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August 2022
From the Director's Desk
By Nathan Sparks, CEcD

It seems everywhere you turn these days the tenuous state of our national economy is front and center. Pundits dissect comments made by Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell with all the glee and intrigue of cryptographers deciphering ancient hieroglyphics. Great debates rage about whether we are already in an economic recession or not. Soaring inflation is now ever present. (The most recent barometer pegs it at 9.1% - well north of the Fed’s target of 2%.) Businesses face escalating costs of their critical inputs – especially materials and labor, as the war on talent continues to rage on. Families are left to grapple with food, shelter and energy prices that are now high enough to be illegal in 13 states. Bottom line, these are truly challenging times we find ourselves living in. Thankfully, we live in a state – and in a community – that know a thing or two about weathering storms. Mind you, this isn’t to say that we are immune from a downturn – far from it. (Anybody remember the “trifecta” we experienced between 2008 and 2010 with the Great Recession, Federal Sequestration and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill?) What I am saying is that the “bones” of our state and local economy remain solid and, let’s be honest, not every state or community can say that.

That being said, it is worth noting that as One Okaloosa EDC set the stage for our next Strategic Plan covering the 2023-2025 timeframe, we surveyed more than 200 local business and civic leaders during the month of June. Given all the economic uncertainty out there at the moment, we included questions seeking their perspective on the local and state economy.  On the question of how they felt about the national economy, 3% felt positive, 27% felt neutral (neither positive nor negative), and 70% felt negative. Conversely, when we asked about how they felt about the local economy, 44% felt positive, 41% felt neutral and only 15% felt negative – a pretty stark contrast for sure, but one that we feel speaks plainly to the healthy underpinning of our local economy and the good policy decisions of our community’s leadership in creating an environment where business can thrive without government overreach or interference.

Before I close, one area that has experienced unprecedented growth since the COVID-19 pandemic first took root in 2020 is new business formations. Some 5.4 million new business formations occurred during 2021 – a record. Okaloosa County startups have certainly accelerated as well, with many new businesses being started by military veterans. Taking note of this trend, I am very proud of the new Veteran Entrepreneur Video Series that we launched on our Startup Okaloosa web platform just last week. Our goal is to feature successful local Veteran entrepreneurs sharing their stories and obstacles overcome with a hope that other vets who may be considering staring businesses in the local area can glean something of value. Be sure to check out the first video in the series by visiting!

Defense Support Initiatives
By Bob Marinan, Chairman

One Okaloosa has launched a new website for information sharing on our Tri-county military bases and the missions they house. The mission is to “Keep Northwest Florida Military Friendly” and the new website serves as a resource portal for data on regional military missions, economic impact, information on potential threats to regional military operations as well as initiatives undertaken to preserve regional military readiness and missions. It includes information links such as: tri-county military units; economic impact of the military; protecting the Eastern Gulf Test and Training Range; and the Defense Support Initiatives (DSI) committee. This will be a living website and updated as required going forward. I encourage you all to visit the website at Feel free to contact us for additions you think we might need to make. This website will be shared with our Congressional and Senate offices for their awareness and utilization.
As reported in May, the developer for the proposed Wellplex in Crestview was replaced so the future of that effort is unknown at this time. However, the Higher Ground Education group has identified property in Crestview for a child care center and is progressing with thier plans. The childcare needs for our local military have the full attention of our state senators and local congressman—who we have been in regular contact with over the last month.
During our June meeting, Col Coleman of the 505th Command & Control Wing provided us insight into their efforts at Hurlburt. This Wing focuses on Test & Training capabilities and not special operations that Hurlburt is known for. They put through about 2300 students annually which contributes approximately $10.3M to the local economy. His request for help from the local community will come as no surprise to this group, it was additional housing and traffic.
Technology Coast Manufacturing & Engineering Network
By Nic Dezinski, Chairman

Can you believe school is starting already! I think all of the parents out there can agree it is time for the kids to go, although another month of summer break would be nice. Speaking of school did you know that workforce development plays a large role in TeCMEN and our local community? We are grateful for the overwhelming support from our workforce development partners; several of our members come from the school district, colleges, universities, and workforce development organizations.

Now enough about school. I have a brief follow up on one of our signature projects, TeCMEN Industry Day (TID). One Okaloosa hosted our 5th annual Technology Coast Manufacturing & Engineering Network Industry Day (TID) at the Destin Fort Walton Beach Convention Center on April 26th. Thanks to the support of our 17 event sponsors, the dedication of the EDC staff, and the TID Planning Committee, this was easily our best TID yet. The 5th iteration of TID featured 23 speakers / panelists, showcased 51 exhibitor booths, and welcomed 366 total attendees. Thanks to support from the HSU Educational Foundation, 42 of our 366 attendees were School Ambassadors representing Okaloosa County School District and Rocky Bayou Christian School. We are delighted with the TID survey results we sent to every exhibitor and attendee. The top two highlights are presented below:

Did you or your business identify any new contacts that you believe could result in new opportunities?
  • Yes – 83%           No – 17%

Overall average ratings (10 being the highest)
  • Exhibitors – 8.5      Attendees – 9.2

