Photo: Tim Skipper
Northwest Florida Roundup
Proactive: Eliminating an impediment to growth
With their extensive tourism and military-based economies, the Panhandle’s coastal cities and counties have long dominated regional competition for new industries and jobs.
As a result, Holmes County, like many of its rural, inland neighbors, has struggled to expand its economic base and gain the attention of site selectors.
Hampering rural counties, says Holmes County’s Raymond Thomas, has been a lack of certified industrial sites. That impediment was eliminated in 2014, when the county — population 19,927 — purchased 270 acres for $1.25 million.
With the help of CSX Transportation, the county got the site certified, meeting industry standards for environmental compatibility, rail and interstate access, utilities and zoning.
“Our biggest problem over the years has been lack of industrial park sites, and the fact that we’re so rural,” says Thomas, executive director of the Holmes County Development Commission. “We’d get development proposals all the time for some outlandish project that we couldn’t possibly compete for.”
But Thomas says the addition of the industrial park and a board of directors has enabled Holmes to have some success in attracting jobs.
Earlier this year, the county signed its first lease in the industrial park with TransCore, a traffic maintenance company that brought in seven jobs.
In April, the county announced the opening of Paradigm Plastics, an injection molding company that anticipates hiring 10 to 15 employees this year.
“With the exception of these two new companies, we have not had any new industry come to our county in several years,” says Ashley Pettis with the county’s Development Commission.
Despite the modest start, Thomas is optimistic about Holmes’ future. “We’re in the middle of nowhere here in the Panhandle, but we’re actually in the middle of everything,” says Thomas.
Work Space with a Twist
Pensacola-based Jibril Sulaiman and Chris Hendricks are marketing their on-demand, co-working space called WorkBase.
The startup provides a la carte wifi, printing, mailbox and other services by the hour, day, week or month.
What’s innovative about WorkBase, says Sulaiman, is use of the actual office space is free, but services, such as wifi, phone, printing and copying, are pay-as-you-go.
Prices will vary depending on use of amenities.
A month of wifi and mailbox service will cost about $175, Sulaiman says.
APALACHICOLA — A national environmental group named the Apalachicola River as the most endangered in the country. American Rivers says the Apalachicola system is at the “breaking point” because of mismanagement and competition for water that flows through Georgia and Alabama and into Apalachicola Bay.
GADSDEN COUNTY — Armada Ammunition has opened a manufacturing plant in Gadsden County. The 8,000-sq.-ft. facility, located in Greensboro, will produce pistol and rifle caliber ammunition for law enforcement, the U.S. military and training purposes.
PERRY — The Perry City Council has agreed to purchase the $4.35 million loan taken out by BioNitrogen from Community and Southern Bank after the bank declared the loan in default in the wake of the company’s bankruptcy filing.
PENSACOLA — Quint and Rishy Studer have secured financing for their $52-million, 260-unit downtown apartment building. Sacred Heart Medical Group has opened a sports medicine clinic at Community Maritime Park. Gallery Night, the Friday evening street celebration in downtown Pensacola, will end in September.
PANAMA CITY — Port Panama City has purchased 41 acres of industrial waterfront land from WestRock for $13.6 million. The purchase nearly doubles the operational acreage available to the port.
PANAMA CITY BEACH — The city’s bed tax revenue fell 41% in March after local officials passed new laws to crack down on underage drinking and consumption of alcohol on public beaches.
SANTA ROSA COUNTY — Baptist Health Care has announced plans to build a $6-million medical park in the Pace community.
TALLAHASSEE — Fairmont Development is moving forward with development of a 15-story downtown building, featuring a hotel, condos and two restaurants. Tallahassee City Commission has approved a proposal by the city’s electric utility service to build a 10-megawatt solar farm that could be producing electricity as early as December 2016.
Tammy McGaughy has been named chair of the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce. McGaughy is a CPA in Fort Walton Beach with the accounting firm of Warren Averett.
Jessica O’Neal is Pensacola-based West Florida Healthcare’s new COO. O’Neal previously served as COO and vice president of operations for Methodist Dallas Medical Center in Texas.