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Northwest Florida Business Briefs - Sept. 2006

BAY COUNTY:

? The county will need six new schools by 2018 because of a growing population and the constitutional amendment limiting class size. Two scheduled for completion by 2008 will be located on donated land: From St. Joe Co., a K-8 school in Panama City Beach and from D&H Properties, which is developing a community in Lynn Haven, a K-5 school site.

MILTON:

? CitiFinancial, a division of Citigroup, will close its call center in east Milton by the end of October. Many of the 235 jobs will be moved to Fort Mill, S.C., where the company recently opened a 165,000-sq.-ft. facility to employ up to 1,600 workers, including transfers from other locations. The Milton service center, opened in 2004, has mainly handled collection efforts

NAVARRE BEACH:

? Beach leaseholders disputing Santa Rosa County property tax levies have lost another round in court, meaning the county will collect some $17 million in back taxes for 2002- 05. The issue stems from a decision by county property appraiser Greg Brown in 2001 to tax improvements on beach property on the basis that 99-year leases from the state, standard on the island, are tantamount to ownership. Circuit Judge Ron Swanson dismissed the mostrecent leaseholders' suit; an earlier suit over 2001 taxes similarly favored the county.

? LandBank Development Corp., based in Alpharetta, Ga., expects to start construction by year-end on its 25-acre Port Navarre project. The $400-million development will include four condo towers with 140 units each, a hotel, town homes, marina, restaurants and shops.

NORTHWEST FLORIDA:

? Gov. Jeb Bush has chartered the advisory Committee for a Sustainable Emerald Coast to evaluate and make recommendations regarding growth issues for Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa and Walton counties. Sen. Charlie Clary (R-Destin) will serve on the 25-member appointed body, which will include government, business and environmental representatives. More than a quarter-million people are expected to move to the area by 2030.

OKALOOSA COUNTY:

? Word that the Air Force is considering moving a portion of the 46th Test Wing from Eglin Air Force Base to Edwards Air Force Base in California is sparking concern over the potential loss of 700 or more military jobs, plus civilian contract positions, that would amount to an estimated $200-million annual economic blow. The move could partially negate an expected gain by 2012 of some 7,700 military and civilian jobs resulting from 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Commission decisions.

PENSACOLA:

? Hotel developer and aviator Julian MacQueen is building a $3.5-million jet center next door to Pensacola Regional Airport to pamper visiting and resident private jet owners.

PENSACOLA BEACH:

? Santa Rosa Island Authority has approved plans for a 620-room Caribbean-style resort to be developed by American Fidelity Life Insurance Co. of Pensacola on a Gulf-front site, formerly the location of a Holiday Inn. The three-phase project will include a 14-story hotel and a water park.

TALLAHASSEE:

? Florida State University will attempt to develop a new tool to more accurately predict hurricanes, using a $6.2-million, five-year grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. FSU's Center for Ocean- Atmospheric Prediction Studies will design the model.

TAYLOR COUNTY:

? The Air Force has dropped its pursuit of a long-range missile-testing site in the county or anywhere in the Big Bend area, says U.S. Rep. Allen Boyd (D-North Florida). Area residents adamantly opposed a test range, under consideration for three years. The Air Force has opted to expand capabilities of existing ranges rather than develop new ones, Boyd was told.