Florida Trend | Florida's Business Authority

Challenges of rebuilding Northwest Florida post-Michael

Rebuilding Post-Michael

FLORIDA TREND spoke with Mexico Beach Development Council President Kimberly Shoaf about Hurricane Michael’s impact on the town’s tourism-based economy:

  • Accommodations: “We’ve lost all four of our hotels, and one of two RV parks. So, overall, I would estimate we’ve lost about 75% of lodging in condos and hotels.”
  • Tourism: “I’d say 90% to 95% of our Mexico Beach economy is based on tourism. And tourism employs the most people. We are working non-stop to get beaches clean, and that job should be done before spring. We’ve got restaurants coming back on line, and there are places to stay. As you can imagine, our summer season will be a little quieter. But Mexico Beach is not going anywhere.”
  • Business: “We had a meeting of local business owners recently, and 40 attended. At the end of the meeting not a one said they weren’t coming back.”
  • Rebuilding: “As to the rebuilding of damaged homes and businesses, it will be on the same footprint as before the storm, but with new building regulations and codes set by the state.”


  • Nat Higdon is the new Tallahassee market president for TC Federal Bank. Higdon was senior vice president for the Thomasville, Ga.-based bank.


  • Two Northwest Florida IMPACT 100 organizations awarded grants late last year totaling more than $1.6 million to local non-profit agencies. IMPACT 100 Pensacola Bay Area handed out checks totaling $1.1 million, and IMPACT 100 of Northwest Florida handed out grant awards totaling $514,000.


  • Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson has named Chris Holley city administrator. Holley served as executive director of the Florida Association of Counties from 2005-15.


  • Dallas-based Cinépolis Luxury Cinemas is building an eight-theater complex in Tallahassee that includes a full bar and waiter service. The complex will be located in Market Square, which is being redeveloped.
  • Medical marijuana franchise Curaleaf has opened a dispensary in midtown Tallahassee.


  • St. Joe Co. is developing a hotel complex at Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport near Panama City. The company also plans to develop Latitude Margaritaville Watersound, an active adult community near the airport on St. Joe property.


  • United Airlines will launch daily seasonal service between Pensacola International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport in June.
  • Silver Airways has begun daily non-stop flights from Fort Lauderdale International Airport to Pensacola International Airport.


  • The University of West Florida is partnering with Pensacola-based Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition to develop a doctoral program in intelligent systems and robotics. The program will be the first of its kind in Florida and one of only a few in the nation, says UWF President Martha Saunders. “I’ve envisioned a program like this for a long time,” says Ken Ford, director and co-founder of IHMC. “It will attract top young talent from the world. This is such a great move not only for UWF and IHMC, but also for Pensacola and the state.” The doctoral program will begin next fall.
  • Construction is underway at Pensacola State College on a $34-million STEM facility that will house the cyber-security and math programs. The new two-story facility is named for Mary Ellison Baars, whose family made the property available to the college more than 60 years ago.

Carpal Tunnel Relief

Gulf Breeze-based Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine is using a procedure called Ultrasound Guided Carpal Tunnel Release that dramatically speeds recovery of patients undergoing surgery for carpal tunnel syndrome.

The treatment combines ultrasound technology and a Mayo Clinic-designed “microknife” that a surgeon inserts through a small incision in the wrist. Ultrasound is used to guide the microknife to the injured area, enabling the surgeon to see the contents of the carpal tunnel and precisely maneuver the knife to cut the transverse carpal ligament. Incisions in the ligament relieve pressure on the median nerve, which causes the pain.

Recovery time is reduced to days rather than weeks.

T.K. Wetherell

Once one of Florida’s most powerful political leaders, T.K. Wetherell served in the Florida House from 1980-92, running the chamber as Speaker during his final two years there.

Wetherell went on to a successful career as a college president after his time in the Legislature, first as president of Tallahassee Community College from 1995-2001, then as president of his alma mater, Florida State University, from 2003-10.

Wetherell oversaw $800 million in construction, the hiring of new faculty and a major expansion of FSU’s graduate-level program.

Wetherell died of cancer on Dec. 16, 2018, at age 72.


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