead, gave an excellent presentation on cybersecurity, and how the US Manufacturing Industrial Base (MIB) can better protect the sensitive information we possess. Protecting this sensitive information is the number 1 national security challenge facing the United States. Their end goal is to provide a level of cybersecurity that enables cost-effective compliance with the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation Supplement 252.204.7012 (DFARS) requirements for safeguarding sensitive information and is flexible enough to address the dynamic threat. Mr. Miller has already reached out to several TeCMEN members to gain MIB quantitative data so they can properly shape the scope of their program. We are eager to help in any way.
Last, but certainly not least, I am pleased to announce that we have a definitive date for our second annual TeCMEN Industry Day! Please mark in your calendars August 23rd. I am also very pleased to announce that we have filled all sponsorships, and confirmed all but two panelists/guest speakers. Please visit www.TeCMENIndustryDay.com for further details.
By Caroline McCoy, Director of Business Expansion
The EDC continues to move forward with our 24 active projects. Manufacturing continues to take the lead on the types of projects that we have in our pipeline. As you read in Nathan's article, Okaloosa County was successful in the request for a Triumph Gulf Coast Grant to extend infrastructure along Highway 90, near Shoal River Ranch properties. This is a huge step for economic development and site selectors familiar with the area have already picked up on the wonderful news! We have recently submitted projects requesting cleared, continuous and useable Greenfield sites for companies who are looking for locations to build facilities as large as 400,000 SF. Knowing that one of the last pieces to the puzzle to unlock the full potential of this unique location is now in play, there are many decision makers with their eye on the mega site! If you haven't seen drone footage of the location, we encourage you to check it out here.
Also, our wonderful regional partners recently returned from a prospecting mission trip to California. While the EDC of Okaloosa was unable to participate, our partners brought home a flurry of leads for companies that were either already in discussions with other states regarding a relocation or became interested in establishing an East Coast location. The prospecting trip is a perfect example of why marketing the area and visiting with companies face-to-face is important. Even though we weren't available to participate in the trip, our regional partners used their knowledge of our area for their discussions with these companies and served as our advocates.
Thank You New EDC Investors
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
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