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Bounding Forward

Northwest

Fort Walton Beach was named among USAA’s top 10 best places in the U.S. for veterans to become entrepreneurs; 6,000 personnel retire from military service region-wide each year.

48% of residents over age 25 in Florida’s capital city Tallahassee have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to the U.S. average of 30%.

  • Population / 1,459,145
  • Labor Force / 666,854
  • Households / 592,128
  • Total Earnings / $33.56 bil.
  • Median Per Capita Income / $33,971
  • Total Retail Sales / $20.45 bil.
  • Universities/Colleges / 9
  • Commercial Airports / 4
  • Seaports / 3

Renowned for its clear blue water and white sandy shores, Florida’s northwest region abounds with opportunity in all industry sectors and the skilled workforce needed to meet their demands.

ECONOMIC ACTIVITY

Aerospace/Defense

BAY COUNTY GKN Aerospace will create 170 jobs with the opening of its first manufacturing facility in Florida at VentureCrossings near Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. The U.K.-based firm with more than 60 locations and 17,000 employees worldwide is a leading builder/supplier of the advanced aerospace systems, components and technologies used in helicopters, compact business jets and the largest passenger planes.

PENSACOLA VT Mobile Aerospace Engineering broke ground in fall 2016 for a hangar at Pensacola International Airport. The maintenance and engineering facility – large enough to accommodate two Boeing 777s or four 757s or six Airbus A-320-sized aircraft — is expected to open in early 2018 and create 400 jobs.

PANAMA CITY In fall 2016, Eastern Shipbuilding was awarded the U.S. Coast Guard’s largest-ever vessel procurement contract — a $10.5-billion deal — to build 25 next-generation Offshore Patrol Cutters. Construction is expected to begin in 2018. Eastern currently provides jobs for more than 1,500 workers, but expects to hire additional craftsmen, engineers and administrative staff at full ramp-up of the contract.

MARIANNA To accommodate growth in sales of its kit helicopter products, Safari Helicopter has moved into a larger building at Marianna Municipal Airport and expects to grow its workforce from nine to 20.

TALLAHASSEE Faculty and students at Florida A&M University (FAMU) are assisting Lockheed Martin with NASA’s Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle Program and other projects. Over the next five years, Lockheed Martin will provide up to $5 million in funding to FAMU by commissioning work related to space exploration. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor building the Orion crew vehicle, NASA’s first spacecraft designed for long-duration, deep space human exploration. FAMU is the first historically black college or university to participate in these efforts.

Key Players

The Boeing Company | Fort Walton Beach
InDyne | Fort Walton Beach
Lockheed Martin | Fort Walton Beach
On-Point Defense Technologies | Fort Walton Beach

Defense activities account for one-third of northwest Florida’s economy and nearly 182,000 combined military and civilian jobs. Located in this region are: Eglin Air Force Base, the USAF’s largest by area and, alone, home to 38,000 personnel; Tyndall Air Force Base; Hurlburt Field; Whiting Field; and Naval Air Station Pensacola, where the legendary Blue Angels train and the National Museum of Naval Aviation attracts 1 million visitors annually.

Northwest

ECONOMIC ACTIVITY (continued)

Life Sciences/Health Care

PANAMA CITY Medical technology firm Jellyfish Health is expanding operations and creating 100 jobs. The new positions will focus on the development of mobile technologies that reduce wait times for patients and allow health care facilities to position staff and other resources for maximum efficiency and a more positive patient experience.

MARIANNA Jackson Hospital doubled its pre-operative reception and post-operative recovery capacities with the opening of a 9,500-sq.-ft. operating suite in spring 2017. Also up and running, two off-site Jackson Hospital centers: Chipola Quick Care and Chipola Wound Healing & Hyperbaric Medicine, adding more than 8,000 square feet and 16 jobs in Washington County.

TALLAHASSEE Construction continues at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare’s $250-million M.T. Mustian Center. The five-story addition featuring 28 operating suites and 72 adult medical/surgical intensive care beds, is expected to open in early 2019.

