Business Florida 2013 - The Regions
Fort Walton Beach, Panama City, Pensacola, Tallahassee
Northwest Florida is a favorite visitor destination for its sugar white beaches, natural springs and abundant pine forests. But along with a thriving tourism economy — that in 2011 generated revenue increases averaging close to 25% across many counties — Florida’s Panhandle is home to a strong aviation/defense sector and is becoming the site for solar energy R&D.
Businesses here enjoy proximity to key southeastern markets via interconnected highways, railroads and shipping lines. In fact, connections from this region to middle America are such that, in 2011, international shipping giant UPS moved its central Gulf Coast regional sorting operation from Alabama to Pensacola.
Improvements are under way at all three of the region’s deepwater ports; Port of Pensacola is looking to attract more of the high-tech vessels that service offshore oil and gas drilling rigs. Traffic at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport (the nation’s first new international airport in a decade) is about 200% higher than at the airport it replaced, and tenants are moving in to nearby VentureCrossings, where 1,000 acres are available for large-scale aviation projects.
WHO LIVES HERE
43,000-plus well-trained military personnel on active duty at six Air Force and Navy installations. In addition, an estimated 7,750 personnel retire from military service here each year. Typically younger than civilian retirees, military retirees often seek a second career, bringing their advanced technical skills and highly desired industry credentials to employers.
60,000-plus students in the region’s eight colleges and universities, including Florida State University, Florida A&M University and the University of West Florida.
Moving.com, a leading source for moving-related services, ranked Florida’s capital city — Tallahassee — No. 2 on its 2012 list of “America’s Most Millennial Friendly Cities,” citing affordable housing and proximity to FSU as especially appealing for Generation Y’ers looking to relocate.
In Tallahassee, where the share of the workforce with college degrees is almost double the national average, startups find encouragement through resources like the Entrepreneurial Excellence Program sponsored by the Economic Development Council of Tallahassee/Leon County. This four-week course linking aspiring entrepreneurs with seasoned business pros covers such topics as financing, marketing, ethics and everyday operations.