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Northwest Florida

Northwest at a Glance

North Central Florida

Demographics for the Northwest region can be found at Business Florida's interactive map of Florida.

Universities/Colleges
• Chipola College
• Florida A&M University
• Florida State University
• Gulf Coast State College
• Northwest Florida State College
• Pensacola State College
• Tallahassee Community College
• University of West Florida

Airports
• Bob Sikes
• Northwest Florida Beaches International
• Northwest Florida Regional
• Pensacola International
• Tallahassee Regional

Seaports
• Port Panama City
• Port of Pensacola
• Port of Port St. Joe

Northwest Florida’s natural springs and sugar white beaches have long made this region a popular vacation destination. But along with a thriving tourist industry — that in 2012 increased by an average of 15% across many counties — Florida’s Panhandle boasts a strong Aviation/ aerospace/ defense sector and, as the home of Florida State University, one of two officially designated preeminent research universities in Florida, a reputation for cutting-edge R&D activity.

Businesses in Northwest Florida enjoy easy access to key southeastern growth markets via interconnected highways, railroads and shipping lines. At Port Panama City — the largest of three seaports serving the region — cargo was up by 3% in 2012 over 2011 and a 150,000-sq.-ft warehouse for the storage and distribution of import/export products is under construction.

To further boost economic activity, Gulf Power is spear-heading — and partially paying for — a program to get industrial sites project-ready and certified. By clearing the land, installing some utilities and jumpstarting the permitting process, these vacant sites will become more appealing for development.

WHO LIVES HERE

Military 44,000 highly trained military personnel are on active duty at six Air Force and Navy installations across the region, and an estimated 6,000 retire from military service here each year, often seeking second careers and bringing the strong work ethic and advanced technical skills they acquired while in military service to area employers.

Students and young professionals 103,000-plus students are enrolled in the region’s eight colleges and universities and, it seems, a good share of them join the workforce following graduation. From 2005 to 2010, the number of 25- to 34-year-olds living in Tallahassee alone grew by 20%, thanks to the capital city’s quality of life, jobs and social opportunities.

QUALITY OF LIFE

Changing cityscapes In Tallahassee, the $30-million Cascades Park, with its 1,500-seat canopied amphitheater, opened in 2013. In Panama City, the downtown marina is adding a visitor center, pavilion and lighthouse. In Pensacola, hotels and office buildings are planned alongside the 5,000-seat ballpark where the AA Blue Wahoos play. And in downtown Fort Walton Beach, the planned "LandmarkCenter" will include a hotel, condos and 36,000-sq.-ft. of restaurant, retail and office space.

Wonders down under and beside the seaNorthwest Florida’s Gulf Coast is legendary for its beauty and recreational amenities. For divers, there’s the Panhandle Shipwreck Trail, 12 underwater wrecks from Pensacola to Port St. Joe, and for beachcombers, St. Joseph Peninsula State Park in Gulf County was recently ranked No. 1 on a list of the nation’s best state parks from americasbestonline.com for its striking dune formations and white sand beaches.

ECONOMIC LIFE

Research & Development
• The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory: Adding a new laser tool for cutting-edge optical experiments in materials research with $3 million in National Science Foundation grants.

• Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition: Developing a human-like robot for deployment in hazardous environments, using a $5.78-million NASA grant.

• High-Performance Materials Institute: Selected by the Department of Veterans Affairs to lead a $4.4-million project to develop multi-functional sockets for prosthetic limbs.

Technology
• In June 2013, Global Business Solutions Inc., announced a five-year plan to expand its corporate headquarters in Pensacola and add 120 employees. GBSI employs 110 IT professionals in eight states for delivery of services and technical training to government and commercial customers.

Aviation/Aerospace/Defense
• Region-wide, approximately179,000 jobs depend on Department of Defense spending, including those held by workers at more than 500 private-sector Aviation, aerospace and defense companies. European aerospace giant Airbus will begin production of its A320 aircraft at a new $600-million assembly plant in nearby Mobile, Al., in 2015.

• L-3 Crestview Aerospace is investing $13.7 million to upgrade and retrofit hangar space at Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview; 340 new jobs are expected.

NOTABLE ADDITIONS/EXPANSIONS

Financial services On the heels of its August 2012 announcement to create 640 jobs and invest $6.5 million in Northwest Florida, Navy Federal Credit Union plans to add another 1,500 jobs and two new buildings at its Pensacola campus.

Logistics/distribution MarJam Supply, a New York-based, 12-state building materials distributor with a site in DeFuniak Springs, will invest $315,000 and create 12 jobs at a new facility in Santa Rosa Beach.

Manufacturing Pennsylvania-based prefabricated home manufacturer Priton has opened its first Florida plant in Milton with 30 workers and the promise of hiring 200.

NOTABLE EMPLOYERS

Aviation/Aerospace/Defense
• The Boeing Company Eglin AFB
• DeTect Panama City
• DRS Technologies Fort Walton Beach

Manufacturing
• Home Source International Marianna
• Majestic Candies Pensacola
• Mowrey Elevator Company Marianna

Energy/Environment
• Bing Energy Tallahassee
• GE Energy Pensacola
• Green Circle Bio Energy Cottondale

Technology/R&D
• AppRiver Gulf Breeze
• Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition Pensacola
• Global Business Solutions Pensasola
• High-Performance Materials Institute Tallahassee