September 2, 2014

Around the State

| 10/1/1997
Escambia County

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New and growing companies added 271 jobs at the 567-acre county-owned Ellyson Industrial Park, which is full. The park has 2,716 employees. The search is on for another park site in northern Escambia County.

Lynn Haven

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AlliedSignal's Friction Materials plant received a contract from Dodge to produce brake linings for the Dodge Neon.The contract will mean an additional $1.2 million in parts for the Chrysler plant and a 12% revenue increase. The plant recently expanded to more than 130,000 square feet, and employs more than 250.

Panama City

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The Great American Bicycle Co.'s plans to bring a full-size manufacturing facility to Panama City fell through for lack of financing. The Silver Springs, Md.-based company planned a factory employing about 250 people.

West Florida Gas Inc., the privately owned holding company of Panama City-based West Florida Natural Gas, was sold to Tampa-based TECO for about $21 million. TECO folded West Florida's operations and 30,000 Panama City and Ocala customers into its recently acquired Peoples Gas.

Charles Whitehead last month sold Cook Whitehead Ford to Orlando-based First Team Management for more than $10 million. The dealership had about $60 million in sales last year. First Team Management already owns eight Orlando dealerships and three Florida Ford dealerships.

Gamblers can try their luck on a 135-foot-long floating casino docked at the Panama City marina. The "Fantasea" employs about 40 and holds up to 175 passengers. Ship owner Bobby Guimbellot agreed to pay the city $1,500 a month for dock space, 50 cents per passenger and buy all fuel from the city.

Panama City Beach

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Tourism leaders hope to bring the Dixie Stampede to Panama City Beach. The dinner theatre chain, which averages 1,000 seats, has an old South theme. The Pigeon Forge, Tenn.-based company is part of a chain including Dollywood in Tennessee and Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo.

Pensacola

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Monsanto, Escambia County's largest industrial employer, split into two companies, naming its chemical division Solutia. The Pensacola plant is Solutia's largest, with about 2,500 employees. Solutia, headquartered in St. Louis, is not expected to change workers' benefits, pensions or savings plans.

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FILM INDUSTRY

... the beauty of the Panhandle. Filmmaker Victor Nunez, a Tallahassee native, highlights Franklin County's small town of Wewahitchka, in his critically acclaimed film "Ulee's Gold." The movie tells the story of a simple, deliberate beekeeper, Ulee Jackson (Peter Fonda), and showcases the area's backwoods and Apalachicola's historic district.

Meanwhile, aliens in the sci-fi movie "Contact" comfort Jody Foster when she arrives at the center of the universe by simulating Pensacola's sugar sand beaches. And in doing so, filmmakers comforted the Pensacola Chamber of Commerce. "We were ecstatic when we saw that scene," says Sheila Bowman, Pensacola tourism director/film commissioner. "I thought, 'How wonderful. What is this going to do for our image?'"

To take advantage of the publicity, the Pensacola Chamber launched an $8,800 campaign, "Contact, Journey to the Heart of Paradise," that has appeared in Southeast newspapers.

The northwest Florida economy was perking even before the release of "Contact," with tourism up 17%. And other glimpses of Pensacola have appeared on large and small screens. The CBS series "Pensacola Wings of Gold," which airs in September, brought film crews to town for two weeks during the summer.

- Brian Hires

PORT ST. JOE

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Box USA Inc. says it will close its box plant around Nov. 1, leaving 85 workers unemployed. The plants makes corrugated cardboard containers. Plant operations will be merged into Box USA's plants in Lake Wales, Fla., Dothan and Birmingham, Ala., and Stockbridge, Ga.

Florida Coast Paper Co. LLC's Port St. Joe mill reopened Aug. 4 after a four-month shutdown that laid off 600. All employees have been called back to work. Sagging market conditions and overstocked inventories caused the closure, the longest since 1971. During the shutdown, Gulf County unemployment surged to a record high of nearly 20%.

Tags: Florida Small Business, Politics & Law, Business Florida, Northwest

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