Northwest Florida Roundup
The Hsu Innovation Institute and NWF have opened an aviation training center at Bob Sikes Airport
The Hsu Innovation Institute, in a partnership with Northwest Florida State College’s Aviation Center of Excellence, recently opened a 27,000-sq.-ft. aviation training center at Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview.
The facility’s campus, which includes a large hangar and access to an 8,000-foot runway, will offer students several career training opportunities to compete for high-tech aviation and aerospace jobs.
“This partnership is just the start of much growth for the Bob Sikes Airport, and I believe there will be a couple of more phases to this project in the future,” says Paul Hsu, founder of the Hsu Innovation Institute.
NWFSC President Devin Stephenson says the goal over the next decade is to train several hundred students in FAA-certified airframe and powerplant mechanics and unmanned vehicle systems and to produce more pilots.
- The state’s Department of Economic Opportunity has cleared Escambia County’s plans to develop a 500-acre field adjacent the 316-acre Navy Federal Credit Union campus. The state’s approval authorizes the county to begin zoning and dividing the property for commercial, residential and professional uses. The property, located in the Beulah community some 10 miles northwest of Pensacola, was a former Navy helicopter training site recently acquired by the county.
- Site preparation and construction has begun on a downtown Pensacola revitalization project that includes a nine-story hotel, office buildings and restaurants. The project is being developed by Chad Henderson, CEO and founder of Catalyst, a local investment company.
- Triumph Gulf Coast has tentatively approved $15.9 million for Santa Rosa County to purchase land to expand its industrial park inventory. Shannon Ogletree, director of the Santa Rosa Economic Development Office, says and county’s three industrial parks can no longer accommodate largescale industries that need sites in the 40-to-60-acre range. Ogletree says several large companies recently expressed interest in locating in the county. To address this need, the county plans to spend some $36 million, which includes the Triumph grant, to build the Milton Interchange Industrial Park. Triumph was created by the Florida Legislature to distribute settlement money from the 2010 BP oil spill.
- Sen. Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze, says state officials are in preliminary negotiations to purchase the 3.5-mile Garcon Point Bridge from bondholders who financed the structure. Built in the 1990s, the bridge became a critical transportation link when the new $400-million bridge linking Pensacola and Gulf Breeze was severely damaged in 2020 by Hurricane Sally. During the storm, more than 22 large barges, owned and operated by bridge general contractor Skanska, broke loose from their moorings. It took Skanska nine months to repair the damage and reopen the bridge.
- Hitachi Cable America is closing its Florida plant in Pensacola and laying off more than 200 workers by the second quarter of 2022. The company is moving its Pensacola manufacturing operations to Mexico. The plant manufactures components and cables for anti-lock braking systems and hybrid vehicles.
- Construction is underway on an $80-million apartment complex in Navarre that includes six restaurant and retail spaces. Called Elevate Navarre and developed by Branch Properties of Atlanta, the complex will be constructed on 20 acres just off U.S. 98 near the bridge to Navarre Beach. Unincorporated Navarre in south Santa Rosa County is one of the fastest-growing communities in Northwest Florida.
- Escambia County’s newbusiness registrations soared nearly 70% through the first nine months of 2021. County records show slightly more than 2,100 businesses registered during the first three quarters of this year, compared to an average of 1,250 for the same period in 2020 and 2019.
- The board of Triumph Gulf Coast has approved $11.5 million to help fund Florida State University Panama City’s Advancing Science and Career Education in New Technologies (ASCENT) project. The ASCENT project will be funded over six years and is designed to meet Northwest Florida’s workforce needs through education and training opportunities with a focus on cyber-security.
- The University of West Florida Department of Music has received an $8.5-million endowment from the estate of Herman and Valerie Rolfs. The gift was made in early 2020 and just recently announced. While both Herman and his wife, Valerie, are now deceased, the gift was the largest single endowment from a living donor at the time.
Read more in Florida Trend's December issue.
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