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December 2021
From the Director's Desk
By Nathan Sparks, CEcD

Happy Holidays! With Thanksgiving squarely in the rearview mirror, Hanukkah already underway and Christmas and New Year’s Day right around the corner, we now all find ourselves in the proverbial “Sprint to the Finish” that comes our way this time each and every year. Inevitably, this is the time of year that our internal deadlines begin to mount as the companies and consultants we are working to assist look to achieve end of year milestones. That said, this year is shaping up to be among the busiest in recent memory as many of the companies we serve are still playing “catch up” and working to finalize plans that were shelved during 2020 due to COVID uncertainties.

Of course, like many organizations, our “new year” actually began on October 1. With that came a transition on our Executive Committee – which many of you helped us celebrate at a festive reception held at the Hilton Garden Inn on October 26 (our sincere appreciation to Jillian McQueen and team for their wonderful hospitality!) In addition to thanking Lee Lewis, AVCON, for his tireless dedication as FY 2021 One Okaloosa EDC Chairman and Jason Monroe, Bit-Wizards, for his outstanding leadership as FY 2021 TeCMEN Chairman, the event also allowed us the opportunity to introduce our new FY 2022 Executive Committee.

We’re especially delighted to welcome Leslie Sheekley, Hand Arendall Harrison Sale, as our FY 2022 Chair. For those that know Leslie, you know what a steady leader she is – and also how passionate she is about our community!  Moving into the Vice Chair slot is Jillian McQueen, Hilton Garden Inn, while Chad Vuyovich, MAG Aerospace, now rotates into the position of Treasurer. Rounding out One Okaloosa’s FY 2022 Officer’s Slate are two longtime supporters and community champions. Specifically, Dr. Mike Mosley, Rocky Bayou Christian School, was elected Secretary and will be chairing our Investor Value and Growth Committee, while Neko Stubblefield, Eglin Federal Credit Union, was elected Member-at-Large. Meanwhile, Nic Dezinski, Vertex Solutions, was tapped to lead TeCMEN in FY 2022, while “Buffalo” Bob Marinan will thankfully remain as Chair of One Okaloosa’s Defense Support Initiatives (DSI) committee for one more year. In the spirit of the season, please join me in thanking our outgoing One Okaloosa EDC leaders for a job well done and congratulating the capable individuals that have been selected to follow them. 
Defense Support Initiatives
By Bob Marinan, Chairman

The DSI is off and running as we begin our FY22. Last time I reported we were waiting for the Senate Appropriation marks on the FY22 budget. In a surprise to no one, we are still awaiting the FY 22 budget marks from the Senate Appropriations Committee as the federal government once again is operating under a continuing resolution (CR).
  To support local defense contractors, Okaloosa Gas invited defense industry leaders to a lunch meeting to introduce their new administration complex and the opportunity for industry to build office space(s) vertically above them. The meeting was well attended by over 25 industry reps and we now await their respective inputs on their interests and next steps. 
Our October meeting was attended by USN Captain “Party Boy” Flores and others from NAS Whiting Field to provide us an update on their activities, and identify any assistance the DSI may be able to provide. Whiting Field has 12 outlying fields and three separate and fully operational airfields spread over two states and 4 counties. A logistical challenge but obviously managed well as indicated by receiving the Installation Excellence Award in 2015, 2016, 2018 and again in 2021! In 2019, Whiting Field’s economic impact to the area was measured to be $1.4B. 
Mr. Juan Valdez, the Military Affairs Coordinator for Congressman Gaetz attended our November meeting. He spent 10 years in the Marine Corps and appears to have hit the ground running with his knowledge and insights on many of our local challenges.
The DSI has acknowledged the variety of state and federal grant opportunities that can assist our military communities. To that end, we will continue discussions with County leadership on possible funding opportunities.  
The DSI team is currently identifying our priority topics for our 2022 Legislative Advocacy Point Paper and will begin with the 53rd Wing which is currently focusing on future range requirements.
Happy and safe Holidays to all and we’ll see you in January 2022!
Technology Coast Manufacturing & Engineering Network
By Nic Dezinski, Chairman

First, I’d like to say I am extremely excited and honored to lead the TeCMEN committee in Fiscal Year 2022. TeCMEN is one of the most well attended committee meetings I am involved with. Our members are committed to working together on building a better competitive environment in Northwest Florida for our technology and manufacturing industry sector. Thank you TeCMEN members for always being there!
We started the fiscal year with a bang by registering 22 booths for TeCMEN Industry Day (TID). Which brings me to my next point, acronyms, nah just kidding, we won’t go there. Early bird registration for TID is NOW open, 31 December, if you register now you save money—so don’t wait. Join us and network with potential customers while also being seen as a partner that understands and prioritizes relationships with aerospace, defense, manufacturing, engineering and technology businesses. 95% of participants in the 2021 TeCMEN Industry Day indicated that they would recommend the event to their peers. Just remember that opportunity is here! You may register a booth or individually now at
October was a big month for our manufacturing industry sector. The Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners adopted a proclamation designating October as Manufacturing Month! During the October County Commission meeting the Board presented the proclamation recognizing MAG Aerospace as a 2021 Florida Sterling Manufacturing Business Excellence Award Silver winner, and the 234 Okaloosa County Manufacturing businesses employing 3,400 individuals in our county. Congratulations to our manufacturing partners! The jobs and products created through manufacturing in Okaloosa County is something to be proud of.

