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News that Bing Energy is moving its headquarters from California to Tallahassee in order to collaborate with FSU on nanotechnology coincides with a trend of research-to-industry evolutions for Leon County, with four such conversions from FSU alone in the past year.

Florida's Big Bend Region

LEON COUNTY GOALS

> Focus on economic development and jobs. "That has taken the premier position in Leon County," says County Commission Chairman John Dailey.

> Continue to develop and enhance a "sense of place" in the three targeted areas of Timberlane Road/Market Street, Midtown, and South Monroe Street/South Adams Street in Tallahassee.

> Examine the potential for developing and marketing both existing and new commercial spaces on Tallahassee Regional Airport property, as part of crafting an overall vision for the Airport.

> Focus on assisting local small businesses, with particular emphasis on determining the city's role in providing such assistance.

Jobs
MSA DEC. 2010 DEC 2009 % Change Jobless Rate
Tallahassee 176,790
176,398 +0.2% 8.7%
Source: Agency for Workforce Innovation

Homes Single-family, existing-home sales by Realtors
MSA Jan. 2011 Sales 1-Year Change Jan. 2011 Price 1-Year Change
Tallahassee/ Leon 115
+64% $154,400 -14%
Source: Florida Realtors

Leon Population: 273,778
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 1.04%
Population by Age:
0-14
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
16.6% 8.5% 36.9% 28.2% 9.7%
Per Capita Income: $36,198

Cascade Park
Two complementary projects are helping to reshape Leon County. Cascade Park (rendering above) is the centerpiece of a $30-million project to recapture the natural beauty of an historic site despoiled decades ago by industrial usage. The 24-acre park, with a 4.25-mile greenway, will include biking and walking trails, an amphitheater and landscaped greenspace, and a cylindrical fountain recalling the original waterfall. Also under way is the $34-million Gaines Street Revitalization project (rendering below) — a mile-long stretch of Gaines Street being rebuilt as a pedestrian-friendly corridor between universities and downtown, meant to boost new-urban neighborhood redevelopment featuring public art displays, storefronts and live/work spaces.
Cascade Park

TALLAHASSEE / LEON County

batterStepping up to the Plate

> ROOKIE PLAYER: High Performance Magnetics — Tom Painter, an engineer with 20 years' experience at the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory, founded this enterprise in 2008 to provide high-quality superconducting magnet components to the commercial market. Superconductivity is becoming more commercially practical as the technology develops, he notes. The business employs six and could add three to 15 more employees within 18 months. Among his projects: High Performance Magnetics will be providing specialized high-field magnet cables to an international fusion experiment in France. Says Painter: "Fusion is a safe, clean, carbon-free and virtually inexhaustible energy source if it can be made to work cost effectively in an electrical power plant."

> EMERGING STAR: Red Hills Surgical Center — The center, scheduled to open last month, will fill a need for strictly outpatient surgical centers and address a shortage of operating rooms overall. It also will be unique, says its president, Dr. Duncan Postma — by providing an observation corridor where high school, nursing and medical students can watch surgical operations through a glass viewing window, aided by close-up cameras showing details.

Dr. Duncan Postma
Dr. Duncan Postma
The center is a partnership between Tallahassee Memorial Hospital and 35 physicians from several area practices. Among Red Hills benefits, says Postma: Efficient outpatient service, lower insurance costs, recruiting of medical personnel and some 30 new jobs.

> HEAVY HITTER: Capital Health Plan — Capital Health Plan put Tallahassee in the national spotlight when its Medicare Advantage Plan was ranked best in the country for 2010-11 by the National Committee for Quality Assurance. The non-profit healthcare provider is also an economic leader, with 430 employees working at two clinical locations and administration offices in Tallahassee. The health plan serves nearly 120,000 members — up 6,000 from last year — in Leon and five other nearby counties. Key to its growth and high rankings, says CEO John Hogan: "Be a well-organized, well-run system of healthcare, focus on what are your overall populations' needs and make sure treatment services are the kind of care folks really want."

playersImpact Players

Danny Langston
Danny Langston [Photo: Flightline Group]
> Danny Langston, CEO, Flightline Group — Danny Langston is now ramping up hangar space for lease by his regional aviation sales and service company, which provides tenants in the Compass Pointe development with runway access. Coming soon: HondaJet sales. Flightline is one of five U.S. dealerships recently named for the private aircraft, priced from $4 million, with sales to begin next year. Flightline starts construction this spring on a 15,000-sq.-ft. hangar, the $1.6 million first phase of its planned $8 million HondaJet Center.

> Ron Conry, founder, Danfoss Turbocor — In 2007, Danfoss Turbocor Compressors, a manufactuter of ultra-efficient, high-speed, oil-free compressors for HVAC systems, relocated to Tallahassee. The firm has since grown to employ about 170. Ron Conry, who developed the firm's technology, has now incorporated Verdicorp, currently employing 20 but with prospects for 100 employees within three years. "We generate electricity from heat that would normally be wasted — heat from biomass, solar, engines, a variety of sources," says Conry. "We buy components from Turbocor, assemble in different ways and sell them to another market."