During the June TeCMEN meeting we heard from Jarrod Stewart with AA Tactical Inc./Aerohead Inc. about all the exciting growth happening in Crestview. We also reviewed the 2022 TID survey results. Thanks to the June meeting sponsor GSC Systems Inc. The July TeCMEN meeting was fun and informative. We started the meeting with a skills survey facilitated by CareerSource Okaloosa/Walton who later shared the results with the group and we all found out what careers we might be a best fit for. We also announced a new benefit for TeCMEN members: our partnership with Skyway Acquisition.
  • The partnership with Skyway Acquisition will extend consulting support for pre-award, post-award, and strategy, as well as customized and interactive training to fit TeCMEN companies, and assist them with their federal contracts.
  • The partnership provides members with training opportunities coupled with “on call” consulting.
  • The Skyway Acquisition activity kicks off with an in-person Defense Training Workshop scheduled in August. The day is divided into two segments: the morning will be the training/workshop and following lunch will be pre-registered twenty-minute one-on-one consulting support. Other opportunities will be announced as confirmed.

We are excited to welcome Florida State District 4 Representative Patt Maney as our guest speaker next month. Thank you to our renewing TeCMEN members CFD Research Corporation, DS2, Florida Power & Light, Intuitive Research and Technology, On-Point Defense Technologies, Precision Measurement, Inc., and US Meltblown.
Business Expansion and Support Team
By Kevin Lovelace, Director of Business Success

“Site Selection” is a phrase that is often used in economic development circles. However, it would more accurately be described as a process of “Site Elimination”. To succeed, a community must prepare ahead of time to get on the prospect’s radar. The community must have product, including an appropriately sized building or site that is available for lease or sale. Sites should be publicly-owned or have an option to be publicly-owned. All utilities should be located adjacent to the site or there should be a plan to extend utilities that is designed, engineered, and funded. As one site location consultant is fond of saying, “No product; no project”. Product also includes workforce. It is essential that the local Economic Development Organization (EDO) works with the local educational institutions to have curricula that is aligned with the target industries need for a qualified workforce. If additional workforce needs arise, educational partners should be nimble enough to add relevant classes to their curricula.

Concurrent with product development, the local EDO, along with other partners will market the product using trade shows, email/direct mail campaigns, phone calls, and social media. The product must be actively marketed, as there is no such thing as, “Build it and they will come” in economic development. The prospect will typically issue a Request for Information (RFI) to the State Economic Development Agency, Regional EDO, or sometimes to the local EDO. The RFI will typically seek information for the site/building, workforce information, existing industry information, and utility rates. While this doesn’t represent all possible questions in an RFI, it provides a general overview of what the prospect is looking for. At this stage, the RFI has likely gone out to several different states. To preserve confidentiality, RFIs are typically issued under a code name. While the local EDO may know the industry, anticipated job count, average wage, and capital investment, much of the time we won’t be provided the actual name of the company.

The prospect will then eliminate most sites, keeping only those most aligned with their needs in the mix. The prospect will then visit the sites still under consideration, evaluating the site, potential workforce, educational / training providers, transportation corridors, housing, and other criteria. The prospect team will then head home to evaluate their site visit and end up with two or three finalists. At this point, incentives negotiations and land price negotiations will take place, and the final community/state proposals will be delivered. These are sometimes called the “Best and Final Offer”.

The prospect team will then evaluate the offers and a final decision will be made. Once the final community has been selected, it’s time for the company to reveal its name to the local EDO. This is sometimes done under a Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA). It is important for the local EDO to know who the prospect company is so they can perform their own due diligence on the company to ensure viability. Once the due diligence research is approved, then comes the announcement! And the local EDO is back at it, looking for the next prospect.
Welcome New Member
Members in the News
One Okaloosa EDC chair, Leslie Sheekley along with Dion Moniz and Hayward Dykes, Jr. with Hand Arendall Harrison Sale have been recognized by Florida Trend's Legal Elite 2022; placing them in the top 1.4% of Florida attorneys selected this year. Florida Legal Elite represents the state's top licensed and practicing attorneys selected by their peers.

Eglin Federal Credit Union was named Florida’s ‘Credit Union of the Year’ for their dedication to members and the community. Eglin Federal Credit Union was recognized by the League of Southeastern Credit Unions and Affiliates as Credit Union of the Year for 2021 in Florida in the category of more than $500 million in assets.

Northwest Florida State College presented the Advancing Institutional Mission (AIM) Award to FL Representative Patt Maney for his efforts in appropriating funds for the College and helping expand the educational opportunities in Northwest Florida. 

HCA Florida Twin Cities Hospital in Niceville has been named to the 2022 Fortune/Merative 100 Top Hospitals® list. Merative, a data, analytics and technology partner for the health industry, has identified the top hospitals from an evaluation of 2,650 short-term, acute care, non-federal hospitals in the U.S. The annual list recognizes excellence in clinical outcomes, operational efficiency, patient experience and financial health. 

Current Topics
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; Dr. Mike 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
Emily Ferrandini, Administrative Assistant
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