Northwest Florida - Brimming with Possibilities
Florida's Northwest grows new business on solid military, aviation and tourism roots
Santa Rosa County
Rapid Job Growth
When Eagle Group of Atlanta selected Santa Rosa County as the site for Jubilee, the company’s biggest project and one of this region’s largest new-town plans, Chairman Ron Reeser said a major consideration was the county’s rapid rate in adding jobs — some 2,140 last year. Forested rolling hills provide the setting for the 4,200-acre project, which will contain some 10,000 homes, plus retail, education and healthcare facilities.
Adding to Santa Rosa payrolls in a big way is Clearwire, the Kirkland, Wash.-based provider of wireless broadband service, which will hire 400 to staff its technology service center in Milton.
Milton is also home to The Ropella Group, which began in 2004 with Patrick Ropella’s decision to relocate his two-person, at-home business from Chicago. With a staff of 20 and growing, that company is today one of the nation’s largest chemical industry recruiting firms and will soon be housed in a $1-million, 7,500-square-foot headquarters. Low taxes and favorable business incentives make Florida an ideal location, says Ropella.Building better healthcare systems
Founded in 1999, Studer Group, a healthcare consulting firm based in Gulf Breeze, is earning worldwide acclaim for its efforts to make healthcare systems, hospitals and medical groups better for employees, physicians and patients. Through onsite meetings and industry speaking events, CEO Quint Studer and his staff coach healthcare leaders throughout the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and Australia. From early 2006 to mid-2007, employment at Studer Group swelled from 89 to 122; by year-end, it’s expected to grow another 30%.
Walton County’s coastal panorama includes Seaside, the original model for the New Urbanism movement; Sandestin, a vacationer’s mecca; and St. Joe Co. luxury resorts, WaterColor and WaterSound, nestled between pines and dunes. In the more rural north, developers are adding to the stock of affordable housing and business space; developer John Finch this spring launched the 23-acre Alaqua Park near Interstate 10 to provide commercial and industrial sites.
The Sterling Companies has begun laying infrastructure for Plantation at Freeport, a 10- to 20-year project on 3,600 acres, to provide retail space, middle-income residences and healthcare facilities, plus a business and technology park.
Proof of Walton’s sound economy: At just 1.9%, it claims the state’s lowest unemployment rate.A Growing Healthcare Hub
As home to six hospitals, a state research institute, several upper-level medical training programs and the new Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, Florida’s western-most city of Pensacola is becoming the place for patients needing treatment, athletes sharpening their performance skills and research-driven companies seeking synergy.
- Argentina’s national rugby team, Pumas, spent two weeks training at the Andrews Athletes’ Performance Florida center in preparation for the 2007 World Cup.
- Pensacola Junior College’s Center for Patient Simulation Training and Research — a model center with nine high-fidelity simulators — recently attracted a guest-faculty visit from Harvard University staff who conducted an instructor workshop for Florida universities and healthcare professionals.
- Actigraph, inventor of a device that monitors human activity levels and caloric burn rate, moved this year to Pensacola for its research environment and proximity to Andrews Institute, a potential research partner. The Actigraph device is used in obesity control, fitness, sports and executive health programs.