Around the State- Northwest- Jan. 2000
Crestview -- A sewing facility that now employs 185 -- the last apparel plant in Florida owned by Alexander City, Ala.-based Russell Corp. -- will close this month. The plant is operated by the Russell Athletic Division, which manufactures casual clothing and sports uniforms. The company says it closed the plant to reduce capacity and has shifted some work to plants in Mexico and Honduras. Russell has cut 4,000 jobs nationwide in the past two years. It has closed plants in Marianna, Milton and Niceville. The company also has shut down all of its Florida outlet stores -- in Fort Walton Beach, Panama City, Fort Pierce, Marco Island, Orlando and St. Augustine.
Inlet Beach -- A 33-story condominium planned for western Bay County already looms large in the minds of residents of this eastern Walton County community. Sunset Pass, the name of the proposed resort, would be built on the shores of Lake Powell by Baton Rouge, La.-based le Triomphe Property Group, but it would be visible across the water in Walton County. The South Walton Community Council has joined with the group Friends of Bay County to seek legal means to head off the development, which the county has already approved. The Bay County comprehensive plan does not have height restrictions or require buildings to be "compatible" with the surrounding community.
Marianna -- Local healthcare facilities increasingly struggle to find trained and certified employees, according to U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd (D-North Florida), and the Allied Health Center at Chipola Junior College can't turn out graduates fast enough to meet demand. Boyd, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, has secured $1 million for Allied Health Center in the Omnibus Appropriations Act for fiscal 2000. The bill also allocates $2 million for a study to determine if a four-lane highway should be built to connect Panama City with Interstate 10 and Dothan, Ala., to provide faster evacuation of coastal areas in the event of a major hurricane. The Florida Department of Transportation will survey traffic volume on current routes and recommend where a new highway might be built.
Panama City Beach -- Gulf World Inc. announced plans for a $5-million expansion of its marine park, the first expansion in its 31-year history. Gulf World will grow from 2.5 acres to more than 10, and will increase its payroll from 25 seasonal workers to 70 year-round employees. The expansion should be completed in time for the March tourist season.
Panhandle -- AT&T announced plans to close offices in Panama City and Chipley by March, jeopardizing nearly 200 jobs. The long-distance carrier has asked permission from the FCC to discontinue its toll-free listing service, which currently employs 81 people in Panama City and 98 in Chipley. A total of 900 jobs nationwide are at risk. AT&T issued a statement that maintaining the current system was not economically feasible. The company has told workers it will try to find them jobs elsewhere.
Walton County -- A lack of affordable housing has contributed to a worker shortage, and businesses and resorts in south Walton have begun busing hired hands into the area from neighboring communities in north Walton, Bay and Okaloosa counties. Developer Paula Ryan told the Walton Planning Commission recently that a development of 200 units for low-income families would help ease the crunch. But to make that happen, she said, Walton County will need to pony up land or alter its impact fees.