Northwest Florida Business Briefs - Feb. 2006
CALHOUN COUNTY -- Calhoun's 94.3% high school graduation rate was highest among the state's 67 counties in 2005, according to Department of Education. The statewide average was 71.9%.
ESCAMBIA COUNTY -- A proposed school system redistricting plan, which would involve closing two middle schools, relocating a third and converting a high school to a middle school, has been postponed until the 2007-08 school year following protests by students, teachers and parents. Superintendent Jim Paul's plan would cut operating costs, saving $2.5 million a year that could go to increase teacher pay. Since 1985, the district has built five schools, while the student population has increased by only 58. Paul says the county has too many schools. Those he wants to close, he says, are about 50 years old. The school system has 60 schools for a student population of 41,456. Four Florida school systems with similar student populations have between 37 and 44 schools...
Beach mouse at burrow entrance
>> Under an agreement with state and federal wildlife officials that protects the endangered beach mouse on Perdido Key, the county commission will ask builders to pay $100,000 per acre of affected beach mouse habitat plus annual fees. The commission also amended its Perdido Key growth-management plan to allow 9,168 dwelling units instead of the state-imposed cap of 7,150. The state could oppose the cap change.
PENSACOLA -- Gulf Power Co. has established the nation's first industrial-based center for research into existing and new technologies to reduce mercury emissions. The $5-million Mercury Research Center will test emissions control on a coal-burning generating unit at the company's Plant Crist. Operated by the independent Southern Research Institute, based in Birmingham, Ala., the center will be available for anyone with interest in mercury research. "We already have had interest from Germany and Japan," Director Scott Hinton says. EPA will mandate minimum 20% mercury reductions by 2010.
PERRY -- SeaStrike Boats of Fort Lauderdale has purchased and restarted the former Sport-Craft manufacturing plant, closed since 2002. SeaStrike plans to employ 100 within a year.
PORT ST. JOE -- Sacred Heart Health System in Pensacola expects to open a $24.4-million, 25-bed hospital at Port St. Joe, possibly by late 2007, its second regional new-hospital project. Contributors include St. Joe Co. (NYSE-JOE), donating a 27-acre site for the hospital and a medical office building; St. Joe Community Foundation, pledging $5 million over 10 years; and Gulf County and the communities of Port St. Joe and Wewahitchka, designating proceeds of a half-cent sales tax. Sacred Heart opened a hospital in south Walton County in 2003.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY -- Arcadia Mills, a planned 2,718-acre community near Pace, would be the largest single development in county history. The project of the Eagle Group of Atlanta calls for 9,832 single-family homes and 600 apartments, commercial and retail lots in a 200-acre "live-work-play" town center, a school site and at least two golf courses. Buildout is expected to take at least 10 years. The population of Pace is about 9,100.
TALLAHASSEE -- The city commission has offered to give Canada-based technology company Danfoss Turbocor Compressors $1.6 million to relocate after Leon County backed out of offering the money. The city also included $5 million for building construction. Turbocor expects to provide 150 jobs and a $10-million payroll, operating from Innovation Park, which offered land and $450,000 for construction. The county withdrew its offer because of concerns over the young company's financial situation.