> Kim Williams, entrepreneur — (photo below) Kim Williams has a knack for creating jobs — whether as owner, majority shareholder or partner in a half-dozen businesses or as chairman of Leon County/Tallahassee Economic Development Council. Among his enterprises: Marpan Supply, a heritage hardware firm; Marpan Recycling, an innovative spinoff that last year recycled nearly 72 million pounds of material, from concrete to mattresses; and leasing and industrial parks. He employs 90, including 12 added last year. And at the EDC? "We spend a lot of time growing businesses."

Paul Anderson
Entrepreneur Kim Williams is chairman of Leon's economic development council. [Photo: Marpan Supply]

Hamilton/Suwannee/ Madison Counties

Hamilton Population: 14,946
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 1.20%
Population by Age:
0-14
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
17.1%
5.8% 30.2% 33.2% 13.7%
Per Capita Income: $20,673

Hamilton Energy Resource Opportunities is developing the 50-megawatt Hercules solar power project on 450 acres of previously farmed land in Hamilton County's Enterprise Zone. It could start operating this year. The town of White Springs, which calls itself Florida's original tourist destination, is working on a cultural heritage and eco-tourism master plan for economic development revitalization, says Susan Ramsey, director of the Hamilton County Development Authority.

Suwannee Population: 41,161
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 1.05%
Population by Age:
0-14
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
19.2% 5.7% 23.1% 32.6% 19.3%
Per Capita Income: $28,173

This year could see fruition of a pair of major economic development projects in Suwannee County, one in agriculture, the other in green energy, says Dennis Cason, president of the Suwannee County Economic Alliance.

Madison Population: 19,154
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 0.23%
Population by Age:
0-14
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
18.6% 6.0% 27.2% 31.8% 16.4%
Per Capita Income: $25,220

In Madison County, a $30-million tourism destination is being developed on 4,700 acres of woodlands purchased in 2008 by entrepreneur Bob Williamson. Honey Lake Plantation, a resort and spa, will have 21 buildings and offer access to the 80-acre Honey Lake and the Little Aucilla River, says sales director Ted Ensminger.

Lafayette/ Jefferson/ Gadsden/ Wakulla Counties

Layfayette Population: 8,132
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 0.34%
Population by Age:
0-14
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
16.7% 5.1% 36.0% 29.5% 12.8%
Per Capita Income: $19,698

The RO Ranch, a 2,500-acre equestrian park and RV campground, was set to open in March in Lafayette County. It features more than 14 miles of trails and a visitors education center and is developed and managed by the Suwannee River Water Management District, which also owns 20,000 adjoining acres.

Jefferson Population: 14,417
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 1.00%
Population by Age:
0-14
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
16.1% 5.0% 22.8% 38.7% 17.4%
Per Capita Income: $31,541
Julie Conley
Julie Conley

Receipt of a Rural Infrastructure Fund Grant is making it possible for Jefferson County to implement a master plan and complete water, sewer, stormwater and transportation infrastructure for an industrial park. "Some empty storefronts downtown (in Monticello) will soon be occupied," says Julie Conley, executive director of the Jefferson County Economic Development Council, welcoming signs of an improving economy.

Gadsden Population: 47,885
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 0.61%
Population by Age:
0-14
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
20.5% 5.6% 26.2% 34.2% 13.5%
Per Capita Income: $29,264

The purchase and reopening of the nearly 30-year-old Quincy mushroom farm by Gamboa Bros. of West Grove, Pa., holds promise for 200 to 300 jobs in 2011. While many companies are still in survival mode, the economy has stabilized and inquiries are up, says David Gardner, executive director of the Gadsden County Chamber of Commerce.

Wakulla Population: 34,540
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 3.37%
Population by Age:
0-14
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
17.4% 5.8% 28.2% 35.1% 13.6%
Per Capita Income: $26,506
Kimberly Moore
Kimberly Moore

Kimberly Moore, past-president of the Wakulla Chamber of Commerce and also the CEO of the regional Workforce Plus, cites development of the Wakulla Environmental Institute by Tallahassee Community College as a promising initiative that's moving forward. A Wakulla group donated the land.

Taylor / Gilchrist Counties

Taylor Population: 21,672
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 0.85%
Population by Age:
0-14
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
17.1% 5.5% 29.0% 33.9% 14.5%
Per Capita Income: $26,553

Development plans long in permitting stages have received state approval, promising significant economic boosts for Taylor County, says Rick Breer, director of the Taylor County Development Authority. The Reserve at Sweetwater Estuary will be a golf resort development on 1,291 acres owned by J. Crayton Pruitt. Also approved was the county's updated comprehensive plan incorporating land-use planning by Foley Timber, the largest landholder in Taylor. Foley now can move ahead with development plans for some 45,000 acres, of which 14,000 will be for business use, says Bo Taff, the company's senior vice president for planning.

Gilchrist Population: 17,640
Population Growth Rate (2007-11): 1.05%
Population by Age:
0-14
15-19 20-39 40-64 65+
18.3% 7.6% 26.8% 30.8% 16.5%
Per Capita Income: $29,864

Kyle Stone
Kyle Stone
Broadband is the best thing going forward for Gilchrist — and likely for the entire region, says Kyle Stone, executive director of the Gilchrist Chamber of Commerce. The North Florida Economic Development Partnership will start bringing high-speed connectivity to 15 counties in the third quarter, aided by a $31.1-million grant from the Department of Commerce, says Jeff Hendry, partnership staffer at Florida State University.