From the Director's Desk
By Nathan Sparks, CEcD
Greetings everyone! Summer is now upon us, and the EDC's 30th year of operations continues to be a busy one. In the last few weeks alone, we have:
- Hosted a team from Global Location Strategies - a leading site selection firm - on the Shoal River Ranch Gigasite for a comprehensive review of this compelling 10,500 acre opportunity.
- Hired a Washington DC-based consultant for a short term engagement that involves making certain that key priorities impacting local military installations remain front of mind for lawmakers during the vitally important House and Senate mark-ups of the FY 2020 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). These mark-ups are set to be complete in mid-June.
- Completed a study assessing the economic impact of hypothetical mission loss (or gain) at Okaloosa County's military installations. Of note, even a 5% mission change would equate to 1,570 direct jobs for a staggering $150 million in total compensation. We must do everything we can to protect (and grow) these missions!
- Supported the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioner's successful application for a $64 million grant from Triumph Gulf Coast, which will be combined with local and state funds to construct the approximately $200 million SR 85 bypass in Crestview.
- Traveled to Montreal, Canada to engage in substantive discussions with several companies considering US expansions. Interestingly, many citied labor shortages in Montreal and President Trump's "Buy American, Hire American" Executive Order as factors in their interest.
- Hosted an EDC "8 at 8" small group networking breakfast at AAA WorkPlace for Niceville-area EDC Enterprise and Corporate level investors as well as investor prospects.
- Completed a study designed to gauge the feasibility of developing an entrepreneurial incubator in Okaloosa County. With the support of the Okaloosa County School District and the District's Career & Technical Education Program, hosted an EDC Roundtable breakfast to discuss these findings.
Summer looks to be equally busy for the EDC. As part of our talent attraction strategy, we'll once again be utilizing geo-targeting to reach visitors during peak Summer dates. Individuals staying at select properties and visiting certain news and lifestyle websites during their visit will receive ads that showcase our beautiful coastline with the phrase "Why Go Home?" and the subheading "Click here to view more than 600 high wage job openings". Our hope is that many with needed skills will seriously consider "living where they vacation".
Two major external marketing activities are scheduled as well. In June, we'll be targeting the global aviation / aerospace sector at the Paris Air Show. In July, we'll continue our Shoal River Ranch Road Show program, with presentations to key site location consultants in New York and Cleveland. And last but certainly not least, we'll wrap up the Summer with our third annual TeCMEN Industry Day on August 29 at the Emerald Coast Convention Center. With more than 30 exhibitors already confirmed, this promises to be an outstanding showcase of our region's vibrant manufacturing and technology sectors!
Defense Support Initiatives, DSI
By Bob Marinan, Chairman
It has been a busy two months for the DSI team. First, we welcomed Mr. Mark Crockett to the DSI team. Mark is the new lead civilian for the 96TW in support of BG Dertien so he's an important link for the DSI and we're glad to have him onboard.
Last month, President Trump issued an indefinite hold to oil drilling in the Eastern Gulf where the military test and training range exists. However, this is not permanent and probably only good until after the 2020 elections; so our work is not done in regards to getting a permanent stop to oil exploration east of the Military Mission Line.
The USAF has established a team to conduct an Environmental Impact Study (EIS) to assess the permanent fielding of the F-22 training squadron either here at Eglin AFB or to Langley AFB in Virginia. The EIS team is open to receiving pubic inputs through 24 June in preparation for conducting the analysis. Last week, Congressman Gaetz announced the AF's intention to add an additional F-35 squadron (up to 32 aircraft) and supporting maintenance to Eglin AFB in the near future. This F-35 squadron is predicated on the F-22 training unit being permanently based at Langley AFB. There are a lot of moving parts currently at play.
In our April meeting we received a very informative and insightful briefing on the mission of the 53rd Wing at Eglin AFB. The 53rd Wing provides all the operational testing for AF weapons and systems. It is a very diverse and large Wing with squadrons located in 22 different locations.
The Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Gen Goldfein, visited Eglin and Hurlburt the first week of May and requested our continued support with the Tyndall AFB rebuild. Also, that week, the 96TW and the 96th Medical Group cut the ribbon to celebrate the opening of the Air Force's first Invisible Wounds Center August 30th. In addition, the Eglin research lab (AFRL) also broke ground on a $75M Advanced Munitions Technology Complex.
Finally, in anticipation of our 2020 trip to Washington DC, we are working some changes to better enhance our DSI position and message. More to come when we finalize the direction we will take.
Once again, thank you to the DSI team for all their hard work and volunteer time.
Technology Coast Manufacturing and Engineering Network; TeCMEN
By Paul Jernigan, Chairman
Talent, Skill Development & Apprenticeship: We just heard the call for help several times as the TeCMEN group networked and shared ideas in our meeting. There is an ever widening gap as we bring the next generation into our workspace but the good news is we know it and are doing something about it. From electric cars to drones to robotic competitions we have figured out how to have fun, win and learn all at the same time.
