Northwest Florida Business Briefs - Aug. 2006
CALLAWAY - EastBay, a 1,400-acre waterfront community, will couple "cracker-style'' architecture with energy-efficient construction, including geothermal energy use. Julius Poston and Joel Cowan are developing the community. Home construction could start by fall. EastBay Institute, a non-profit organization funded by 1% of sales, will be located onsite, offering research and educational opportunities for builders to foster affordable housing in the area.
CRESTVIEW - New York-based defense contractor L-3 Communications Corp. has agreed to buy Crestview Aerospace for $135 million. The company, Okaloosa County's largest private employer at 1,200 workers, manufactures and modifies aircraft parts. Chuck Shanklin will remain president.
DEFUNIAK SPRINGS - Walton County is paying $16,000 to relocate 50 gopher tortoises, a Florida "species of special concern," from the path of a prison construction project. The tortoises are being moved to M.C. Davis' 53,000-acre Nokuse Plantation conservation area near Freeport.
MADISON - Smithfield Packing Co. will close its meatpacking plant by Oct. 31, affecting 486 workers. The plant, bought by Virginia-based Smithfield Foods from Winn-Dixie in 2004, is one of the county's largest employers.
PANAMA CITY BEACH - Construction has started on Origin, a 285-unit residential-commercial condominium, the first phase of The Towne of Seahaven, a planned $800-million beachside community with a 12- year timeline. Plans call for 3,800 residential units, 110,000 square feet of commercial space, a conference center, retail shops, restaurants and fountains. The 52-acre site has been owned since the 1920s by the family of Neel Bennett, president of Seahaven Development Co. and a fourth-generation area resident.
PENSACOLA - The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition is planning a branch location at Ocala, close to several institute customers. The state recently approved a $990,000 seed grant for the expansion. FIHMC has 100 scientists and administrative staff at its home base.
? The Florida Small Business Development Center will make house calls to aid businesses around the state affected by hurricanes or other disasters, and, between storms, to better serve rural small businesses unable to travel to its Small Business Development Centers. The program, the first of its kind in Florida, uses two state-funded Mobile Business Assistance Centers -- RVs equipped with satellite communications and staffed by small-business analysts.
? Vince Whibbs, Pensacola's longestserving mayor (1978 to 1991) and recognized as mayor emeritus, died May 30 at 86. He also was founder in 1958 of an auto dealership, now Vince Whibbs Pontiac GMC.