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July 2018 

From the Director's Desk

By Nathan Sparks, CEcD
      With some business travel on the near horizon, I am getting a jump start on my Director's Desk piece this month. Believe it or not, I am writing this a full two weeks early on Friday, July 6. Why does the date matter? Well, if you are buying the trade war hype, it is the first day of the long-telegraphed U.S. tariffs on a multitude of Chinese imports. And, by the same token, the first day of the Chinese counter punch tariffs on American certain goods - 545 items to be exact.
     Some - including China's own Commerce Ministry - have made foreboding statements such as "The U.S. is launching the biggest trade war in history." Various and sundry news outlets - and even certain hedge fund managers - have been equally fatalistic in predicting economic doom and gloom. As an economic developer, my perspective on issues like this is tightly focused on two things. First, how could businesses located in the jurisdiction that we serve (namely, Okaloosa County) be impacted? Second, how could the various businesses that our team is currently working to entice to expand into our community be impacted?
     Regarding impacts to local businesses, I only have anecdotal information to go off of at this point. As the steel tariffs imposed by the U.S on the EU, Canada and Mexico (among many others) began to work their way through the system earlier this year, I spoke with a local construction contractor who was already seeing materials prices soar. Another individual I know involved in the building trades shared a similar story with me about someone who had recently gotten budget numbers for a new home, only to be told that due to the rising cost of materials, that price would now be 20% higher for the same home. All tariff related? Hard to say, but it does make you wonder.
     So are there opportunities within a fairly volatile global "trade war" environment? Perhaps. Let's take washing machines for instance. The U.S. is imposing a 20-50% tariff on washing machines imported from China, South Korea and Mexico. What this tells me is that it is going to be darn near impossible for Chinese, South Korean or Mexican made washing machines to be priced competitively with good ol' Maytags and GEs from the US of A. Given that, some companies currently building washing machines overseas may be wise to consider building them in the U.S. to avoid the exorbitant tariff. The EDC can help them with that. Of course, if they choose to wait it out and stay put, then GE and Maytag are likely going to dominate the American market, and chances are they will need to build new facilities to keep up with all the new customer demand. Guess what? We can help them with that too.
Defense Support Initiatives, DSI

By John Wilcox, Chairman
     Your Defense Support Initiatives Committee has been very busy these last few months providing the best support expected to our local defense community and bases. As Chair of the DSI, I am so proud of the local support from our communities and our local leadership to our men & women on our bases across the tri-county area. The highlight of the last few months has been the community and base visit by our Chief of Staff of the US Air Force, Gen David Goldfein. Gen Goldfein visited Eglin and Hurlburt Air Force Bases the week of 25 July. He toured the Eglin and Gulf Coast Ranges and emphasized the critical need and support of the missions of Eglin and Hurlburt bases to conducting leading edge missions and ensuring success in supporting the deployed warfighting commands across the globe.
     We look forward to hosting the Florida Defense Support Task Force (FDSTF) in September and joining forces in ensuring the Eastern Gulf of Mexico (EGOMEX) and the military test and training range remains unencumbered by the increased political initiatives to open it up to oil drilling and hindering Dept of Defense missions that continuously test our newest systems for operational deployment to our military services. The DSI was fortunate to host Maj Gen Richard Haddad (ret.) from the FDSTF at our July meeting. The FDSTF has been instrumental in leading projects to protect military installations across the state. When the DSI hosts the FDSTF in September this year there will be many important topics on the agenda.
     Recently the American Petroleum Institute (API) announced an "Explore Offshore" initiative to increase access to offshore U.S. oil and natural gas drilling across Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. API and Vets4Energy are two of the lobbyist groups pressing for access to drill in the Eastern Gulf Test & Training Range (EGTTR). DSI has undertaken a strong initiative to educate these organizations and others on the importance of the Gulf ranges for the testing and training required by our DoD military services and the huge economic benefit these missions brings to Florida; as well as other states.
     DSI also was fortunate to have the commander of the 7th Special Forces Group (SFG), Colonel Patrick Colloton, join a recent DSI meeting and update the group on the important mission of the men and women of this elite special forces unit. The 7th SFG has recently worked with the 'Building Homes for Heroes' to ensure their injured and fallen heroes and families have homes as a tribute to their selfless service and sacrifice. Col Colloton and 7th SFG recently hosted a Community Day for local families and businesses to learn what life is like for an Army Special Forces soldier and their families.
     The DSI was also fortunate to have Mel Ponder, our state representative, come by and update the team giving an overview of this year's legislation. The representative reiterated his unwavering support for the military and eastern Gulf Test & Training Range and committed to helping the Eglin Growth Management Task Force to ensure Eglin AFB has the facilities to conduct its expanding missions. It has and continues to be a very busy year for the DSI in its advocacy support to our local military bases. DSI will continue to provide educational and informational outreach to local community businesses and leaders to ensure support to our men and women serving and conducting their important DoD missions.

