Military: On the Offense- Northwest- Feb. 2004
FT: Why is this Base Realignment and Closure exercise being called the mother of all BRACs?
Story: It's estimated that all four previous rounds combined saved about $7 billion per year. This round, according to the Department of Defense, will save at least $3 billion and could save $6.5 billion a year. It's estimated 20% to 25% of our military infrastructure is surplus. So you're talking about one round that could have a magnitude as large as all other rounds put together. And the low-hanging fruit is already gone.
FT: What does Florida have at stake?
Story: Florida has 21 military installations and three unified commands. Defense activity accounts for 9.8% of Florida's gross state product, a $44-billion economic impact and 714,500 jobs. Not only do we want to keep our installations and missions, but if other missions are realigned and need a home, we think we've got the infrastructure to draw some of those to Florida.
FT: What criteria will be used in BRAC decision-making?
Story: The criteria of cross-service jointness -- the ability for Army, Navy, Air Force, for example, to train and work together -- will be huge. Secretary Donald Rumsfeld feels we ought to start training our services in a more integrated way. Encroachment isn't mentioned specifically, but it's an issue. "Preservation of training" means you can't have development too close to the base.
FT: Does Florida have any advantages in facing this next round?
Story: Defense leaders want training areas suitable for ground, water and air maneuvers. That plays to our strengths. For example, the Joint Gulf Range Complex anchored by Eglin Air Force Base offers more than 143,000 square miles of land-gulf-air training opportunity -- the biggest in the world. It's already attracting more joint exercises.
FT: Why is the BRAC outcome particularly important to northwest Florida?
Story: The military accounts for a bigger share of our economy -- 34% -- than that of any other Florida region. And we shouldn't forget the military's social impact. For example, in Pensacola in almost any charitable effort, the military's involved.
FT: Your committee is emphasizing that "the BRAC battle will be won at the local level." Explain.
Story: The governor's Florida BRAC Advisory Council has been established to coordinate and help develop strategy, and we've hired a consultant, Holland & Knight, to gather wide-world intelligence and work with local communities. But the actual defense job will be done at the local level, by community groups. In Pensacola, for example, that means our Military Regional Oversight Committee of the Chamber of Commerce, along with local government.
IN THE NEWS
Bay County -- County commissioners have approved a land-use plan to accommodate a larger, relocated Panama City-Bay County Airport and adjacent mixed-use development by the St. Joe Co. (NYSE-JOE). State and federal agencies still need to approve the plan. St. Joe is donating 4,000 acres for the airport.
FLORIDA TRENDLINE?DOC STAMPSNo. 1
Florida leads the nation in per capita doc stamp and stock transfer taxes. The U.S. average is $14.98.
Per Capita Documentary Stamp and Stock Transfer TaxesYearRankAmount% of U.S. avg.19962$62.42737.6%19971$66.85673.0%19982$81.40632.1%19991$91.88630.3%20001$90.07601.3%Note: Includes intangibles tax on mortgages and other realty transfer or stock transfer taxes.
Sources: U.S. Department of Commerce, Florida TaxWatchCarrabelle -- Voters in a recent referendum told city leaders to bring back building-height restrictions lifted in 2002. The charter amendment vote throws out a "planned unit development" ordinance that also had repealed the earlier 35-foot height cap on new construction. Residents worry about high-rises, say supporters of the vote.
Destin -- Affordable housing is beginning to look like an outdated dream for average-income families; employers are worried as well, according to the Destin Log. Reasons: Short supply and high demand are escalating land and home prices. Recent ads list homes for $3 million to $4 million, and sale prices below $150,000 are almost extinct. The median family income in Destin is $71,000.
Escambia County -- The Escambia County Utilities Authority has voted to replace its often-malfunctioning Main Street Wastewater Treatment Plant with a $164-million, state-of-the-art facility. The exact relocation site and sources of construction funding are yet to be determined. The authority in recent years has spent $25 million on plant repairs.
County officials are considering buying 48 acres adjacent to Pensacola Naval Air Station to prevent encroachment on base operations by a proposed subdivision development. The land could be used as a county park and would be the first purchased following a county study identifying no-development zones.
Franklin County-- More than 13,000 acres along Crooked River will be conserved for bears, other wildlife and citizen recreation under a $14.5-million purchase plan approved by Gov. Jeb Bush and the state Cabinet. The parcel will expand Tate's Hell State Forest, making it the state's largest. The seller is the St. Joe Co.
Freeport-- Walton County Industrial Park could soon have its first tenant, and the area could gain up to 100 jobs as the result of Science International's decision to locate a plant in the 180-acre greenfield park, owned by Walton County Economic Development Council and private landowner Owl's Head Ltd. The Alabama-based company's new plant will make a lubricant used in the electrical power industry.
Marianna -- Family Dollar Stores will hire 425 at its new distribution center to be built at Marianna Distribution Park. Family Dollar will be the park's first tenant, taking 75 of the 250 undeveloped acres. The North Carolina, Fortune 500 company looked at 189 communities in three states before choosing Marianna, says Bill Stanton, executive director of the Jackson County Development Council.
Okaloosa County -- The Marines landed some 1,500 strong on Panhandle beaches near Eglin Air Force Base in training maneuvers involving more than 7,000 personnel. December's 10-day joint live-fire exercise was one of the largest ever for the area and could help determine Eglin's future training mission.
Panama City Beach -- Nextel Partners will expand its customer care center with a new building. It plans to increase its workforce by 400 when the building is completed within six months. The expansion will bring employment to more than 1,000.
Pensacola -- Baptist Hospital Inc. is one of seven winners of the 2003 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. The hospital is one of only two healthcare organizations to ever win the award.
Perdido Key -- Bonita Springs-based WCI Communities (NYSE-WCI) has purchased 400 acres in Perdido Key near Pensacola, the developer's first expansion into northwest Florida.
Port St. Joe -- A bankruptcy court judge cleared the way for the $3.8-million sale of troubled Gulf Pines Hospital to Hudson-based Morning Star Holdings, in which the lead principal is spinal surgeon Alfred O. Bonati. Bonati's surgical techniques using lasers and his own patented procedure have drawn praise and controversy.
Tallahassee -- Members of Sunshine State Credit Union will vote in April on converting the credit union to a federal bank -- in what would be the first such conversion in Florida.
PENSACOLA -- Pittsburgh urban designer Ray Gindroz rolled out a blueprint for the 26-block Seville Historic District, recommending a new municipal auditorium, visitors center and revamped traffic patterns. His vision: Link neighborhoods, attract more residents and increase access to the waterfront. The city, county, University of West Florida and the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition sponsored the $200,000 study.