BAY COUNTY — Southwest Airlines has signed a three-year deal with St. Joe Co. to begin service in May to the new international airport in Bay County, surrounded by some 71,000 acres of St. Joe holdings. In exchange, St. Joe will reimburse the airline for losses at the airport up to $14 million per year. The deal rules out Southwest service to nearby Northwest Florida Regional Airport in Okaloosa County for the term and dampens immediate prospects for Pensacola Gulf Coast Regional Airport. All three airport communities had been courting Southwest.
» The new Bay County airport will get an inline baggage system, courtesy of a $4-million grant from the Transportation Security Administration. The system enables passengers to turn in their luggage at the airline ticket counter rather than taking it to TSA inspectors. The system is in use so far at only 20% of U.S. airports.
CALHOUN COUNTY — The economy grounded the proposed Sky project, a 571-acre European-styled community near Clarksville, developers said as the site reverted to its lender, Farm Credit of Northwest Florida, in a courthouse auction. Farm Credit, owed $925,323 in developer default, claimed the site with a $600,000 bid.
PANAMA CITY — Gulf Power Co. is researching technologies for conversion of its 44-year-old Plant Smith to biomass fuel. Two of the plant’s four units burn coal; the others, natural gas and oil. The conversion could mean additional jobs by creating a market for wood chips, Gulf Power says.
PENSACOLA — Hank Gonzales, a one-time SunTrust Bank city president and recent leader of a bank startup effort, has signed on as market president for Panama City-based Summit Bank’s recently opened Pensacola bank, its fifth branch. Gonzales and a group of investors recently halted a two-year effort to capitalize Performance First Business Bank, planned for Pensacola, blaming market conditions.
» Southeastern Archaeological Research has opened an office in Pensacola, its fifth in the state. The Newberry-based company, which provides surveys, investigates sites for development or potential archaeological exploration and performs site excavation, will do two projects at Pensacola Naval Air Station plus maritime exploration and local work for Department of Transportation.
» Since acquiring Georgia-based Hy-Lite Products this spring, U.S. Block Windows has moved Hy-Lite’s vinyl extrusion purchases and acrylic block manufacturing out of China, consolidating the operations in Pensacola and Ohio. The extra production added some 35 employees at Pensacola, nine related to the China pullout. U.S. Block Windows is owned by Hampshire Equity Partners in Greenwich, Conn.
» The Air Force 479th Flying Training Group, newly activated at Pensacola Naval Air Station, will provide yearlong primary flight instruction to some 360
students per year, beginning in May. It’s the base’s largest Air Force contingent, predicted to make a
$50-million-plus annual economic impact.
TALLAHASSEE — Florida State University has dedicated a $575,000 solar-powered house — OGZEB (off-grid, zero-emissions building). It is testing hydrogen use for cooking and for creating nighttime and rainy-day electric power.