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Northwest Florida Business Briefs - May 2006

CRESTVIEW --
» Ex-Atlanta Braves pitcher John Rocker, now striking business deals through his Southern Boys Investment Group, has purchased 63 acres in three parcels west of town. Plans call for townhouses in the low $200,000s.

ESCAMBIA COUNTY --
» The Environmental Protection Agency's $28-million plan to clean up the 26-acre Escambia Treating Co. Superfund site falls short of what the city and county had hoped for; the EPA proposes burying most of the contaminated soil rather than reducing the contaminant concentrations. Local government and business leaders, who want to redevelop the site and adjacent acreage for a commerce park, are exploring an idea of enhancing remediation through a partnership with an environmental contractor.

» Attorneys for former Escambia County Commission Chairman W.D. Childers have asked the First District Court of Appeals to review its recent decision upholding Childers' convictions for bribery and unlawful compensation. Childers, 72, a powerful politician during 30 years in the state Senate, could face 3½ years in prison on charges related to the 2002 county purchase of a soccer complex allegedly involving kickbacks.

» Voters have approved another 10-year extension of the 1-cent local option sales tax. The tax is expected to raise $437 million between 2007 and 2017 for projects including road and drainage improvements, construction of libraries and parks and a city theater expansion.

FORT WALTON BEACH --
» The Milken Institute has picked the Fort Walton Beach-Destin-Crestview metropolitan area as the nation's best-performing small city. The ranking is based on ability to create and sustain jobs.

MADISON COUNTY --
» An $8-million project is under way to provide water and wastewater utilities for businesses and residences at the interchanges of I-10 and three other highways in the county, plus along a proposed frontage road.

NORTHWEST FLORIDA --
» Florida's Great Northwest has received a $15-million grant to accelerate high-skill job creation. The grant is one of 13 new Workforce Innovation in Regional Economic Development grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Labor.

TALLAHASSEE --
» The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory will remain at Florida State University for at least five more years. The National Science Board accepted a renewal proposal from the lab's current operators rather than open a national competition for the next five-year cycle. The lab has been at FSU since 1990.

TAYLOR COUNTY --
» A federal judge's ruling has put on hold plans by Buckeye Florida's pulp mill to pipe wastewater into the Gulf of Mexico, part of a $95-million company cleanup project for the Fenholloway River. Clean-water advocates had claimed the plan could pollute Gulf waters. A Washington, D.C., district court judge ruled the EPA has jurisdiction over the permit, granted last year by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. An administrative hearing is scheduled for November.