Florida TaxWatch Economic Commentary
Northwest Florida's opportunities for growth
A look at the region's economy
The Northwest Florida region, commonly known as the Florida Panhandle, is known for its spectacular beaches and resorts, and the region has a significant statewide impact thanks to tourism spending related to these natural assets. While the natural benefits of the area are justifiably famous, the region’s 16 counties are also home to three seaports, six military installations, many military contractors, and 1.4 million permanent residents.1
This area is also conveniently located for access to Georgia and Alabama markets, and other Southeastern states. This region has been experiencing an increase in economic development projects, and growth could accelerate even faster with the opening of the Airbus facility in nearby Mobile, Alabama, where assembly should begin in 2015.2
As a recent Florida TaxWatch report titled Ready for Takeoff: Florida Can Lead the Nation in Aircraft Manufacturing showed, the Panhandle is home to many Florida aviation manufacturing and service companies and six industrial air parks, all of which could benefit from Airbus activity in Mobile.
To capitalize on the recent Airbus announcement, much emphasis is being placed on trying to emphasize the location’s assets by Florida’s Great Northwest, the agency responsible for coordinating and developing leads for the area. The organziation has created a website for attracting more aerospace companies to the area (www.nwflaerospace.com), which details the benefits of the area, including the 23 existing companies in aerospace manufacturing, as well as a very diverse support industry that includes engineering, research and development, composite materials, air transportation and support, and other services for the industry including the maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) companies.
Just in the Aviation, Aerospace, and Defense sector, the website lists 571 companies located in the Panhandle area, which includes 21 companies in the National Defense category.3
Florida’s Northwest region has many other assets that can be used for further developing and diversifying the region’s economy. There are substantial military personnel, a well-developed infrastructure, cooperation between the state and local governments, economic development professionals, and private companies that are working to help the area become more economically diverse. These assets can also be used to provide new jobs to keep military retirees and graduates of Florida colleges and universities in Florida, thus providing higher returns to taxpayers on their educational investments.
1 The 16 counties that make up Florida’s Great Northwest: Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa, Walton, Holmes, Washington, Bay, Jackson, Calhoun, Gulf, Liberty, Franklin, Gadsden, Leon, Wakulla, Jefferson.
2 Airbus Website.
3 Northwest Florida Aerospace Website.
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