In The News
Northwest Florida Business Briefs - June 2005
CENTURY -- The town of 1,730 will hire Buxton, a Fort Worth, Texas-based site-selection firm, to help attract retail stores. Mayor Evelyn Hammond's wish list includes a second grocery store, sit-down restaurant and a family-friendly clothing store. Residents typically drive some 30 miles to Pensacola for much of their shopping.
CHIPLEY -- Old Chipley City Hall, circa 1929, has been added to the National Register of Historic Places, the town's third listed building. A $50,000 state grant will be used to begin renovating the structure, possibly as a new headquarters for the Washington County Chamber of Commerce.
DESTIN -- Select Automation's "smart house," built as a showcase including room-by-room temperature control and a host of other technologies, could break Okaloosa County records for most expensive home. The four-story, Gulf-front house -- with 11 bedrooms and 11.5 bathrooms -- is listed at $10.9 million.
JACKSON COUNTY -- Former New York Yankees player Don Mattingly is putting into play development of a 90-acre site he's owned for a decade south of the Sneads city limit. In the long-range blueprint: A motel, RV park, outlet mall, truck stop, gas station, restaurants and retail store.
OKALOOSA COUNTY -- The University of West Florida's board of trustees will expand and make permanent in August a joint venture with Okaloosa Schools that provides engineering track studies from middle school to doctoral level without students having to leave the county. Schools participating include Choctawhatchee High School, the UWF/Fort Walton Beach campus and the University of Florida Graduate Education Research Center at Shalimar.
Oklaloosa Schools Superintendent Don Gaetz will resign midway through his second four-year term to make a run for the state Senate seat being vacated in 2006 by Charlie Clary. The former healthcare executive has instituted financial and academic reforms during four years as superintendent following eight as a school board member.
PANAMA CITY -- City voters have elected their first new mayor in 24 years and the town's first woman mayor. Political newcomer Lauren DeGeorge, a guidance counselor, defeated insurance business owner Gerry Clemons, who had held the office since 1980. She advocates a moratorium on development until a master plan for the community is created.
PANAMA CITY BEACH -- Groundbreaking for a 17-story, 228-unit condominium at Gulf World Marine Park brings to 52 the number of Panama City Beach condominium projects in the works. Condo units, currently 16,628, are expected to reach 32,619 with completion of current development plans, according to the Tourist Development Council.
A $30-million, 17-mile beach replenishment project is under way to repair erosion caused by Hurricane Ivan. Targeting late-summer completion, the project will pump nearly 3 million cubic yards of sand, 187,000 truckloads, along the Gulf of Mexico.
PENSACOLA -- The City Council voted to nix for now the sale of City Hall, damaged by Hurricane Ivan. A developer had proposed buying it and turning it into condos. The city headquarters sits on 6.2 acres of prime downtown real estate and will need about $4.8 million in repairs before some 250 city employees can move back in, likely not until February.
Developers of nine condominium and town home projects, planning 259 units between them, could augur a downtown upsurge, reversing a declining city population and aiding the post-Ivan rebuilding effort. Plans show unit prices ranging from $200,000 to $900,000, with a maximum height of 10 stories.
TALLAHASSEE -- St. Joe Co. (NYSE-JOE) plans to sell 10- to 20-acre "farmstead'' sites on 1,000 acres near and around the capital city. The sites, priced between $20,000 and $45,000 per acre, would be located near suburban services and offer space for a home plus optional buildings such as barns or guest houses.
City commissioners have adopted a law requiring 10% of any developments 50 units or larger to be priced below about $160,000 as of Oct. 1 -- unless developers prove before then that the law isn't needed. The ordinance aims to increase the city's affordable-housing stock.
Engineers at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory have tested a new, state-of-the-art magnet system. The magnet represents a 20% upgrade over existing similar facilities at the laboratory, which is the largest and highest-powered of its kind in the world. The first users of the new system will include a Brown University professor studying the effects of magnetic fields on single-cell, microscopic animals in pond water.
Paul Mitchell, former chief of staff for Florida CFO Tom Gallagher, has joined the lobbying firm Southern Strategy Group, joining former House Speaker John Thrasher and Republican strategist Paul Bradshaw.