In the News- Northwest- Jan. 2003
Destin -- The City Council has approved HarborWalk Village, a 14.7-acre Legendary Inc. development of 17 buildings that will include 200,000 square feet of commercial retail space and a 13-story residential condominium building.
Escambia/Santa Rosa Counties -- Acknowledging their economic interdependence, the two counties have formed the Pensacola Bay Area Partnership and are combining national and international marketing efforts to bring visitors and businesses.
Graceville -- After two years of inactivity, the former U.S. Forest Industries sawmill is operating again. Rex Lumber of Graceville purchased and completely refurbished the plant with state-of-the-art equipment and estimates that at full production the mill will employ 65.
Leon County -- County officials are fighting Tallahassee's proposed downtown Community Redevelopment Area, charging that the CRA's tax increment financing will cost the county almost $80 million over the next 20 years and benefit an area that has seen a 13% increase in taxes over the last two years, 7% more than countywide tax growth.
In November, 52% of Leon County voters approved a home-rule charter government that permits citizens to initiate and revise ordinances and commissioners to change tax policy.
Milton -- The city has sold the long-vacant Vanity Fair building to Cincinnati-based Eastern Sheet Metal, which plans to provide up to 100 jobs -- paying between $9 and $17 an hour -- within four years.
Okaloosa County -- Increased air traffic and outdated facilities prompted commissioners to approve Okaloosa Regional Airport's 107,000-sq.-ft. terminal, a $27-million project that will replace the current 38,000-sq.-ft. building in 2004.
Panama City -- Jacksonville-based Arizona Chemical will consolidate its two U.S. research and development technology centers in Savannah, Ga., closing the Panama City laboratory, which will affect 21 workers. The 350 employees of the company's plant operations in Panama City, Port St. Joe and Pensacola will not be affected.
Panama City Beach -- The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that the city may designate undeveloped land as "blighted" and use $48 million in tax-free municipal bonds to develop the 270-acre Pier Park commercial and recreational complex with St. Joe Co.
Pensacola -- A $1-million U.S. Small Business Administration grant will double the University of West Florida's Haas Center for Business Research and Economic Development budget and allow the center to develop a Virtual Business Accelerator project that aims to provide educational and technological support to small businesses.
A recent study by the Haas Center for Business Research and Economic Development estimates Pensacola Beach accounts for $277 million, or one-third, of area tourism's economic impact and supports about 4,000 jobs. The military, at $1.6 billion a year, is the leading economic contributor.
Tallahassee -- The new Airport Commerce Center on the city's south side will include 40 acres of retail and light industrial development and 36 acres of conservation land.
Walton County -- County officials have approved the $2.45-million purchase of 2.6 acres of Gulf-front property adjacent to the Topsail Hill preserve. The Stallworth preserve, home to several endangered species, will be federally funded with $2 million, and the county hopes to receive a Florida Community Trust grant to pay for its $450,000 share.
Wakulla Springs -- In a deal facilitated by the Nature Conservancy and St. Joe Co., state leaders added protection to Florida's largest spring with a $7.9-million purchase of 3,866 acres of St. Joe land. The land contains a 19-mile cave system and is a major recharge area of the Floridan aquifer.
According to a survey of 287 executives nationwide, Florida has the fourth-best business climate in the country, with 18% of respondents giving the state a most-favorable rating in 2002. Florida ranked fifth in 1999 with 14% and did not place among the top five in 1996.
Texas25%North Carolina20South Carolina18FLORIDA18Georgia15Source: Development Counsellors International
AIRTRAN DEAL RENEWED
TALLAHASSEE -- City officials, estimating AirTran has saved area travelers $25 million on ticket prices, have approved the carrier's contract for another year, again guaranteeing $1.5 million in revenue and ensuring new regular flights to Atlanta and Tampa. The city had to pay $1.5 million for the 2002 fiscal year but expects an all-time record year with more than 1 million total passengers by December.