From the Director's Desk
By Nathan Sparks, CEcD
With the first quarter of 2018 nearly in the books, some might have the familiar refrain from the 1986 hit "The Future's so Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades" reverberating in their brains. Truly, given recent economic data showing that some 235,000 jobs were added nationwide in February (versus the far more modest projection of 195,000), it would appear that companies are feeling relatively confident about their respective futures - at least confident enough to invest in hiring new talent. Remember the much maligned "jobless recovery"? To many, this may now seem like a distant memory, as February was the fourth month in a row that private payrolls have reached 200,000 or better.
According to a survey conducted by ManpowerGroup, one in five employers plan to hire additional employees in the second quarter of 2018. Of the 11,500 firms surveyed, the
strongest Q2 hiring is expected in Leisure & Hospitality (projected growth of 28%), Professional & Business Services (projected growth of 24%) and Wholesale & Retail Trade (projected growth of 23%). Also of note, employers in Wholesale & Retail Trade report some of the most optimistic outlooks in more than 16 years. This might seem counter to some as the growth of online retail has been frequently cited as the "beginning of the end" for bricks and mortar retail. However, on-line sales actually intensify the sector's reliance on sound distribution channels and much of the expected payroll growth likely includes additional warehouse / logistics workers.
With one of the EDC's target sectors being advanced manufacturing, it is also encouraging to see that manufacturers are not missing the party either - at least not yet. Those surveyed expect to grow payrolls by 12% in Q2, which is up 7% for the same time period in 2017. Of course, with the potential of foreign steel tariffs looming large, domestic manufacturers may end up paying more for raw materials which, in the end, could impact the cash they have to spend on new talent. Bottom line, while the future appears bright at the moment, like anything, things can change rapidly.
Defense Support Initiatives, DSI
By Gordy Fornell, Lt Gen USAF, Retired
Under the umbrella of the Northwest Florida Defense Coalition, a delegation of approximately 40 community leaders from Bay, Escambia, Santa Rosa, Walton, and Okaloosa Counties traveled to Washington D.C. on February 6 & 7, 2018, for meetings and briefings on defense related subjects of interest to Northwest Florida. In advance of the visit, the delegation was provided guidance on issues, position papers, and agendas to prepare for the sessions. The group attended meetings and briefings with senior government and military leaders to discuss strategic planning assistance focusing on protecting and enhancing the defense related capability, capacity, training, and test ability of Northwest Florida.
The first session was headed by former Secretary of Veteran's Affairs, Anthony Principi. He gave a brief overview of current international, national, Congressional, and defense issues that are being considered in Washington D.C. The Administration had completed their overriding strategy documents which were the basis of much of the discussion-the National Strategy, the Acquisition Reform, and the Nuclear Posture Statement. The National Strategy emphasizes the competitive environment that exists in the world today. Other nations are trying to displace our premier position in the world competition. Particular interest was shown in maintaining our border control and homeland security. The energy discussion has shifted to energy "dominance" rather than energy "independence". The war on terrorism remains prevalent with "hunting terrorists" as the new goal. In the National Strategy, the character of war has changed as well. The emphasis now is on Joint Force, Deterrence, Interagency Activity, Regional Balance, Defending Allies, Sharing Burden, Anti-Terrorist, and Common Domain. Each of these subjects are worthy of additional examination and study. We have entered the age of Innovation with the advances made in technology. The emphasis is on taking risk in advance of reward. Rapid prototyping is encouraged and seen throughout the country in the development of centers that encourage new ideas and experiments without fear of failure. New commercial ideas and concepts are being made in Space which has set new expectations in that domain.
The first day drew to a close with the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Installations and Environment providing his views of the Gulf Range Enhancement Program and Oil/Gas exploration in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico-the Gulf Test & Training Range. He stressed the importance of the protective Military Mission Line and adherence to the moratorium on drilling with substantiating rationale. Studies and reports to Congress are underway to assist in the final decision. He stressed our involvement in providing the most comprehensive data available to make the case for continuation of the moratorium. His final advice was to: Eliminate Waste, Protect the Test and Training Ranges, and Increase Combat Effectiveness.
The second day of the Coalition Trip to D.C. was held at the Library of Congress. Requested by Congressman Gaetz, a group of Think Tank experts provided their views of issues facing the nation. The Congressional process was discussed as well as ideas on Industry, Acquisition Reform, and National Budget Issues. The group described how the Think Tank members influence the Congress on issues and assist in passage of important legislation affecting the Defense Department and local areas. Congressman Gaetz described his interface with those groups and the usefulness of their inputs in gaining Congressional support.
