Northwest Florida Roundup
Moving ahead: St. Joe Co. is back in the development game
Jorge L. Gonzalez, the new president and CEO of St. Joe Co., says the 80-year-old company is poised to grow again after a challenging transition period.
A 14-year veteran of St. Joe, Gonzalez moved into the new role in November. He had served as senior vice president of development for the company, an iconic name in Florida’s development history and among the state’s biggest private landowners, with some 184,000 acres in northwest Florida.St. Joe, based near Destin, is revving up its residential development plans in 2016, Gonzalez says.
“We have active sales and home building in our residential segment, including Breakfast Point in Panama City Beach and our Southwood development in Tallahassee,” says gonzalez. “We’ve also been focusing on planning and developing active retirement communities.”
Longer term, the company will focus on a complex, 110,000-acre (171 square mile) sector plan involving a residential and commercial development in Bay and Walton counties. St. Joe received final local and state approvals for the Bay- Walton sector plan in 2015.
“We’re still very much in the planning phase,” says Gonzalez, who developed the plan. “We’ve not started any projects in that sector. We’re being very thoughtful about its planning and making decisions about what projects we start there.”
Gonzalez’s rise to the top follows a turbulent period for St. Joe. In 2014, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged the company with improper accounting procedures that resulted in “materially overstated” earnings and assets in 2009 and 2010.
Last year, the company settled the charges by agreeing to pay a $2.75-million civil penalty. In addition, St. Joe’s former CEO, Britton Greene, agreed to pay a $120,000 penalty and “disgorge ill-gotten gains” totaling $400,000.
“We’ve announced the settlement, and it speaks for itself,” says Gonzalez. “Beyond that, I can’t say anything else about it.”
SEC spokesman Ryan White says the commission has closed the St. Joe investigation.
Innovation App Know-How
App Innovators’ founder Dustin Rivest started the Tallahassee-based company four years ago. Since then he has seen its sales double every year. The company provides technical services for “people, businesses and associations that have ideas for apps but don’t know where to go,” says the 29-year-old CEO. With a staff of 18 coders and sales personnel, App Innovators has published more than 200 apps and has opened a second office in Maryland, Rivest says.
CHIPLEY — For the first time in more than a decade, an Amtrak passenger train stopped at Chipley Railroad Station. Amtrak and Southern Rail Commission officials are conducting a series of inspection tours to determine the feasibility of restarting Sunset Limited passenger service between New Orleans and Orlando and Jacksonville.
OKALOOSA COUNTY — GLO Airlines, a small regional carrier based in New Orleans, has begun non-stop service from Destin-Fort Walton Beach Airport to New Orleans and Little Rock, Ark. Las Vegas-based Allegiant Air will initiate commercial flights to St. Louis this month and to Cincinnati in June.
PANAMA CITY — Plans to deepen the shipping channel near the WestRock paper mill are moving forward, with both the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Florida Department of Environmental Protection backing the project.Port Panama City Director Wayne Stubbs says the state Department of Environmental Protection has issued a permit for the work.
PENSACOLA — Westwood Financial has purchased the Shoppes at Milestone. The $3.67-million deal marks the third Pensacola-area shopping center the company has acquired since 2014. MarineMax has acquired the Bahia Mar Marina on Bayou Chico in Pensacola. Starting in June, Southwest Airlines will offer non-stop Saturday-only flights from Pensacola International Airport to Dallas and Kansas City, Mo.
TALLAHASSEE — SMG, an entertainment and convention venue management company, and Huka, an event management company, have announced a partnership with the owners of Centre of Tallahassee Mall. Bought by Blackwater Resources in 2013, the mall property is undergoing renovations that include a 6,500-seat amphitheater and restaurants. Local business and academic leaders reached their goal of raising $2 million to bring JetBlue air service to the city’s commercial airport. Florida State University pledged $1 million.
Joel R. “Rick” Duke is the founding director of the University of West Florida’s Center for Entrepreneurship. He was director of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Economic Development Institute in Atlanta.
Thomas Stone is the CEO of Doctors’ Memorial Hospital in Perry. Stone, a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, was with Monroe County Hospital in Alabama.
Michael D. Hartline is the new dean of Florida State University’s College of Business. Hartline has been at the university since 2001 and has served as interim dean since last July.