Business Florida 2020 - The Regions
Bay • Calhoun • Escambia • Franklin • Gadsen • Gulf • Holmes • Jackson •Jefferson • Leon • Liberty • Okaloosa • Santa Rosa • Wakulla • walton • washington
Florida’s Northwest has long enjoyed an abundance of assets — sugar white beaches, bright blue Gulf waters, a heavy military presence. In October 2018, the people who live here added one more — resilience. Hurricane Michael took down houses, hotels, trees and power lines across much of the Panhandle, but it didn’t damage spirits. Northwest remains a great place to live and grow a business, with no shortage of space for new companies and, thanks to the 3,000+ military retirees who join the workforce here annually, plenty of skilled workers to staff them. Aviation, technology and logistics are among primary industries here.
Aviation and Defense
Florida’s Northwest is home to six major military installations, including NAS Pensacola, Eglin AFB and Tyndall AFB. Not only do these half-dozen facilities themselves account for some 56,000 military and civilian jobs, they are a magnet for more, drawing privately owned aerospace manufacturers, aircraft maintenance firms, suppliers and Department of Defense contractors to the region with job opportunities for highly skilled personnel.
One example is Singapore-based ST Engineering. Within four months of opening a 173,500-sq.-ft. maintenance and engineering facility large enough to accommodate two Boeing 777s or six Airbus A321 narrow-body aircraft at Pensacola International Airport in June 2018, ST Engineering announced plans to build a second 655,000-sq.-ft. MRO facility next door. Construction is expected to begin in 2022.
Two newly arrived aerospace manufacturing companies have found homes in Bay County. U.K.-based GKN Aerospace opened its first Florida facility in spring 2018 at VentureCrossings near Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. Three months later, Connecticut-based Advanced Composites & Metalforming Technologies (ACMT), which makes parts for commercial and military aircraft, announced plans to open a 159,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility in Lynn Haven. Both companies are looking to add 100+ staff members each in coming months.
KEY PLAYERS: BAE Systems, Farnborough, U.K.; The Boeing Company, Chicago, Ill.; Lockheed Martin, Bethesda, Md.; ST Engineering, Singapore
Logistics and Transportation
Florida’s Northwest is readily accessible by road, rail, sea and air. I-10 bisects this region from east to west providing easy connections to I-65, I-75 and I-95, which put 12 of the Southeast’s major metros and 58 million potential customers within an eight-hour drive. And streamlining freight delivery is a Class 1 CSX rail line connected to several short lines and to this region’s three deep-water ports.
Operations at Northwest’s busiest port — Port Panama City — slowed briefly in October 2018 with the arrival of Hurricane Michael, but fully resumed at the West Terminal within two weeks. And now, port improvements that had been anticipated before Michael are finally underway. The East Channel is being deepened to 36 feet in preparation for construction of the East Terminal, which will include a 260,000-sq.-ft. warehouse, 10,000 feet of rail track and a new 900-foot bulkhead.
At the Port of Pensacola, Offshore Inland Marine is busy converting the former cargo ship Stena Freighter to serve as a landing platform for the rocket boosters that will be shed as Blue Origin’s New Glenn lifts off from Cape Canaveral beginning in 2021. Once placed into service on Florida’s east coast, the vessel is expected to return to the Port of Pensacola for regular maintenance and repair and to homeport between rocket recovery missions.
The four commercial airports serving Florida’s Northwest are busier than ever, adding new destinations and logging unprecedented numbers of travelers. Total passenger count for the region topped 5.2 million in 2018, a 14.7% increase over the previous year. Pensacola International served the most passengers — 1.9 million in 2018 — and Northwest Florida Beaches International, the region’s newest airport, passed the 1 million mark for the first time, topping its 2017 numbers by 12.4%.
KEY PLAYERS: Eastern Shipbuilding, Panama City; FedEx, Memphis, Tenn.; Goldring Gulf Distributing, Milton