BAY COUNTY — St. Joe Co. (NYSE-JOE) is launching VentureCrossings Enterprise Centre at West Bay, a 1,000-acre development within the 75,000-acre West Bay Sector, adjacent to Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. Blueprints call for 100 acres for retail, office and hotel use, 300 acres for light industrial and 600 for manufacturing, distribution and logistics companies seeking airport runway access. St. Joe will relocate its headquarters to a 50,000-sq.-ft. office building to be constructed there beginning this fall.
» Sallie Mae will close its student loan servicing center at Lynn Haven by late this year or early next year, eliminating about 700 jobs. The cuts, to begin this summer, are part of 2,500 the company plans nationwide as a result of new federal rules barring private companies from making student loans.
» The long-anticipated drawdown of F-15 aircraft has begun at Tyndall Air Force Base, a move expected to bring about the loss of up to 801 jobs as well as the departure of 48 F-15s by 2011. A total of 259 aircraft are being retired at 17 Air Force bases as a budgetary measure.
CRESTVIEW — North Okaloosa Medical Center has launched a $22-million, two-story expansion. Completion is targeted for spring 2011.
» Paul Hsu and Bob Keller have broken ground on Crestview Technology Air Park on Hsu’s 20-acre site, linked to an 8,000-foot runway at Bob Sikes Airport. A 33,800-sq.-ft. hangar will house Keller’s Sunshine Aero Industries, a flight test company and the park’s first tenant. Hsu is chairman of Hsu Enterprise Group, a green technology firm, and founder of several regional technology companies.
GULF BREEZE — Quint Studer, CEO of The Studer Group healthcare consulting firm and major investor in Pensacola’s planned Community Maritime Park, will relocate his company’s headquarters and its 60 employees to downtown Pensacola.
GULF BREEZE/PENSACOLA — Technology companies AppRiver and Avalex have canceled plans to build a $12-million office building at Gulf Breeze. Avalex, in Pensacola, couldn’t wait for the project’s completion to consolidate and expand operations, says President Tad Ihns, who’s now looking for a Pensacola site. AppRiver will remain in Gulf Breeze.
NORTHWEST FLORIDA — A federal judge has approved the reorganization plan of Freedom Communications of Irvine, Calif., which filed for bankruptcy last September with $770 million in debt. Freedom’s holdings total 33 dailies, 70 other publications and eight TV stations, including dailies in Panama City and Fort Walton Beach plus eight other northwest Florida newspapers.
PANAMA CITY — Hancock Bank is laying off 57 employees, about one-third of its workforce at the home office of the former Peoples First Community Bank. Hancock purchased the bank after federal regulators closed it.
PENSACOLA — Florida State Board of Education has approved Pensacola Junior College’s application to offer its first baccalaureate degrees, for majors in nursing and applied science, with classes starting next spring. A name change to Pensacola State College is planned.
» Pall Life Sciences recently added 40,000 square feet and 50 jobs. The 200-employee manufacturing plant also houses research and development laboratories and is a lead producer of “life science-grade” membranes.
» Lamar Advertising Co. will convert 1,370 of its billboards throughout Florida to solar or wind energy by April 2012.