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January 2020

From the Director's Desk

By Nathan Sparks, CEcD
     Recently I found myself passing by one of our local churches and taking note of their marquee sign out front (the kind that a dedicated staff member or volunteer has to manually update every week with a fresh announcement or inspiring message).   The sign read "Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing" ...I had to chuckle. You see, back when I was serving on the Enterprise Florida Board of Directors, one of my fellow board members was particularly fond of using this phrase - which I've since come to learn was first credited to the great Stephen Covey, noted author of "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People". I remember thinking how simple Covey's wisdom was - but also how poignant it is, especially in a modern world that is often consumed with outside noise, deadlines and distractions. Truly, by defining and focusing on the "Main Thing", an organization has a North Star to guide all plans, strategies and actions. As such, the opportunity for success is markedly enhanced. Clarity is provided, hopefully heading off the futility of "rabbit trails" or the temptation (and likely frustration) of the dreaded mission creep.
     In the case of Enterprise Florida, the "Main Thing" was, and is, the facilitation of new jobs and investments in the State of Florida. My fellow board member was reminding us that whatever it was that we were considering - whether it be the organization's work promoting Florida to global business leaders, supporting entrepreneurship, recruiting new "targeted sector" businesses to the state or facilitating international trade opportunities / export sales for Florida businesses - the "Main Thing" (jobs and investment) needed to be our North Star. Particularly important since "economic development" can still be a bit nebulous, sometimes resulting in ideas and strategies that don't necessarily have any direct nexus with the "Main Thing".
     As an economic development organization serving our local community, the EDC of Okaloosa County views our "Main Thing" to be the facilitation of new, higher jobs and investment for Okaloosa County. Similar to Enterprise Florida, we base all of our strategies and programs on this North Star. To this point, as we went through the process of developing our Three Year Strategic Plan this past summer, the EDC's Executive Committee and staff made absolutely certain that each of our six overarching goals in the areas of Investor Relations, Existing Industry Growth, New Business Attraction, Sites & Buildings, Community & Workforce Development and Military Support & Advocacy serve to advance the ball toward continued prosperity for our community in the form of quality jobs and investment.
Defense Support Initiatives, DSI

By Bob Marinan, Chairman
     We've closed out 2019 and have leaped right into 2020 and our upcoming Washington DC fly-in planned the last week of February. We are putting the finishing touches on our point paper and working to finalize our appointments. Our top priorities will be: Sustainment of the Military Mission Line (MML), Protect and Enhance the Eglin Gulf Test & Training Range (EGTTR) and Support Eglin's NextGen Facility Replacement Plan.
     To illustrate the importance of sustaining the MML, the 2020 Florida Military and Defense Economic Impact Study was released by Governor DeSantis highlighting the defense industry has a $95B economic impact on the state and provides just under one million jobs--which are reliant on military test and training ranges. We need to help ensure our Nation's military superiority and security. To that end, the DSI has drafted a sample EGTTR protection letter for your consideration. The letter may be edited to best fit you and/or your organization and is being shared throughout the community and with our Chamber MAC's. Please consider your continued support of the Eastern Gulf Range and the Military Mission Line moratorium by sending a letter to the identified Senators. Additional information is available on the EDC website or by emailing 
     Santa Rosa County started the New Year with the announcement of Leonardo Helicopter getting the contract to build the Navy's new training helicopter. Leonardo has committed to building a Maintenance, Repair & Operations (MRO) building at the Whiting Aviation Park thereby increasing job opportunities and economic development.
     In our last meeting of 2019, Col Garry Haase, Commander & Director for the Munitions Directorate, Air Force Research Laboratory at Eglin AFB, provided an update on the lab's current initiatives and where they are going. Current focus areas include networked/autonomy technologies, hypersonic weapons and air-to-air weapons with cybersecurity taking on more relevance. Construction is ongoing to build the Weapons Technology Integration Center (WTIC) which will house state of the art labs for weapons development.
Technology Coast Manufacturing and Engineering Network; TeCMEN