Once again, the trip turned out to be valuable for all members of the coalition. Our mere presence and interest shown is important to our Congressional delegation and their colleagues in showing the importance we place on the mission of Northwest Florida's military.
Technology Coast Manufacturing and Engineering Network; TeCMEN
By Timothy McDonald, Chairman
It has been a busy two months at TeCMEN and, we continue to promote sustainment, growth, and advancement in science, technology, engineering and math businesses and educational institutions. I speak for all TeCMEN members when I say we are laser-focused on our mission statement and are excited to be a part of this great community!
Due to the excellent Military-Friendly Roundtable held on March 13, TeCMEN did not have a March meeting. Our February meeting was very exciting with two great presentations. Hank Sanders, Site Director for Boeing Special Operations Forces Global Services Program, gave a company overview of his facility and the services they provide to Special Operations Forces (SOF). Their core competencies include, but are not limited to, major aircraft system modifications, on-site repairs, technical data and engineering services, and continual product/customer support. Major programs include C-130 IETMs (integrated electronic technical manuals), V-22 kitting and warehousing, MV/CV avionics repair, CV Block 20 flight testing, Japan Tanker conversions, and many more. SOF Services support both domestic and international customers, spanning from Komaki Air Base in Japan to RAF Mildenhall in the U.K., to Kaneohe Bay Hawaii. With a current headcount of approximately 500 employees, Mr. Sanders expressed a need for more engineers and technical publications personnel. With the clear mission statement of TeCMEN, we are eager to help Boeing and all of our local OEM's in developing the next generation of STEM-related employees.
Next, we heard from Ron Garriga, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Worldwide Director of Campus Training and Professional Development. Mr. Garriga gave an overview of the Educate the Educator Plus One (EtE+1) event held in late January. If you have ever heard Mr. Garriga speak about STEM education, you can tell he is very passionate about STEM and the students that attend their programs. Our EtE+1 event included teachers and students from Crestview High School, Baker and Laurel Hill Schools, Davidson and Shoal River Middle Schools. This event included tours of both L-3 Crestview Aerospace and Certified Manufacturing in Holt. Students and teachers/administrators were shown various manufacturing techniques to include major aircraft structural assembly and electrical assembly. The tours were outstanding, and I would like to thank Chris Scalia (Business Development at L3) and Mike Hayes (Business Development at Certified Manufacturing) for providing access to their facilities. The feedback from the teachers and students was very positive, and we very much look forward to planning the next Educate the Educator event.
I would like to thank EDC investors the Hsu Foundation and American Elite Molding for sponsoring breakfast and lunch for the EtE+1 educational day. I would also like to thank EDC investor Kelly Services for sponsoring our February TeCMEN meeting.
Planning for this year's TeCMEN Industry Day has already begun with a tentative show date of August 28th at the Emerald Coast Conference Center. As a result of the 2017 TID event survey comments received, the 2018 proposed TID format will include smaller technical workshops (prior and following lunch) in addition to the technical showcase/exhibit hall, and scaled-down number of general session speakers with more opportunities for networking. We look forward to a very successful TID! As time progresses, more 2018 TID information will be made available
By Caroline McCoy, Director of Business Expansion
The EDC continues to move forward with our 20 active projects. We recently announced Project True Blue II, Allegiant Air, which was a project that happened because of the partnerships of 7 different agencies who all worked together extremely well to reach a common goal. From the economic development prospective, the company will establish a home base, employ 66 employees with an average wage of $75,000. A formal event and announcement occurred at the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport on February 13th with a press release following minutes after. You can find the press release within this newsletter.
In other exciting news, the voters in the City of Mary Esther passed the Economic Development Ad Valorem Tax Exemption by 67% on March 13th. The City of Mary Esther is the 5th municipality in Okaloosa to add this economic tool to their toolkit. The incentive can be utilized in tandem with Okaloosa County's EDATE program as well.
Through a relationship with a Site Selector from the north, the EDC had the opportunity to submit a 27 acre site within the Okaloosa Industrial Air Park, a park certified "shovel ready" by McCallum Sweeney Consulting in 2015. With the vast majority of site due diligence already in hand, it will save the project both time and money should Okaloosa get short listed for consideration.
