Northwest Florida Roundup
Plans for former Panama City airport site take off
Panama City will get its first master-planned village on former airport property.
Ever since plans were announced to close the Panama City-Bay County International Airport and open the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, developer Leucadia National had eyed the old airport property. After the airport closed in 2010, Leucadia paid $52 million to buy the 700-acre property and is building the city's first master-planned village, SweetBay — a pedestrian-friendly community with restaurants, retail and recreation.
Construction for phase one began in April, and homes will be available beginning next year. The first phase will have 260 single-family lots. University Academy, a K-5 charter school, will open in the renovated airport terminal building.
SweetBay incorporates aspects of New Urbanist-style development, emphasizing walkability, with public parks, trails and bike paths. "We really want to emphasize wellness," says Jacob Fish, director of development for St. Andrew Bay Land, Leucadia's local office. Homes will be coastal traditional and have elements of craftsman style.
The developers also planned the Baldwin Park community in Orlando and Rosemary Beach in Walton County, a luxury resort town with homes for mostly seasonal homeowners. SweetBay is being marketed to permanent residents, with home prices ranging from the low $200,000s to $400,000s, not including multifamily units.
When the seven phases of development are complete, SweetBay will have 3,200 single-family and multifamily units and 700,000 square feet of commercial space in the town center. The village plan also includes a marina with space for 140 wet slips and 240 dry stack storage units.
"While it's difficult to project the number of jobs created over the life of such a large project, we anticipate over 400 jobs to be created over the first phase of residential development alone," Fish says. "We believe SweetBay has tremendous potential to not only create jobs for local residents but also for those who want to relocate to this part of Florida."
Brian Clark is COO for BookIt.com, an online travel agency based in Panama City Beach. Clark previously worked for US Airways, Virgin America and Fly.com, a division of Travelzoo.
John Holdnak is the new president of Gulf Coast State College. Formerly executive vice chancellor of the Florida College System, Holdnak takes office following the retirement of President Jim Kerley.
CRESTVIEW - Carolina Aeronautical Airframe & Powerplant, based in Simpsonville, S.C., opened a branch center in the Okaloosa Industrial Air Park. The company specializes in the FAA Mechanic and Inspection Authorization Certification and offers other technical courses.
FORT WALTON BEACH - Fort Walton Machining, a manufacturer of aerospace and defense, oil and gas and hightech commercial products, won the 2014 Governor's Business Ambassador award.
NORTHWEST FLORIDA - Hancock Bank is closing five branches — three in Bay County, one in Fort Walton Beach and one in Shalimar. The bank will keep two remaining branches in Bay County and Marianna. The company says it made the move after reviewing where and how clients transact business in various markets.
PANAMA CITY - The Business Innovation Center partnered with the Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship, bringing the CEO Peer2Peer Group program to Panama City. The program provides a structured and confidential environment for executives to share knowledge and experience. Eastern Shipbuilding launched the Bravante VIII, a roughly $50-million vessel Eastern built for Brazilian company Boldini S. A., which will use the ship to service oil rigs off the coast of Brazil.
PENSACOLA - Sacred Heart Hospital's new five-story Bayou Tower, a $52-million hospital expansion project, is set to open this month. The addition was constructed on top of the existing threestory Heart and Vascular Institute and will provide an additional 112 private rooms. > The University of West Florida Innovation Institute launched the Center for Cybersecurity, providing a hub for research on cybersecurity and opportunities for students to move into high-demand career fields. > Beck Property broke ground on One51 Main, a mixed-used development at downtown Pensacola's Community Maritime Park.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY - Goldring Gulf Distributing, a beverage distributor representing 75 suppliers, broke ground in the Santa Rosa Industrial Park in Milton for its beverage distribution facility. Goldring will continue to operate its Panama City facility.
TALLAHASSEE - Locally owned Red Hills Broadcasting purchased four Tallahassee radio stations from Opus Media Partners, based in New York City. The cluster includes FM channels HANK 99.9, HOT 104.9, 103.1 The Wolf and 106.1 The Path. Construction is in the works on the Tallahassee Outpatient Clinic being developed for the Veterans Administration. The three-story, $55-million clinic is scheduled to be completed by the summer of 2016.
Profile: WestPoint Home
Bedding manufacturer WestPoint Home has a heritage that dates to 1813 and the beginnings of the industrialized textile industry. Most of the industry has moved abroad, but WestPoint's Chipley factory, in operation since 1983, still employs 260 and continues to supply major retailers in the U.S.
The company imports cloth from Bahrain and other countries to make an assortment of bedding products including bedspreads, quilts and pillows.
"Operationally, we're returning to a bottom line that makes you feel like there's a future," says Terry Ellis, vice president of U.S. operations for WestPoint.