Photo: Colin Hackley
2015 Economic Yearbook - Big Bend
Targeting air service
Trends Transportation: Near the top of the list of economic development goals for the region this year is improved air service. "The one thing that residents, legislators and visitors consistently complain about is the lack of flights in and out of Tallahassee Regional Airport," says James Miller, vice president of the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce (who has since left for the Florida Retail Federation). Miller cites some progress: Silver Airways last year launched direct daily service to Fort Lauderdale. The airport also is seeking an international designation from the FAA that would lead to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility on site. Such a designation would give the airport the ability to process freight and passengers from foreign countries and allow direct general aviation flights from overseas.
Investment: Leon County voters overwhelmingly passed a penny sales tax extension in late 2014. The tax is projected to generate some $1.2 billion over its 20-year life and fund several major improvement projects.
Higher Ed: Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College will continue to play an increasingly larger role in developing work force training and attracting business and industry to the area, say local civic leaders.
Person to Watch
Mayor Andrew Gillum: A former Tallahassee city commissioner, Gillum became mayor in November 2014, succeeding John Marks. Considered a rising political star in Florida, the 35-year-old Gillum is working closely with business leaders to expand and enhance the city's economic development initiatives.
Business to Watch
TeligentEMS: The Tallahasseebased company employs 200 and specializes in manufacturing complex communications, industrial, aerospace and medical products, including emergency locator transmitters for aircraft, GPS tracking devices and traffic control and surveillance equipment.
Hamilton/ Suwannee/ Madison Counties
Pilot Plaza: A $7-million Pilot Travel Center plaza opened in Hamilton County late last year.
The center, at I-75 and State Road 6, employs about 80 and was partially funded by a $500,000 incentive from the Hamilton County Development Authority. "It's a big investment for us, and it will have a big impact on our county," says Susan Ramsey, executive director of Hamilton County Development Authority.
Mill Work: The $130-million Klausner Lumber One sawmill is completed, according to Suwannee County officials, and begins operations with more than 100 permanent jobs, increasing to 350 over a three-year period.
If They Build It ...: Madison County leaders are discussing the advisability of constructing a large spec building at Madison Industrial Park. Having a facility designed to modern specifications helps put a community in the forefront of site selections, officials say. Business leaders also are working closely with North Florida Community College to develop advanced work force training courses to support existing industry and to lure new firms. Madison economic development consultant Crawford Powell is putting together a plan that could lead to the designation of a food services park on property near I-10.
Jefferson/Gadsden/ Wakulla Counties
Sportsplex: Jefferson County commissioners are considering a proposed $10 million-to-$16 million sportsplex at I-10 and State Road 59. "The county would develop the outdoor complex with soccer and lacrosse fields and softball and baseball facilities," says Julie Conley, executive director of the county's Economic Development Council. The private sector is expected to develop the surrounding land with hotels, restaurants and other retail. "The county commission will be weighing the risks versus the benefits of building the sportsplex," Conley says.
Work Force Training: A key focus in 2015 is developing and marketing Gadsden County's transportation assets, says Development Council Executive Director Beth Kirkland. The county has four interchanges along I-10, two U.S. highways that go into Georgia and three rail lines, one of which serves the Port St. Joe area. The county invested $640,000, allowing the Development Council to launch a business retention and expansion program, as well as form a work force development consortium to identify future work force training needs.
Environment: Construction of the $6-million Wakulla Environmental Institute is expected to get under way this month. The 10,000-sq.-ft. center is funded by a $4.5-million grant from the Florida Legislature and a $1.5-million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce. It will house classrooms, a lab and office space, says Executive Director Bob Ballard. The center will be owned and managed by Tallahassee Community College.
Taylor/Gilchrist/ Lafayette Counties
Fertilizer Plant: Construction of the $300-million Bio Nitrogen plant in Taylor County is expected to get under way in the third quarter, says Perry City Manager Bob Brown. Bonds for the project are anticipated to be issued this quarter. The new plant will produce fertilizer products and is expected to employ 70. The city of Perry will provide water and natural gas to the plant.
Community Center: Construction of a community center at Haven Hospice, which serves Gilchrist County, got under way in early 2015 and is expected to be completed later this year. Fanning Springs City Council approved a $35,000 bid for remodeling its EMS station, which serves Gilchrist County residents. The facility will include bunk rooms, a kitchen, living area and two bathrooms.