Here is a recap of our last two TeCMEN meetings.
  • October - Okaloosa County School District Superintendent Marcus Chambers was our guest speaker providing an update on our school system as they look into the future followed by some great networking opportunities. 
  • November - Okaloosa Technical College (OTC) hosted us on their campus and breakfast was sponsored by the OTC Culinary Department. You can guess how that turned out, a fully catered breakfast buffet and a room full of happy TeCMEN members. After the meeting we enjoyed a tour of the campus where we learned about all the amazing opportunities the college has to offer for training students in industries that have a high placement rate due to the lack of qualified talent available in the local area. We appreciate all you are doing to help fill the talent gap.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday season with your families.
Business Expansion and Support Team
By Kevin Lovelace, Director of Business Success

It Takes A Team
It has been said before that economic development is a “team sport”. This was never more true than with Okaloosa County’s latest announcement in October that Purple Square Management, a Tampa-based management company with over 205 franchise locations in nine states – including 95 Dunkin’ / Baskin Robbins stores throughout Florida and Alabama – will be constructing a new, state-of-the-art commercial bakery and distribution facility in our community. 
The 24,500 SF facility will be developed on a four acre parcel located within the Okaloosa Industrial Air Park – land that was previously certified as “shovel ready” through Gulf Power’s Florida First Sites program – and will employ 60. The company’s real estate holding company closed on the purchase of the property with the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners on October 28, 2021.
We would like to take the opportunity to thank Gulf Power for helping facilitate the site’s “blue ribbon seal of approval” achieved through the previous certification process, and extend a very special thank you to the Okaloosa County Board of Commissioners and CareerSource Okaloosa Walton for helping us get this one across the finish line! Also, special appreciation to our FY 2021 Chairman Lee Lewis, AVCON Inc., for helping us successfully navigate some of the key site due diligence items. On to the next one!
One Okaloosa Launches Preferred Service Provider Directory
One Okaloosa EDC has expanded the organization’s Relocation Portal ( to include a Preferred Service Provider Directory. The service providers fall within the following 10 categories: Accountants, Bookkeepers and Financial Planners; Architects, Civil Engineers, Planners & Surveyors; Attorneys & Title Companies; Banks & Credit Unions; Healthcare; Homebuilders & Residential Developers; Insurance, Benefits and HR Consulting; Residential Realtors & Property Managers; Schools & Colleges and Utilities. 

The Relocation Portal was created as an on-line resource for individuals who may be exploring opportunities to relocate to Okaloosa County. The portal includes a jobs board spotlighting local employment opportunities in select sectors, and also features information on public/private schools, healthcare options, real estate, arts & culture and information targeted to transitioning military personnel.
Members in the News
Florida Trend magazine has named US Meltblown Founder and CEO Robert Sires one of Florida’s 500 Most Influential Business Leaders for 2021. Florida Trend’s Florida 500™ lists the most influential executives in different economic sectors throughout Florida.

The Destin Chamber of Commerce awarded Colonel Kim Wintner, USAF Retired, of Wintner Enterprises with the Business Person of the Month Award. This award is presented to an area businessperson showing vision and leadership in our community.

LandrumHR announced the appointment of Ildi Hosman as their team’s Director of Public Relations & Internal Communications.

The Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners add Sheila Fitzgerald to their team as Deputy County Administrator of Support Services.
Welcome New Member
One Okaloosa Director Appointed to Florida SBDC Board

The Florida Small Business Development Center Network, the state’s principal provider of business assistance, recently announced appointments and reappointments to its statewide advisory board. Kevin Carr, Rick Rodriguez Piña, Nathan Sparks, Harry Timmons, and Cathlee Tomkow were appointed, and Beth Cicchetti, Jason Clement, and Michelle Dennard were reappointed.
The board is responsible for advising, counseling, and conferring with the CEO of the Florida SBDC Network to ensure the interests of small businesses are represented in the Network’s coordinated efforts and investments in small business development and entrepreneurial support services.
Current Topics Blog
If you would like more insight on hot topics, visit One Okaloosa's blog written by Kelly Murphy-Redd, CEcD. You'll find topics such as Incubators and Accelerators, Retiring Military, Talent Attraction, Hypersonic Weapons, and much more!

Executive Committee Members and Staff
Leslie Sheekley, Chair; Jillian McQueen, Vice Chairman; Chad Vuyovich, Treasurer; Mile Mosley, Secretary; Neko Stubblefield, Member-at-Large; Lee Lewis, Past Chairman

Ex Officios
CareerSource: Michelle Burns
County Commissioner: Nathan Boyles
Educational Partners: Dr. Devin Stephenson, Dr. Melinda Bowers, Mr. Marcus Chambers
Utility Partners: Steve Rhodes, Gordon King, Bernard Johnson
Employees / Contractors
Nathan Sparks CEcD, Executive Director
Kay Rasmussen CEcD, Associate Director / DSI Manager
Kevin Lovelace, Director of Business Success
Linda Sumblin, TeCMEN Manager
Monica Early, Event Coordinator
Sal Nodjomian, TCPI Consultant
Penny Mercer, Accounting Department
Post Office Box 4097
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32549