SANTA ROSA COUNTY Sacred Heart Health System has opened two new facilities in Gulf Breeze: The Gulf Breeze Pediatric Care Center offers outpatient pediatric rehabilitation and an autism outreach center; the Tiger Point Medical Park provides a full spectrum of outpatient care for adults.

PACE Baptist Health Care opened its fourth area-wide medical park in May 2017 — the 23,000-sq.-ft. Baptist Medical Park-Pace, including family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, rehabilitation, imaging and laboratory services.

PENSACOLA West Florida Healthcare’s $10-million freestanding Perdido Bay Emergency Room has opened on the west side of Escambia County, offering 11 private patient beds, a laboratory and diagnostic imaging services.

Key Players

Baptist Health | Pensacola
Sacred Heart Health Systems | Pensacola
Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare | Tallahassee
West Florida Healthcare | Pensacola

Continuing to take shape on the campus of Sacred Heart Hospital Pensacola is the $57-million Studer Family Children’s Hospital. When completed in 2019, the four-story structure will include a pediatric emergency department, neonatal and pediatric intensive care units and a pediatric oncology unit as well as a pharmacy and pediatric inpatient rehabilitation gym.

 

Manufacturing

TALLAHASSEE Danfoss Turbocor has opened its Application Development Center, a state-of-the-art lab for testing residential and commercial air-conditioning compressors and heat pumps.

GULF BREEZE Thanks to a $50,000 award from Innovation Coast, a startup manufacturer of eating utensils and bowls for infants and toddlers is expanding its headquarters. Num Num founders Jessica and Doug Gonterman are moving operations out of their home to downtown Pensacola. Launched in 2013, the firm’s clients include Nordstrom and Buy Buy Baby. Innovation Coast is a Pensacola-based nonprofit entity that promotes and supports entrepreneurship.

MARIANNA Catalyst Fabric Solutions, a manufacturer of bed furnishings, towels, decorative pillows and other home décor items, has begun production in a 270,000-sq.-ft. building in Marianna Industrial Park and is creating 100-150 jobs.

Key Players

Armstrong World Industries | Pensacola
Danfoss Turbocor | Tallahassee
Hitachi Cable America Florida plant | Pensacola
Jupiter Composites | Pensacola

Fabbro Marine Group, maker of Cape Horn offshore boats, has expanded its 78,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility at Santa Rosa Industrial Park East in Milton. Fabbro is the first company to build on one of Gulf Power’s Florida First Sites. Florida First Sites are certified, project-ready industrial sites for which due diligence has been completed to minimize risk and accelerate speed to market.

Northwest

ECONOMIC ACTIVITY (continued)

Tourism

PANAMA CITY BEACH Two new hotels have opened along the beach and within walking distance of the Pier Park shopping/entertainment complex — a 157-room Holiday Inn Express and a 182-room Hampton Inn & Suites. Coming soon: the 260-room SpringHill Suites by Marriott.

DEFUNIAK SPRINGS The historic downtown Hotel DeFuniak is getting a well-deserved makeover. Plans call for the 100-year-old property to be returned to its original grandeur as a “New York-style, high-end vintage boutique hotel.” No opening date has been set, but 20 new jobs are anticipated.

Key Players

Edgewater Beach & Golf Resort | Panama City Beach
Innisfree Hotels | Gulf Breeze

The lure of year-round sunshine and lazy afternoons spent at sidewalk cafes continues to make tourism big business in five northwest coastal counties. Bed taxes collected in Bay, Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton topped $74 million in 2016, a 6% increase over 2015.

 

Business/Financial Services

TALLAHASSEE The Thomasville, Ga.-based Senior Life Insurance Company has selected Tallahassee-Leon County as the location for its first expansion into Florida; 30 full-time jobs are expected.

TALLAHASSEE The 200 employees of a Tallahassee-based insurance group consisting of Southern Fidelity & Causality, Capitol Preferred Insurance Company and Southern Fidelity Insurance Company have moved to a three-story, 55,000-sq.-ft. building in order to make room for a new title insurance company.

