Northwest Fla., Panhandle Business Briefs - October 2010
BAY/GULF COUNTIES — Bayside Savings Bank, based in Port St. Joe, and Coastal Community Bank, based in Panama City Beach, were closed and taken over by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. The two banks, with 13 branches combined, were sold to Centennial Bank of Conway, Ark., and reopened as Centennial Bank. Centennial earlier this year also acquired a bank in Orlando and one in Key West, both through the FDIC.
DEFUNIAK SPRINGS — Construction began in August on an 80-unit apartment complex, Arbours at Shoemaker Place, aided by $9 million in grants from the Florida Housing Finance Corp. and the State Housing Initiatives Partnership program. The $11-million project, to be completed next July, will dedicate 30 units to lower-income tenants.
ESCAMBIA COUNTY — Overhead Door Corp. will add 100 to 120 jobs at its manufacturing plant at Ellyson Industrial Park over the next 18 months as the plant takes over the bulk of production from an Athens, Ga., plant being closed. Overhead, a Texas-based garage door manufacturer, is a subsidiary of Sanwa Holdings, a publicly traded company based in Tokyo.
FORT WALTON BEACH — Eglin Air Force Base will bed down only 59 new F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, not 107 as expected, reducing personnel numbers and economic impact. Airspace limitation was given as the primary reason, but lawsuits filed by neighboring Valparaiso over noise levels have figured in the background. A recent Tri-County Growth Management Plan recommended banning new-home construction in Valparaiso because of the F-35 noise factor.
FREEPORT — Designers of the E.O. Wilson Biophilia Center at Nokuse Plantation received the 2010 AIA Design Award. Center designers were Wallrapp Architecture and Interior Design and pv+r. Buildings consist of an auditorium, nature center and classrooms housing interpretative exhibits about native wildlife and plants.
NORTH FLORIDA — U.S. Congressman Allen Boyd (D-Monticello) announced that the Florida Rural Broadband Alliance will receive nearly $24 million in federal funding to expand access to broadband internet in 23 north Florida counties. The new funding is Boyd's third announcement this year for internet expansion in the region, bringing the total to more than $90 million. Other recipients were Windstream Florida, $38 million, and North Florida Broadband Authority, $30 million.
PANAMA CITY — June's first-month passenger count through the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport was almost triple the year-ago number at the airport it replaced: 83,181 compared to 28,268. The $318-million airport opened May 23 with new service from Southwest Airlines and additional service from Delta.
» Business Facilities magazine ranked Panama City No. 1 among the nation's Top 10 Areas for Metro Economic Growth Potential in the under-200,000 population category. Cited as growth assets: Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, its adjacent 1,300 acres for future development and the airport setting within West Bay master-planned community.
PANAMA CITY BEACH — Sterling Resorts, a division of Dallas-based Encore Enterprises, bought 10 condominium properties at Panama City Beach from Waterstone Resorts. Sterling also manages and owns commercial spaces in four other condominiums in Panama City Beach and two in Destin, which were included when Encore purchased Sterling from a Destin developer in 2008. Encore also acquired management contracts for 200 rental homes last fall when it bought Beach Rentals of South Walton.
PENSACOLA — Gulf Power Foundation gave $200,000 to the University of West Florida to help equip the university's electrical engineering "Power Lab'' and fund curriculum. Gulf Power also helped with design of the lab in UWF's new science and engineering building.
» John Wyche, who in 2003 led the organization of Escambia County Land Trust for construction of low-income houses and who also started a charter school, was convicted of racketeering and unlawful financial transactions. He and an associate used more than $750,000 in state education money, housing grants and loans for personal use and to support a failing apartment investment. Only one house was built; the school closed in 2008; the apartment complex was foreclosed.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY — Clearwire Corp., a provider of wireless broadband services, will add up to 500 employees within three years at its East Milton customer service center, currently employing 500, which will make it the county's largest employer. The company will invest $2 million to retrofit 35,200 square feet of vacant space in its existing building.
TALLAHASSEE — Tallahassee Community College opened an Advanced Manufacturing Training Center to provide customized skills training for local manufacturing and industrial businesses. The Department of Defense and the U.S. Army Research Office provided a $1.8-million partial-funding grant.
» Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare directors and Florida State University College of Medicine plan to pursue a joint internal medicine residency program for the Big Bend region, with a goal of retaining more doctors for the region. The program could begin accepting applications for resident physicians in fall 2011. Tallahassee Memorial has had a family medicine residency program since 1973.