By Nathan Sparks, CEcD
Executive Director of One Okaloosa EDC
Whew! What a fantastic – and incredibly busy – month it has been so far! The annual FPL Northwest Florida Economic Symposium at Sandestin got things kicked off, and the pace certainly hasn’t slowed since then. In the past two weeks alone, One Okaloosa’s Business Leadership Council (BLC), Defense Support Initiatives (DSI) committee, TeCMEN committee and Tri-County Community Partnership Initiative (TCPI) committee all held productive meetings. From the positive report shared by Superintendent Chambers on sales tax funded school facility improvements at our BLC, to the wonderful student-prepared breakfast and tour that TeCMEN members were treated to at Okaloosa Technical College, to the informative update on partnership priorities provided by Dale Marks, Vice Director, 96th Test Wing at our TCPI meeting, all were incredibly beneficial.
Many of you were also on hand for our March 15 Roundtable Breakfast featuring Jennifer Cannon Kunz and sponsored by FPL. A proud Choctawhatchee High School grad, Jennifer now serves as Associate Director, Technical at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Jennifer discussed her career journey, and those in attendance left inspired by her message of “doing hard things until they become easy”. It was also fantastic to see several local students in the audience – what a great message for them to hear!
Also of note, on March 14 we received unanimous support from the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners for a Purchase and Sale agreement with a still confidential manufacturer that is seeking to acquire 48 acres within the Shoal River Ranch Gigasite that will lead to the creation of 350 new jobs. We anticipate a closing and public announcement sometime this summer.
In addition, our Associate Director Kay Rasmussen attended the Association of Defense Communities (ADC) Federal Forum in Washington D.C. before turning around and heading to Tallahassee for Florida Defense Alliance and Florida Defense Support Task Force Meetings in Tallahassee the following week. Ever the road warrior, Kay heads off to D.C. again later this month with our DSI leadership for congressional outreach in support of our 2023 Federal Priorities.
Lastly, with the State of Florida legislative session now underway there are several bills that we’re tracking. As always, some of these we view as favorable (like SB 102 known as the “Live Local Act”, which provides for additional tools and funding to expand affordable housing). Others cause concern (like HB 5, which would eliminate Enterprise Florida, Florida’s primary public/private economic development organization, along with several incentives/programs). As always, please feel free to reach out if you wish to hear our perspective on these or any other proposed bills.