Northwest Florida Roundup
Tyndall Air Force Base deploying robotic security on base
Tyndall Air Force Base is deploying four-legged robots around the base’s perimeter as a security measure. The robots will be the first of their kind to operate at any Department of Defense installation. Designed and manufactured by Pennsylvania-based Ghost Robotics, the robots, which faintly resemble canines, cost between $100,000 and $250,000 each, weigh 100 pounds and can be programmed to operate autonomously around the base.
The Tyndall robots are weatherproof, have their own charging station “doghouses,” can maneuver through standing water, right themselves if tipped over and have a 7.5- mile roaming capacity, says Ghost CEO Jiren Parikh. In addition to providing surveillance, the robots can remotely inspect equipment and base infrastructure, gather intelligence and conduct reconnaissance and mapping.
- Pensacola-based EBI Management Group was named among the top 50 second-stage Companies to Watch in 2021 by GrowFL. The top 50 honorees were selected on the basis of their strong growth prospects over the next several years. EBI specializes in project management, data analytics and other IT solutions for the Department of Defense and other federal agencies.
- Escambia commissioners have approved a program to install free wifi access at 28 community centers and parks throughout the county. Purchasing and installing the equipment will cost about $720,000. Operational costs for the first year are estimated at $441,000. The county is using funds from the federal Cares Act to pay for the project.
- A 13-acre parcel in Escambia County’s rapidly growing Beulah area has been approved for a $40-million apartment complex. Pine Forest Development Group, which owns the site, did not specify the number of units it plans to build. However, the zoning approved by the Escambia County Commission allows up to 348 units on the property. The site is near the 360-acre Navy Federal Credit Union campus.
- Gulf Power is accelerating plans to convert its Pensacola-based Plant Crist from coal to 100% natural gas. A division of Juno Beach-based NextEra, Gulf says the impact on the Pensacola area from Hurricane Sally in September prompted the decision to expedite the conversion. Converting to natural gas for energy production will reduce the plant’s carbon emissions rate by 40%, says CEO Marlene Santos.
- Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, in partnership with Wolfson Children’s Hospital of Jacksonville, has opened a unit that specializes in pediatric urology and gastroenterology care. The partnership also includes Nemours Children’s Specialty Care of Jacksonville.
- Bay County is moving forward with a home buyout program for residents who lost their homes in 2018 due to Hurricane Michael. County officials are seeking around $5 million from the state’s Voluntary Home Buyout Program. The grant enables the county to purchase damaged or destroyed homes at their pre-hurricane market values. The program could also offer up to $25,000 in relocation money to applicants who agree to stay in the county.
- Lawsuits are piling up against Skanska USA after more than two dozen large construction barges broke loose from their moorings in Pensacola Bay as Hurricane Sally approached in September. During the Category 2 storm, several of the company’s barges crashed into a newly completed portion of a $400-million bridge replacement project. Other barges, some equipped with huge cranes, caused damage when they washed up on private properties. The bridge was closed to all traffic following the storm. Skanska says repairs to the damaged bridge will be completed in March. Among those filing lawsuits against Skanska are more than two dozen Gulf Breeze and Pensacola small businesses impacted financially by the closure of the bridge.
- Innovation Park of Tallahassee is using a $10.2-million Economic Development Administration grant to help build the North Florida Innovation Labs, a 40,000-sq.-ft. facility located in Innovation Park. The business incubator will focus on assisting companies and entrepreneurs to advance new technologies and create jobs. Innovation Park is home to several manufacturing and high-tech companies, including the National High Magnetic Field Laboratory.
- Florida A&M University’s Bragg Memorial Stadium’s COVID-19 testing site registered its 100,000th test in early December. Daily testing numbers at the stadium have been averaging between 2,000 and 3,000. “This is an impressive milestone in the service of our community,” says FAMU President Larry Robinson. “From the first day it opened in April, the Bragg Stadium COVID-19 testing site has been indispensable to the local response in combating the pandemic.”
- Owners of Pensacon, Pensacola’s largest annual pop culture convention, say the late February event, which attracted more than 35,000 fans in 2020, will go on despite rising numbers of COVID-19 cases in Escambia County. Pensacon founder Mike Ensley says several precautionary measures and protocols — modeled after those imposed at Disney theme parks — will be in place to help protect the public.
Read more in Florida Trend's February issue.
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Florida health coverage rate is better but still lags most of the U.S.
Numerous Florida college rankings drop under new U.S. News methodology