Allegiant Air Plans Year-Round Base at Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport
In case you may have missed the earlier press release, the new permanent base will establish 65 new jobs and up to $50 million in capital investment by 2019. Allegiant Travel Company (Allegiant) has chosen to establish a new, two-aircraft base with year-round routes at Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport (VPS). In addition to the 65 new jobs and the base is anticipated to bring in $418 million in tourism revenue to the area over the next five years. The new base will also allow Allegiant to offer new routes to five cities. In May 2018, Allegiant will permanently locate two Airbus A320 aircraft at VPS and hire permanent local employees. One of the unique focuses of Allegiant is to bring customers from previously underserved destinations, not to compete for existing market share.
Allegiant's service in Destin-Fort Walton Beach began with six routes in 2016 and expanded to 16 cities in 2017. The new base will become the airline's 14th year-round aircraft base. Allegiant plans to immediately begin hiring pilots, flight attendants, maintenance technicians and ground personnel to support operations. Positions are expected to offer average salaries more than double the area's average wage.
"Allegiant Air's new announcement is such great news for the people of Okaloosa County. The creation of a new hub for a national airline that comes with over 65 new jobs at the Destin/Ft. Walton Beach Airport helps fulfill our mission of creating additional high-paying jobs in the county," said Commissioner Graham Fountain, Chairman of the Okaloosa County Commission.
"The partnership that we have enjoyed with Allegiant Air has helped to make us the fastest growing destination in the Southeast," said Carolyn Ketchel, Commissioner and Aviation Board Member. "We are thrilled to have this additional base of operations that will bring new destinations and jobs."
This project was made possible through strong partnerships between Enterprise Florida, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Visit Florida, Okaloosa County Airport System and Tourist Development Council, Okaloosa County Government, the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County, and support from Governor Scott
You can read the full press release here.
Eglin-Hurlburt Communities Unveil Great American Defense Community Water Tower
In 2016, the Eglin AFB and Hurlburt Field communities received the great honor of being designated as an inaugural Great American Defense Community (GADC) by the National Association of Defense Communities. Our communities have been integrated with the military and have supported the mission and the airmen and their families for decades. The Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County nominated the Eglin-Hurlburt community for consideration as a designee of this prestigious award. With demonstrated long-standing and unwavering support and innovative initiatives benefiting military personnel and families, the Eglin-Hurlburt Community received the Great American Defense Community designation. Therefore, it was no surprise coming from such a patriotic community that Okaloosa County had a creative concept of painting the awarded GADC logo shield on a planned water tower construction. And they did.
Excited and proud about their community's new GADC designation, brainstorming discussions incurred at a Spring 2016 Tri-County Community Partnership Initiative (TCPI) meeting-the community driven P4 partnership collaboration venue-among officials from Eglin AFB, Hurlburt Field, local government, Okaloosa County Public Works, the Economic Development Council and the community on ways to display the GADC logo. During those discussions, it was suggested that there couldn't possibly be a better way to boldly display the GADC logo than on the planned new Okaloosa County water tank to then be viewed by both residents and tourists driving in and around Okaloosa County along Hwy 85 North. It is said that timing is everything and at that point in time design of a new elevated tank had just been completed and contractor procurement was about to begin. After coordination amongst Okaloosa County Water & Sewer Director, the County Administrator, and TCPI leadership, approval was granted by the Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners in June 2016 to place the GADC logo on the new tank; over 100 feet up in the air!
Construction of the 750,000-gallon pedestal spheroid tank began in August 2016 and the entire project, including associated site work and pipeline, was completed in March 2018. Coordinated fabrication was completed by Phoenix Fabricators & Erectors (tank construction), George Kountoupes Painting Co (painting), Poly Inc (engineering), and County crews (surveying, pipeline, and other site work). The tank provides increased storage and reliability for potable water and fire suppression systems that serve the Bob Sikes Airport, Okaloosa County Industrial Air Park and the surrounding areas. The Bob Sikes Airport and the Industrial Park primarily support DoD-related industries; the Air Force and Navy utilize this airport for extensive flight training purposes on instrument landing systems as well as modification services.
In summary, numerous entities - local government, state government, federal government, private sector engineers, and private sector contractors - have worked together on this tremendously successful project. The Great American Defense Community logo now stands tall and proud, thanking those that serve, high among blue skies and sunshine in North Okaloosa County.
Join Us in Congratulating
Congratulations to Andrew Rencich,
A&A Tactical, on his transition from active duty to the 20th Special Forces Airborne of the Army National guard as he focuses on running and growing his business in Crestview.
Congratulations to John Collins,
AVCON Inc., for being awarded the Niceville-Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce "Young Professional of the Quarter".
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