August 30, 2014

2012 Economic Yearbook

Northwest Florida Economic Indicators

Charlotte Crane | 4/25/2012

Panama City/Bay County

John Wheat
Wheat
A series of factors appears to favor Bay County's goals of building a stronger economy and lowering a year-end 10% unemployment rate. The county boasts the nation's first new international airport built in a decade, the $318-million Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, where traffic is running about 200% higher than at the airport it replaced, says Director John Wheat. New county economic development chief Neal Wade brings years of experience and plaudits for his track record in Alabama. The county has an abundance of developable property, says Wade, including St. Joe Co.'s VentureCrossings Enterprise Centre adjacent to the airport, with 1,000 commercial/industrial acres designated in the first phase — one of the largest available tracts in the Southeast for large-scale aviation projects.

Even St. Joe Co.'s revised strategy, crafted amid management transition and an earnings slump, could work in the county's favor. The company plans to focus on commercial real estate development, notably at the airport site.

Businesses to Watch

» ITT Exelis: The aerospace, defense and information solutions company will become the first tenant at VentureCrossings by year-end and will add 30 or more employees to its current 100 at Panama City in concert with the move and a recently announced $1.9-million Naval Sea Systems contract.

Bay Population: 172,941
Population Growth Rate (2008-12): 0.99%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
18.39% 5.84% 26.14% 34.56% 15.07%
Per Capita Income: $39,225

Fort Walton Beach/Okaloosa County

7th Special Forces Group
The 7th Special Forces Group has stepped up its presence in Okaloosa. [Photo: 7th Special Forces Group]

Okaloosa's economic mainstays, tourism and the military, fared well in 2011. Tourist-generated bed taxes were up 32% over 2010. The military presence is being ramped up by last year's arrival of some 2,200 7th Special Forces Group personnel, plus their families, and by the ongoing landings of the new F-35 fighters. Those factors contributed to stable employment and a relatively low unemployment rate.

Florida A&M's Crestview Education Center is scheduled to open in August, offering a pharmacy track and employing a staff of 15. Among startups at the county EDC's Combs campus Innovation Center at Fort Walton Beach are National Energy, a consulting firm led by former Air Force environmental scientist Dave Robau.

Pentagon budget-cutting is causing concern. "We're working to retain the Eglin mission, through our work with Eglin officials, our state representatives and our congressional delegation," says Larry Sassano, president of the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County.

Businesses to Watch

» North Eastern Aeronautical: The Maryland-based manufacturer and service provider for unmanned aerial systems has opened a Niceville office, a strategic location near military bases Eglin, Tyndall and Naval Air Station.

Okaloosa Population: 183,816
Population Growth Rate (2008-12): 0.28%
Population by Age:
0-14 15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
18.56% 6.15% 27.25% 33.43% 14.62%
Per Capita Income: $44,190

Tags: Northwest

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