April 16, 2014

Development

Driving Growth

Charlotte Crane | 12/1/2010


"We've got to convince site consultants and target companies that northwest Florida is open for business and is business-friendly."

— Neal Wade

Neal Wade worked for the St. Joe Co. from 2000 until 2003, when he was appointed director of the Alabama Development Office. He's credited with creating 20,000 jobs annually in Alabama. Twice during his tenure, his office was named the country's top state economic development agency. Wade recently returned to St. Joe as senior vice president for economic development. Florida Trend spoke with him about the development of VentureCrossings Enterprise Centre adjacent to the newly opened Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport.

» VentureCrossings Prospects — "Northwest Florida has two major building blocks, military and aerospace — seven military installations and 1,900 aerospace and defense contractors. In addition, if EADS succeeds in building tankers in Mobile, their suppliers will be looking in Mississippi, Alabama and northwest Florida — and that's another chunk of business for us to go after. What's important for the region is the ripple effect. The more that happens in the region, the more the region is going to benefit."

» Strategy — "We'll focus on additional target industries and on-site consultants. We've got to convince site consultants and target companies that northwest Florida is open for business and is business-friendly. I don't think now we're getting as many prospects and looks as we need to be getting. We'll also focus on logistics; transportation infrastructure is important in the economic development process."

» Missing Links — "We need balance and diversity in our job base. We should look to growing jobs in aerospace, life sciences and technology as well as tourism. I grew up in southwest Alabama when the textile industry was primary — it's not there anymore."

» Bottom Line — "There's no question that VentureCrossings is very important to St. Joe, and as a regional catalyst.

St. Joe owns 300,000 acres within 40 miles of the new airport — that's enough opportunity to last for a long time."

St. Joe Update

» St. Joe owns 577,000 acres in Florida, mainly in northwest Florida. More than 300,000 acres are located within 40 miles of the new airport; approximately 404,000 acres are within 15 miles of the Gulf of Mexico.

» The company recently moved its headquarters from Jacksonville to WaterSound in Walton County and will be relocated to VentureCrossings when construction of offices there is completed.

» The company reported a loss of $33.2 million for the first three quarters of 2010, compared to a $71.4 million loss a year earlier.

Tags: Northwest

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