Northwest & Big Bend Business Briefs - Feb. 2008
FORT WALTON BEACH —
» City Council has reached a funding agreement with Atlanta-based Emerald Coast Partners, for construction of downtown’s first parking garage. The 343-space, public-private garage will be attached to the developer’s planned Landmark Center, featuring downtown’s first five-story commercial building.
FRANKLIN COUNTY —
» A $41-million, 12-building Franklin County schools complex under construction near Eastpoint will open in August, consolidating elementary, middle and high school education and replacing three schools, located at Carrabelle, Eastpoint and Apalachicola. One motivator: Declining public schools enrollment, currently 1,066, down 159 from four years ago.
» Cornerstone Development Group, a subsidiary of Sterling Cos. of Destin, has broken ground on The Plantation at Freeport, a 4,000-acre residential, retail and business community.
» The Northwest Florida Water Management District governing board is buying 724 acres near West Bay from St. Joe Co. for $2,675 per acre, or about $1.9 million. The purchase is to protect water resources, restore habitat and compensate for wetland impacts of several Florida Department of Transportation road improvement projects in the rapidly developing St. Andrew Bay area.
» 84 Lumber company suspended its truss-manufacturing operations in Santa Rosa County Industrial Park, cutting about 40 jobs. An adjacent lumber retail store remains open.
NORTHWEST FLORIDA —
» The Federal Communications Commission has approved a $9.6-million grant to the Agency for Health Care Administration for a health information system using the Florida LambdaRail fiber-optic network. The system will link nine hospitals in eight rural counties to the Big Bend Regional Healthcare Information Organization in Tallahassee and the Escambia Health Information Network in Pensacola. The grant is part of the FCC’s Rural Health Care Pilot Program.
» John and Susan O’Connor have incorporated a geothermal heating and cooling system in their new McDonald’s, a first for McDonald’s operators in Florida. The system’s underground loops recycle water to move heat from the earth in winter and to the earth in summer. The O’Connors hope to save 15% to 20% of their monthly energy costs.
» The Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition received the U.S. Department of Commerce’s 2007 Excellence in Economic Development Award for technology-led economic development. The award recognizes “success and strategies in driving economic development by linking research, innovation, industry and technology transfers’’ and cites IHMC’s role as a talent magnet, creator of high-wage jobs and re-energizer for downtown
» Westbound lanes of the Interstate 10 bridge over Escambia Bay opened in December, marking the completion of the $245-million rebuilding project. Hurricane Ivan destroyed the bridge in 2004. Eastbound lanes opened in December 2006.
» The 2nd Judicial Circuit Court upheld the city’s controversial workforce housing ordinance that requires 10% of homes in developments of more than 50 units in specified areas to be affordable to families with 70% to 100% of median family income. The ordinance was challenged by home builders and property owners. The Florida Home Builders Association is appealing the ruling.
» State auditors gave a positive review of Florida A&M University’s 2006-07 financial reports and noted significant improvement in correcting problems outlined in the previous year’s audit. FAMU will remain on probation for the next six months, the accrediting organization, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, decided.