By David Haines, Chairman

     J anuary is already fading fast and from the feedback I'm receiving, 2020 is shaping up to be one of the busiest years I can remember! During our last TeCMEN meeting, we had two Member Spotlights. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Northwest Florida State College discussed their exciting new advances in education/workforce training for our area. While Embry-Riddle discussed their new facilities and passed along information about the DoD Skill Bridge program, NWFSC highlighted their apprenticeship program with local companies. I must say, I have witnessed first hand the drive that all our local educational leadership has demonstrated, bringing new programs to life that focus on meeting the educational demands of our local businesses.
     Always a big topic, our namesake event, TeCMEN Industry Day (TID) is scheduled for Thursday, August 27th. In support of this event, we formed our first TeCMEN member volunteer "Focus Group" to help streamline and guide the flow of this year's event. This group's innovative and outside the box thinking will be a game-changer for this year's TID. Additionally, and in an attempt to benchmark other successful events, I will be attending the upcoming Huntsville/Redstone Arsenal Small Business and Contracting Conference in April and will bring our beloved EDC commander, Nathan Sparks with me. We have spoken with the organizers of this event and they are willing to share with us some of the pitfalls and successes they have had in hosting such events.
     Finally, I want to share some of our member "round table" comments. The upcoming Fusion Gala, hosted by Innov8+ is scheduled for 15 February 2020 from 5:30 to 10:00 pm. This event is a coalition of educational organizations from NW Florida with the goal to inspire our future generations. Cybersecurity was a big topic with several members/businesses expressing a desire to work together to meet the daunting requirements of compliance. A focus group may be developed to help tackle compliance issues. Jorge Arce of the US Department of Commerce was in attendance and stayed after the meeting to explain requirements and advantages to international trade. All of this and we are only partway through the first month, so like I said it will be a very busy year for both TeCMEN and our members!
Business  Expansion

BEST 2020
The Business Expansion and Support Team 2020 survey initiative is in full swing. As part of EDC's strategic partnership with existing industry, BEST 2020 is an active approach for assessing the market, business, workforce, and legislative outlook of local business leaders in Okaloosa County. Survey teams consisting of EDC staff, workforce and education, and utility partners are conducting targeted, confidential surveys in 1Q 2020. Surveys are done on-site and take no more than 30 minutes. If you have been contacted regarding the BEST 2020 survey, please consider participating. Your opinion is very important and can benefit the business environment for Okaloosa County. Help make Okaloosa the BEST in 2020!
Project Activity
Project activity continues to remain strong in Okaloosa County, fro m existing business expansions to new businesses seeking build-to-suit opportunities or existing buildings. Also exciting is the trend of very diverse industries such as manufacturing, clean energy, aerospace, food & beverage, information technology, and business services.
Incentives Compliance Reminder
Businesses in Okaloosa County with state and/or local incentive agreements are required to complete their compliance certifications in 1Q 2020. EDC stands ready to assist eligible firms, so please contact me with questions and assistance in reviewing the compliance documentation for submission. 850-362-6467,
Welcome New Members

Members in the News

The Home Builders Institute is holding a ribbon cutting ceremony and open house for their new Construction Trades Training Program for Veterans and dependents at 10am on Friday, 1/31, at Northwest Florida State College in Niceville, Building 520.  This training curriculum  was achieved through a partnership among the EDC, BIA and NWFSC.  Ed Brady, HBI's Washington D.C. based CEO, will be on hand and will offer remarks as will our own Dr. Stephenson among others.  Please consider coming out to show your support for this new training provider and community partner!  

On January 27, 2020, Vice President Pence administered the oath of office to members of President Trump's Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders at the White House in celebration of the Lunar New Year.  Chairman of the President's Advisory Commission Dr. Paul Hsu said, "There are so many things w e can and should do for our community to bring the opportunities and prosperities to Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, helping them to realize achieving the American Dream is possible for everyone."
EDC Blog

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; Leslie Sheekly, Secretary/Member-at-Large; Glenn Scharf, Past Chairman

Ex Officios
CareerSource: Michelle Burns
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/Consultant
Sal Nodjomian, TCPI Consultant
Roxanna Reece, Accounting
The EDC is a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit organization.