Key Players

CHCS Services | Pensacola
Navy Federal Credit Union | Pensacola
West Corporation | Pensacola

Navy Federal Credit Union continues work on an expansion that will add 1.1 million square feet and another 5,000 employees at its Pensacola campus by 2019. The Virginia-based credit union — largest in the world and consistently named among the nation’s best companies to work for by Forbes — expects to have a $1-billion investment in Pensacola, a $425-million payroll and 10,000 employees locally by 2026

 

Logistics/Transportation

PANAMA CITY Panama City Port Authority and WestRock, a corrugated packaging company, have combined forces to double the port’s cargo capacity with the addition of 41 acres and a second terminal. At its intermodal distribution center, the port has added 100,000 square feet to its existing 150,000-sq.-ft distribution warehouse.

WALTON COUNTY A FedEx Ground distribution center opened in September 2016 in Mossy Head Industrial Park. The new facility, just off Interstate 10, is about four times the size of the facility it replaces. Current employment is nearing 300.

MIDWAY Four Star Freightliner has opened a dealership in Gadsden County with proximity to Interstate 10. In addition to creating 10 jobs, the firm will partner with the Gadsden Technical Institute on a diesel technician training program.

OKALOOSA COUNTY Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport logged the highest passenger count in its 60-year history in 2016, an 18% increase over 2015. With the recent addition of Allegiant service to 11 destinations, officials expect next year to break the 1 million mark.

PENSACOLA Improvements at the Port of Pensacola’s Warehouse 9 include a “high hat” bay with 30-foot+ hook height to support overhead bridge cranes with 30-ton capacities, and installation of three 120-amp, 440-volt electrical outlets to provide incoming vessels with more energy efficient power sources while in port.

Key Players

Eastern Shipbuilding | Panama City
Gold Ring Distributing | Milton and Panama City
Linea Peninsular | Panama City

 

Technology

Using a Mina v2 exoskeleton developed by the Pensacola-based Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition, Mark Daniel, who is paralyzed from the waist down due to a spinal cord injury, performed everyday tasks — like walking up/down stairs and sitting down/standing up from a sofa — well enough to earn IHMC a second-place medal in the “powered exoskeleton” division of an international competition for disabled athletes and their wearable robotics.

LIFE & LEISURE

Capital matters
Florida’s Legislature, consisting of the 120-member House of Representatives and 40-member Senate, convenes in regular session for 60 consecutive days each spring at the State Capitol in Tallahassee; starting dates may vary and sessions are open to the public.

Florida House of Representatives, opening session in 2017

Down home appeal
With natural springs and abundant pine forests, Florida’s northwest is a natural draw for tourists seeking a respite from mega-theme parks and city bustle. Unique sights here include the old and new state capitols in Tallahassee; the underwater Panhandle Shipwreck Trail; Florida’s highest natural point, Britton Hill (345 feet tall!); alleged site of the real Garden of Eden in Liberty County; and practice runs by the Blue Angels precision flying team over Pensacola Beach.

Legendary beaches
Northwest Florida beaches never fail to delight. Stephen Leatherman (aka Dr. Beach) ranked Walton County’s Grayton State Park Beach No. 4 on his 2017 list of America’s best beaches, and on TripAdvisor’s “2017 Top 25 Beaches, U.S.,” the Beach at Panama City and Pensacola Beach were No. 5 and No. 7. What makes them special? Sugar white sand made from quartz crystals bleached and polished over centuries of washing down from the Appalachians to the sea.

Live and learn
Higher education venues in Northwest Florida include: Florida State University, No. 49 among universities worldwide for patents granted in 2016 (48 in all); Florida A&M University, ranked 7th among historically black colleges/universities by U.S. News & World Report in 2016; and University of West Florida, recently named the National Center of Academic Excellence Cybersecurity Regional Resource Center for the Southeast region by the National Security Agency. Also of note: two Tallahassee high schools that earned gold medals in U.S. News & World Report’s “2017 Best High Schools” rankings.

FAMU students in front of historical marker