Eastpoint-- Couch Ready Mix has completed its computer-operated concrete plant on 30 acres in Eastpoint. Initially built to supply concrete for the new St. George Island bridge, the Birmingham, Ala.-based company has committed to keeping the Franklin County operation going even after the bridge is completed.
Fort Walton Beach-- Defense contractor Metric Systems Corp., one of Okaloosa County's largest employers, has lost about 10% of its workforce through a combination of layoffs and retirements since a buyout last fall. Founded 43 years ago, Metric was purchased by Integrated Defense Technologies in September.
Kelley's supermarkets is adding a fifth store in the region. The company bought a former Delchamps grocery store that closed last May. Following remodeling of the 50,000-sq.-ft. building, Kelley's expects to hire 85 to 100 workers.
Lynn Haven-- Grolier Telemarketing Services, which suspended operations after 20 employees had to be hospitalized for an unidentified illness, has closed for good. Although the environmental issues were resolved, many employees feared returning. The company, which employed 88 in Bay County, says it will move services to a larger telemarketing firm.
Panama City-- The Tom P. Haney Technical Center has introduced robotic welding as part of the school's Welding Technology program. Lincoln Electric donated a System 10 Welding Cell that combines the latest technology in robotic movement. School officials say the state-of-the-art machinery minimizes labor costs associated with traditional welding processes.
Manpower's First Quarter 2001 Employment Outlook Survey predicts most employers will quit hiring after the holidays but won't lay off workers. Only about 10% of employers surveyed said they would add employees; 10% predicted cutbacks.
Panhandle-- Four of the fastest-growing counties in the state this year are non-metropolitan, and two of those are in northwest Florida. According to the long-term economic forecast by the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida, Lafayette, Taylor, Hamilton and Union will grow more than a percentage point faster than Flagler, the fastest-growing metropolitan county in the state.
Of northwest Florida's 20 counties, seven will be getting new chief law enforcement officers this year. Sheriffs in Madison and Dixie counties retired, and residents voted out sheriffs in Escambia, Santa Rosa, Walton, Calhoun and Liberty counties.
Perry-- Martin Electronics, which has a troubled safety record, was recently fined $832,000 by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. OSHA found 60 violations of federal safety standards following a May 1 explosion that killed one employee and severely burned another. The company makes pyrotechnic equipment for the military.
St. George Island-- Florida's third-longest bridge is under construction at an estimated cost of $71.6 million. The 4.1-mile St. George Island bridge will replace the current span, which was built in 1965 and is starting to deteriorate. The new bridge is expected to be completed in 2003.
Tallahassee-- Arvida, a unit of St. Joe Co., is working on three spec commercial buildings scheduled to be completed this summer. The buildings -- 90,000 square feet, 52,000 and 33,000 -- will be in or next to the SouthWood development.
The area's two regional medical centers have recently announced major expansions. Tallahassee Memorial Hospital is building a $52-million emergency center and adjoining women's and children's center. Tallahassee Community is planning to raze its existing facility and build a $100-million hospital by 2003.
Julie Bettinger can be reached by e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Taxes: Stretching the Penny
TALLAHASSEE -- Voters overwhelmingly approved a 15-year extension of a 1-cent sales tax, which will fund road, storm water and redevelopment projects in Leon County. Business leaders lobbied heavily on behalf of the tax. Opponents feared it was too soon for a decision, as the tax doesn't expire until 2004.