In April we heard from David Haines, President of Precision Measurement Inc. who supports many of our businesses with calibration and other services. He also is pioneering a project you will see in the near future where our students will create useful equipment that can be used in his business. Now that is preparing and exposing our future to the next group of potential employees with real world possibilities! We also heard from Terry Cowan, the veteran coordinator with CareerSource Okaloosa/Walton, where much of the success in our region comes from our solid group of veterans that we are able to keep on the beautiful Gulf coast with the assistance of CareerSource.
Jim Heald, Vice President, Strategic Programs at InDyne, Inc. gave an eye opening brief on the Eglin Gulf Coast Test and Training Range in May. If you missed it I would encourage you to contact Jim and understand the issues that will negatively impact all of us if we don't maintain this resource important to our national security and future. We can all be informed and talk up this issue--as the range cannot be used effectively if certain other interest have their way.
TeCMEN Industry Day is on the horizon and we will get a chance to see our students and some of their projects. I hear an award winning, student built, electric car will be there and you don't want to miss that. Truly amazing to think of the contractors, educators and innovators we have at TeCMEN that are preparing our future on a daily basis with a constant smile and sense of accomplishment. What a privilege to be part of TeCMEN!
Business Expansion Assistance
By Caroline McCoy, CEcD
e EDC continues to move forward with our 23 active projects. The various prospecting trips that the region has attended over the last 12 months have brought locally generated projects to record levels.
Many wonder about the types of requests we are seeing for projects when it comes to existing buildings or sites. Here at the EDC, there is a noticeable trend in requests for
existing buildings larger than 50,000 SF with open space and tall ceilings and large, cleared Greenfield sites over 200 acres and. What is a Greenfield site? A Greenfield is an area of agricultural or forest land, or some other undeveloped site earmarked for commercial development, industrial projects or other construction projects. There are several areas in Okaloosa County that have large, cleared acres (Greenfield) ready for immediate development. There are several Certified & Ready for Business parcels in and around the Bob Sikes Airport and Okaloosa County Industrial Air Park. We also have the Shoal River Ranch GigaSite with over 1,665 acres zoned industrial, cleared and ready to go! With these two cleared and flat potential locations, we have been able to respond to requests for as little as 50,000 SF and up to 840,000 SF! Just in the last 3 months, we have submitted an existing building over 50,000 SF for 3 projects and various Greenfield sites for 8 other projects. The Greenfield site requests tend to be for 200,000 SF buildings that would need to be built in a short amount of time.
We still receive many requests for buildings in the 5,000 to 20,000 SF range around the entire county. Our go to database to retrieve a list of potential properties is www.OkaloosaSites.com which is fed through the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors MLS. We are able to pull available properties along with demographic data surrounding that property. Do you want to know what the best part is? The same demographic data is available to you at no cost!
Members in the News
For the third consecutive year, Bit-Wizards is named one of Inc. Magazine's Best Workplaces. The acknowledgement is the result of a wide-ranging and comprehensive measurement of private American companies that have created exceptional workplaces through vibrant cultures, deep employee engagement, and stellar benefits. Collecting data on nearly 2,000 submissions, Inc. singled out 346 finalists..
Northwest Florida State College was recently named safest college campus in the state of Florida by YourLocalSecurity.com. The rankings considered public and private colleges across the country with 5,000 students or more. Using data from the U.S. Department of Education's Campus Safety and Security analysis and the FBI's Uniform Crime Report, the study determined the safest college campus in each state. Four main factors were used to narrow down campus safety among the schools that met the required criteria; Hate crimes per enrolled students, violence against women per enrolled females, property crime per population and violent crime per population.
The Florida Sterling Council and FloridaMakes has announced that 33 manufacturing companies have been named as finalists for the third Florida Sterling Manufacturing Business Excellence Awards. The winners, chosen from the finalists, will be announced at the 2019 Governor's Sterling Awards Banquet on May 31 in Orlando. The Florida Sterling Council and FloridaMakes collaborated on these statewide awards to recognize the state's high-performing manufacturers. Finalists include American Elite Molding and Fort Walton Machining.
The League of Cities honored Sal Nodjomian, Matrix Design Group, as the Northwest Florida League of Cities Municipal Officer of the Year.
Thank You New EDC Investor
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
Glenn Scharf, Chairman; Katie Sharon, Vice Chairman; Lee Lewis, Treasurer/Secretary; Ron Whitfield, Member-at-Large; Kim Wintner, Past Chairman
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
Caroline McCoy CEcD, Director Business Expansion
Linda Sumblin, TeCMEN Manager
Sal Nodjomian, TCPI Consultant
Roxanna Reece, Accounting