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November 2017 

From the Director's Desk

By Nathan Sparks, CEcD
      I remember early in my economic development career - nearly 20 years ago - I was explaining to a family friend what exactly it is that I do for a living. I went through what I thought was a pretty comprehensive explanation of what it takes to facilitate new job creation. As I recall, I touched on the importance of a skilled workforce, sound transportation systems and the need to have viable buildings/sites, before finally bringing it all home with an overview of target marketing strategies and why "all the community assets in the world won't mean anything if we don't make sure that growing businesses know about them!" 
     Taking all of this in, my friend stated in a very matter of fact way "So you're a salesman." I remember thinking "Did you miss everything I just know, workforce, buildings, transportation - the whole nine yards?!" Not that I have anything against "salesmen", mind you. In fact, quite the contrary. My dad was a salesman, and I have always admired individuals who have the ability to convince others to buy something (whether they actually need what the salesman is selling or not). But me? A salesman?!
     I pressed my friend for the source of his seemingly misplaced conclusion. He explained that based on what he heard, it was important for me to develop desirable "product" (roads, sites, buildings, workforce) and equally important for me to build and maintain meaningful relationships with potential "customers" (growing businesses) so that I could convert them to "sales" (new job announcements). My jaw hit the floor. He was absolutely correct, I was - and am - a salesman.
     That being said, rather than an actual tangible product or service, the EDC team is hard at work promoting a dynamic, growing community to equally dynamic, growing businesses in a variety of targeted industry sectors. We believe our "product" is best in class, and if you wish to learn more about the many assets that make up our great community, please visit our shiny new website at!
EDC Launches New Site

     The Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County has unveiled a new on-line presence designed to showcase the area's business attributes. Developed by Fort Walton Beach-based Bit-Wizards, the site was designed to be mobile responsive - allowing the user experience to be optimized, regardless of whether the site is being viewed on a desktop computer, a smart phone or a tablet.
     The site is structured with three primary routes for the user to choose from depending on their specific needs. The first path - Site Selection - includes all of the information that an entity may wish to consider as they are evaluating Okaloosa County as a potential business location. Items such as demographics, quality of life, key industries, available properties and education / workforce are featured here. The next path - EDC Organization - includes information regarding EDC services and staff, an EDC Investor Directory, recent news and announcements and information on EDC committees and upcoming events. The third path - Talent Attraction - will be launched by the end of the first quarter of 2018 and will include active job postings within the manufacturing, technology, engineering and defense industries along with community information designed to entice skilled professionals not currently based in Okaloosa County to consider relocating to the area.
     "We believe this streamlined approach allows for an efficient, intuitive and comprehensive presentation of the information that visitors to our website are seeking. First impressions are vitally important, and thanks to Bit-Wizards' good work, the first impression that many business decision makers will have of our community will now be best in class," stated Nathan Sparks, EDC Executive Director.

Check out the new site here!
Defense Support Initiatives, DSI

By Kay Rasmussen, Manager
     The Defense Support Initiatives Committee certainly lives by its name: defense support.  The DSI continually monitors legislative actions that may impact our installations and/or missions--either positively or negatively.  As needed, and in support of local military command, the DSI engages in actions or initiatives as a voice for military installation and range issues. 
     In 2015, the military installations in northwest Florida provided an annual economic impact exceeding $20 Billion and generated over 182,000 jobs; Okaloosa County's impact was $9B and 72K jobs!  Eglin Air Force Base, housed in Okaloosa County but spanning across three counties, is the largest installation in the Department of Defense and includes the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range (EGTTR).  The EGTTR Complex, the largest test and training range in the nation, is identified by Department of Defense Directive as a national asset.
     An example of some topics supported by the DSI includes advocacy for the legislatively enacted Military Mission Line (MML) Moratorium which protects the EGTTR from encroachment, and support of infrastructure improvements for interoperability of the EGTTR known as the Gulf Enhancement Program.
     The EGTTR Complex provides testing and training opportunities supporting sustainment of future generations' of weapons and aircraft.  Federal policies have protected the Eastern Gulf of Mexico since 1983 by providing a buffer zone, defined by the Military Mission Line, restricting oil and natural gas drilling, exploration and related activities.  This mandated north-south Military Mission Line protects the EGTTR from encroachment.  Oil drilling structures and associated exploratory activities east of the MML would be incompatible with military activities, negatively impact military readiness and compromise our nation's military superiority.
     As weapon systems and aircraft become more sophisticated and long-reaching, test and training ranges take on even greater importance in national security.  The EGTTR is a unique resource offering tremendous capabilities extending 180,000 square miles from Key West to northwest Florida.  Due to its expansive size providing for simultaneous maritime, air and land training exercises, the EGTTR is an integral part of DoD's Training Resource Strategy.
     With a proposed Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) in the near future, it should be noted that weapons' testing is a major factor in determining installation and range value.  There is a growing need to equip ranges for capabilities to ensure the best training environment for the best cost.  The Gulf Range Enhancement (GRE) program is approved by the United States Air Force to provide infrastructure enhancements to improve and sustain the Range's capabilities for the future. 
     The DSI, along with regional and state partners, strongly supports sustainment of the MML and engagement of the GRE program.  Advocacy efforts continue locally and in Washington D.C. to provide current and realistic test and training scenarios for our warfighters in order to protect our economic viability and national security.
     The DSI's position papers on these topics are available on the EDC's new website.

