Northwest Florida Business Briefs - Nov 2006
ESCAMBIA COUNTY -- More than 70% of voters in the Sept. 5 election supported a 10-year extension of the half-cent sales tax for school improvements. Generating about $20 million a year, the tax is used for school repairs and construction.
? County government's 390 employees will complete a move by year-end to the new $30-million Escambia County Government Center, which occupies an entire city block in downtown Pensacola and has twice the space of the Escambia County Courthouse it replaces. The original courthouse, dating from the 1890s and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, could become a museum.
MADISON COUNTY -- Voters this month will decide whether to add a half-cent local sales tax to raise money to replace Madison's 54- year-old hospital.
MILTON -- SerWiz Solutions, a subsidiary of India-based Tata Sons Ltd., is partnering with TRX to take over customer care operations for TRX travel clients at Milton and in Reno, Ohio. At Milton, SerWiz now employs 170 of the center's 270 employees, with plans to hire 50 more by early 2007.
OKALOOSA/SANTA ROSA -- Voters in both counties rejected proposals for a 1-cent sales tax increase. In Okaloosa, 68% of voters rejected the tax, which had been expected to raise $235 million over fi ve years, with 58.5% designated for the county and the rest to be divided among the county's nine municipalities. The proposed Santa Rosa tax, targeting road improvements and estimated to provide $183 million over 10 years, was rejected by 52% of voters.
PACE -- Taminco, a Belgium methylamines producer, has purchased amines facilities of Air Products and Chemicals Co. at Pace and in Louisiana and Brazil. The buyer said no job losses or benefi ts changes are contemplated at the 77-employee Pace plant. Air Products, meanwhile, will continue to operate its liquid hydrogen terminal and research business at Pace, which employs 85.
PENSACOLA -- University of West Florida board of trustees president and UWF alumnus K.C. Clark and his wife, Lori, of St. Petersburg, have contributed $100,000 to UWF's underwater archeology program, one of only four such programs at U.S. universities.
TALLAHASSEE -- An exasperated Leon County circuit judge ordered a summary judgment in the dispute between Florida State University and star chemistry professor Robert Holton, who synthesized the popular cancer drug Taxol. Judge Janet Ferris ordered FSU to give back Holton's $11-million gift for construction of a chemistry building on campus, yet rejected Holton's claim of control over an $18.5-million lab account. Ferris expressed frustration at the failure of both sides to mediate the dispute and at the mountain of documents attorneys submitted to her. According to the Tallahassee Democrat, Ferris admitted, "I tried to read as much of this as I could, but I didn't read all of it."
? General Motors has installed Florida's first E-85 ethanol pump in the capital city. The September installation was the first of 17 planned for Inland Food Stores in north Florida over the ensuing eight months. The stations will begin serving an estimated 65,000 Floridians owning flex vehicles, able to burn either regular gasoline or E-85 fuel. The fuel is 85% ethanol, made from corn, and 15% gasoline.
WALTON COUNTY -- Regional Utilities donated 400 acres east of Freeport for the county to build affordable housing. The county named a board of directors to a new non-profit corporation, the Walton County Workforce Housing Corporation, to oversee construction of up to 1,500 homes, with an average price of $130,000. Regional Utilities CEO Dewey Wilson says the project will help its employees and others who can't afford to live where they work in South Walton.