Technology Coast Manufacturing and Engineering Network; TeCMEN

By Timothy McDonald, Chairman

      With summer in full swing, kids are out of school, the tourists are plentiful, and the traffic even more so, we at TeCMEN relentlessly promote sustainment, growth, and advancement in science, technology, engineering and math businesses and educational institutions. It is an exciting, yet busy, time of the year with our second edition of TeCMEN Industry Day rapidly approaching.
     July is traditionally a non-meeting month for TeCMEN, with this year being no exception. Many of our outstanding members take this month to vacation with their families and reflect on the first six months of the year. For me with the honor of being Chairman, it has been a fantastic start to 2018, and I am proud to Chair such a tremendous organization! I want to take this moment to thank all the people at the EDC who make TeCMEN a thriving part of our STEM community.....Nathan, Caroline, Kay, Kristina, and last, but certainly not least, the one who keeps me in line, Linda Sumblin! Thank you all for what you do for Northwest Florida! I speak for all EDC members when I say we are truly grateful for your commitment to our great community!
     At our June meeting, we welcomed a new member, Intuitive Research & Technology (IR&T). Mr. Timothy (Tim) Mango, Senior Vice President of Florida Operations, provided our members with an overview of this Huntsville, Alabama based organization. IR&T is a premier award winning aerospace engineering and analysis firm and provides sound technical solutions and program management assisting customers throughout all phases of a product's lifecycle. They are also recognized as an award-winning organization, receiving the 'Best Places to Work' award in the Huntsville/Madison County area for ten years running. Their Florida operations support multiple military installations in NWF, to include Eglin AFB, Pensacola NAS, and Panama City NSA. We welcome Mr. Mango and IR&T to TeCMEN, and we are committed to helping them establish a stronger presence in the community by providing superior STEM support and solutions.
     August 23 is rapidly approaching, and we at TeCMEN could not be more excited for our second edition of TeCMEN Industry Day (TID). Planning has been months in the making, with multiple keynote speakers and excellent panels and workshops. Mr. Don Gaetz, Chairman of Triumph Gulf Coast, will be kicking things off, followed by Adrienne Slack of the US Federal Reserve Bank. Also speaking will be William Sawarynski of GE Wind Energy of Pensacola. Much like last year, we will have a DoD Prime Contractors Panel to update us on the Defense Market Outlook. We also have an Entrepreneur Panel with several successful entrepreneurs  discussing what it takes to start and thrive in business. Workshops include Exporting 101, Understanding Changes in the Federal Tax Code, Changes in Federal Contracting, and Connecting to Tomorrow's Workforce through Internships and Apprenticeships. Please know that TID is not just for STEM-related industries. We welcome all of NWF to TID with open arms. Together as a community, we can achieve more, and TID is an event that will facilitate such collaboration. Remember, August 23rd at the Emerald Coast Convention Center on Okaloosa Island.  Learn more at
      Finally, I am happy to announce that Representative Mel Ponder will be our guest speaker at our August TeCMEN meeting!  We look forward to this great opportunity to interact with our representative.    


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EDC of Okaloosa County Announces New Platform for Talent Attraction

     The Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County announced today that it has launched a Talent Attraction web portal focused on promoting Okaloosa's high skill / high wage employment opportunities to job seekers around the country. With Okaloosa County now experiencing one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state, employers of all types are finding that they must be increasingly creative in reaching potential employees.
     Innovative approaches such as partnering with educational entities, utilizing targeted workforce development programs and recruiting veterans and military spouses are consistently bearing fruit for local employers. In addition, certain high skill / high wage employers also find that the beautiful Emerald Coast is a strong drawing card for attracting top talent, many of whom already have an affinity for the area or a connection as a current or former tourist. The opportunity to marry the lure of the Emerald Coast with the talent needs of area STEMM employers forms the premise of the EDC's Talent Attraction strategy.
     "As the skilled labor market tightens, organizations involved in STEMM related activities rely heavily on the creative and collective mindsets of our region. I applaud the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County for their out-of-the-box thinking strategies! The new Talent Attraction web portal will be a valuable tool for local companies seeking to recruit the best and the brightest," said Timothy McDonald, Chairman of the Technology Coast Manufacturing and Engineering Network.
     The Talent Attraction platform also highlights the community's quality of life attributes. Employment seekers today are focused on more than just job opportunities; they also want to know about the amenities and lifestyle they will enjoy should they choose to relocate. Okaloosa County offers world-renowned outdoor recreation, award-winning healthcare facilities, leading educational offerings and inspiring arts and cultural venues - all invaluable in attracting talent to the area.
     "The EDC's Talent Attraction strategy will serve to complement our support of Okaloosa's existing industries in their efforts to recruit bright professionals. In addition, we anticipate that by working to attract more highly skilled individuals and their families to the area, our business recruitment activities will also benefit as talent supply has truly become the new economic development currency," said Nathan Sparks, Executive Director of the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County.
     The EDC's Talent Attraction portal will be promoted to individual social media and internet users who match the targeted skill needs identified in current local high skill / high wage job postings. Using innovative geo-targeting approaches, visitors to the Emerald Coast who have the skills and experience required by local STEMM employers will receive "Click to View" options on their smart phones. The first such campaign ran the week of July 4th and featured a beautiful Emerald Coast sunset with the words "Why go home?" Interested users could then click to view local employment opportunities.  

For more information visit .
Thank You New EDC Investor
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
Kristina MacNicol, Administrative Assistant
Sal Nodjomian, TCPI Consultant
Linda Sumblin, TeCMEN Manager
Roxanna Reece, Accounting
The EDC is a 501(c)(6) not-for-profit organization.