Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

Aero-Dynamics: Bay County welcomes GKN Aerospace

Bay County’s recent success in landing a $50-million aerospace manufacturing facility started with a knock on Becca Hardin’s door.

After Hardin, president of the Bay County Economic Development Alliance, moved into her Panama City home two years ago, a neighbor, Paul Cocker, came by with his wife to welcome her and her husband. “We got to talking. I asked him what he did,” says Hardin. “He said, ‘I just retired from GKN Aerospace.’ ”

Hardin, who has extensive experience in aviation industry recruitment, eventually learned that Cocker had been CEO of the North American subsidiary of GKN, a U.K. aerospace company with some 28,000 employees worldwide.

Hardin invited Cocker to accompany Bay County’s economic development delegation to the International Paris Air Show as a consultant. While in Paris, Cocker set up a meeting between Bay EDA officials and Daniele Cagnetel, CEO of GKN North America at the time.

“We told him where we were, what we were and what we did,” says Hardin. “And he (Cagnetel) said, ‘Well, we have a project that we need a location for.’ ”

Eighteen months later, the Bay EDA announced that GKN would move into a 130,000-sq.- ft. building later this year. The company, which received $3.78 million in incentives, will lease the building — now under construction — from Bay County and will create 170 jobs for skilled workers.

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