Technology Coast Manufacturing and Engineering Network; TeCMEN

By Tim McDonald, Chairman
     As your new Chairman of TeCMEN, I am honored to serve the EDC in this capacity and am truly humbled by the invitation.  As son of former Chair Timothy J. McDonald, I look forward to carrying on the tradition and mission to promote sustainment, growth, and advancement within our technology-based business community as an advocate for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) industries.  I feel a deep responsibility to Northwest Florida to serve as a lead voice in this mission and I give my solemn promise to meet and exceed this mission.
     Our October meeting was excellent to say the least.  We opened with recognizing all military veteran members of TeCMEN.  Without your service, great organizations like the EDC would not be possible.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for your sacrifice for this great Nation!  We heard from Okaloosa County Schools Director of Special Programs/Schools Cindy Gates who was instrumental in establishing the Educate the Educator program.  She brought with her Dr. Lee Hale, Principal of Choctawhatchee High School and Frank Daldine, Junior at Choctawhatchee High School and they shared their perspectives on the August TeCMEN Industry Day (TID).  the feedback was all positive and Dr. Hale expressed his gratitude to all attendees/exhibitors for the opportunities presented to not only his students, but his own family as well.  This type of feedback is exactly what our mission statement is striving for and speaking for all TeCMEN members, thank you so very much for attending TID 2017.  We look forward to TID 2018 and planning will begin very early next year.
     This month's industry spotlight featured Jennifer Kraus, Senior Solution Consultant for Bit-Wizards.  Bit-Wizards is a leading software development, digital marketing, and cloud information technology agency here in Fort Walton Beach.  She presented a short video on a digital inventory integration project implemented with Rex Lumber.  Their digital solutions transformed how Rex Lumber does business altogether and has increased their efficiency tremendously.  I can speak from experience at Fort Walton Machining that Bit-Wizards is a 'best-in-class' organization and would recommend their services to anyone and everyone!
Four TeCMEN/UWF Training Program opportunities were announced which we are very excited about:
  • Lean Six Sigma Green Belt
  • Process Mapping
  • Project Management Professional
  • Data Measurement and Analysis Tools

Please do not miss out on these incredible opportunities to not only advance your personal skillsets, but the skillsets of employees and colleagues.

     And finally, I would be remiss in not recognizing the outgoing TeCMEN Chairman, Maynard Factor of Micro Systems.  Your leadership helped advance the cause of TeCMEN and personally I much enjoyed your thought pieces at TID.  From all of us TeCMEN members, thank you for your service and I only hope I can carry on the example you have set.

Business Assistance

By Caroline McCoy, Director of Business Expansion
     The EDC continues to move forward with our 20 active projects. We have been busy utilizing the voter approved Economic Development Ad Valorem Tax Exemption (EDATE) tool in business expansion opportunities. In the last 45 days, two public hearings have been held for two existing companies who are seeking to expand. In both projects, the Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners have considered and approved EDATEs totaling approximately $75,490 to be exempt over 10 years. In exchange, Okaloosa County could expect 106 new high-wage jobs between the two companies and $53.55 million in Capital Investment. In both cases, the county was providing their Local Financial Support Match for the state's Qualified Target Industry Tax Refund Program. Earlier this month, the Mary Esther City Council voted to put EDATE Referendum language on their ballot in March 2018. If approved by their residents, the City of Mary Esther will be the 5th municipality in Okaloosa to add this economic tool to their toolkit.
     In case you missed the last newsletter, the EDC is highlighting available incentives to new or expanding businesses. Our economic development projects focus on a variety of factors in order to make a decision; sometimes it is direct incentives for creating jobs, workforce or infrastructure. We encourage you to contact us if you are considering an expansion or relocation in Okaloosa County as there are many financial and non-financial tools that we can use to help you in your goals.
Thank You New EDC Investors

Join Us in Congratulating These EDC Investors

MidSouth Bank has announced Charles "Chip" Barber as the Market President of Okaloosa County.

Simona Faroni, President of G.S. Gelato & Desserts, a manufacturer of authentic Italian gelato and sorbet, received the Innovation Achievement Award in the 2017 Top Women in Store Brands Program. The program was created to provide well-deserved recognition for female professionals who have achieved exceptional success and bring a passion for store brands to their day-to-day activities.

Okaloosa Gas Board of Directors has named EDC Executive Committee member Gordon King Chief Executive Officer of Okaloosa Gas effective October, 2017. Gordon started with the District in 2001 as the Vice President of the District's Operations Department. Mr. King received his Bachelor of Science degree in petroleum engineering from Louisiana Technological University.

Twin Cities Hospital has been recognized as a Five-Star Recipient for Appendectomy and Hip Fracture Treatment according to this year's evaluation from Healthgrades , the leading online resource for comprehensive information about physicians and hospitals
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
Shirley Karcher, Bookkeeper
Sal Nodjomian, TCPI Consultant
Linda Sumblin, TeCMEN Manager

The EDC is a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit organization.