Northwest Fla., Panhandle Business Briefs - July 2010
DESTIN — Okaloosa County Airport Systems administration finalized a master plan for the Destin general aviation airport, qualifying the airport for federal funding for proposed improvements. Top safety priority is an air traffic control tower. Also planned are resurfacing of existing runways and taxiways, noise abatement and additional parking.
PANAMA CITY BEACH — WonderWorks, a four-story interactive science museum designed to look like it’s upside-down and falling over, opens in early summer. It is the third of four similar attractions, including one in Orlando, developed by Orlando personal injury lawyer John Morgan.
PENSACOLA — A new elementary school being constructed with eco-friendly building materials and energy use — and a science lab on the roof — will replace two aging, pre-1940s-era schools. When completed in 2011, the $17-million school is expected to be Escambia School District’s first LEED-certified school. The curriculum will include introductory Spanish and Mandarin.
PENSACOLA BEACH — Musician Jimmy Buffett has launched the Margaritaville hotel brand at a $50-million, 162-room Gulf-front hotel opened recently by Little Sabine Inc. It was originally planned to bear the Indigo brand.
QUINCY — Gadsden County commissioners approved reopening the county-owned hospital under a lease agreement with Capital Regional Medical Center of Tallahassee, part of Hospital Corp. of America. The hospital was renovated after it closed in 2005, when former operator Ashford Health Care Systems filed for bankruptcy.
TALLAHASSEE — The city will include a version of a historic waterfall linked to the city’s founding that’s part of the 24-acre, $30-million Cascade Park, which also will function as a stormwater facility. Recent groundbreaking for construction followed more than three years of design, permitting and brownfields decontamination under the leadership of Blueprint 2000. The park is expected to open in 2012.
» The city utility’s Smart Grid metering system planned for launch this fall is expected to be first of its kind in the country to combine electric, natural gas and water services. The city received $8.8 million for the $40-million project from U.S. Department of Energy, a share of $3.4 billion being doled out in Smart Grid grants to some 100 utilities. Smart Grid thermostats will give customers more control over usage and utility cost.
» StarMetro has introduced Florida’s first hybrid paratransit bus, in partnership with the Florida Department of Transportation. FDOT funded the diesel-electric bus, used for non-scheduled transport for elderly and special needs users. StarMetro is providing quarterly reports assessing performance to be shared by FDOT with other state transit agencies.
» Construction of Florida State University’s aero-propulsion, mechatronics and energy building is under way at the southwest campus in Innovation Park. The $23-million, 60,000-sq.-ft. building will house advanced research in the three areas and is targeted for opening in late 2011.
» Florida State University has received a $2.5-million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for the Southeast Climate Consortium. FSU is the lead institution in the consortium, which works to improve methods for forecasting droughts and other extreme climate events in southeastern states, to help agricultural, forest and natural resource managers reduce risk of losses and environmental damage.