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January 2023
From the Director's Desk
By Nathan Sparks, CEcD

Is it just me, or do the holidays already seem like a distant memory? We sincerely hope that 2023 is off to a fine start for each of you. As busy as 2022 was for the One Okaloosa EDC team, 2023 is shaping up to be even busier. Along with continuing to work an incredible pipeline of active investment opportunities, our organization has added some new talent to our small but mighty team. Specifically, John Ferrandini was selected as our new Administrative Assistant and began his duties with us earlier this month. John is a proud US Army veteran who recently transitioned from the 7th Special Forces Group following his service as an Intelligence Analyst. Currently a full-time student at Northwest Florida State College, John is a part-time One Okaloosa team member. Secondly, after bidding farewell to Kevin Lovelace who accepted a position with one of our investors, we are pleased to announce that Martin Pringle has been selected as One Okaloosa EDC’s Project Manager. Another proud veteran, Martin recently retired from the US Air Force where he most recently served as Chief Resource Advisor and Director of Facilities. You can read more about both John and Martin later in the newsletter.

We’ve also been busy compiling information for our 2022 Annual Report (keep an eye out for that in March) and putting together some exciting upcoming community events. In particular, planning efforts are well underway for our 6th annual TeCMEN Industry Day (TID), scheduled for May 17 at the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention Center. Along with closing out the Early Bird exhibitor registration period on December 31 with 42 booths sold, we are very pleased to welcome LiveOak Fiber as this year’s TID Signature Event Sponsor. LiveOak joins our 13 other sponsors in helping us ensure that this year’s event will be the best one yet. Please visit to learn more or register!

In keeping with the “technology” theme, we also recently announced that Choctawhatchee High School alumnae – and current Associate Director, Technical at Kennedy Space Center – Jennifer Kunz will be joining us for our March 15 One Okaloosa EDC Roundtable Breakfast at The Island Resort. Jennifer has shattered glass ceilings her entire career, first as one of a very few women enrolled in Auburn University’s Aerospace Engineering program and now in a leadership role at NASA. Her talk will highlight her journey while also touching on exciting new NASA programs like Artemis and the future of space tourism. As this one is sure to sell out, please consider registering today at and note that all registrations must be received by March 2!

Defense Support Initiatives
By Bob Marinan, Chairman

Welcome to 2023! The DSI has four hot topics to share: the Inflation Reduction Act impact and what we’re doing, the Childcare Development Center (CDC) status, notes from BG Geraghty (96th TW/CC) breakfast earlier this month, and Point Paper topics for our 2023 advocacy outreach.
The Inflation Reduction Act that was passed late last summer rescinded the 2020 Presidential Executive Order protecting the Eglin Gulf Test & Training Range (EGTTR) from energy development encroachment. In addition to the DSI letters sent to numerous Senators, Congressman and DoD officials, One Okaloosa, our local Chambers and the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors have also submitted letters of support for the EGTTR. In addition, copies of all the letters have been submitted to Senator Rubio’s staff at their request and we’ve had a conversation with Senator Scott during his recent visit to Panama City. In December, Bernard Johnson in his role as an Air Force Civic Leader facilitated a call with Pentagon leaders to discuss the encroachment threat. They were appreciative of the information and support. The battle continues but the bipartisan support within Florida is encouraging.
Regarding the CDC, Higher Ground Education continues to forge ahead with locations in Crestview and Navarre. They, as well as our communities, are aware of the urgency required to have a CDC up and running as soon as possible. Construction costs remain a huge challenge for the developer and are being worked. Also, for people inclined to open their own home-based childcare facility they currently have to meet dual certification from both DoD and from the State of Florida. This is time consuming and redundant. In partnership with the Florida Defense Task Force and Florida Defense Alliance, State Representative Altman has proposed a House Bill to exempt family child-care facilities from having to meet state certification requirements if they are already approved by DoD.
On 17 January BGeneral Geraghty hosted a breakfast for invited local community leaders. He outlined current challenges to meet 2030 required capabilities and areas that need support. Of interest to our community, he mentioned that Eglin will be hosting a job fair in February with the expectation of creating 4,000 new positions in the next five years; and yes, this will exasperate our current housing shortage. For support of the military mission, they estimate they have a 1200 to 1400 housing deficit.
In closing, we have received Commanders’ input to help us build our annual priority point paper. A broad list of the topics covered include EGTTR Encroachment, CDC issues, EGTTR MAX growth plan, and housing challenges for the community.

Technology Coast Manufacturing & Engineering Network
By Holly Karr, Chair

The New Year is off to a great start with the TeCMEN committee and our plans for the TeCMEN Industry Day happening on May 17th. But first, let’s catch you up on what happened in December.
Our December meeting was a feast of fun with breakfast sponsored by Aerohead Inc. and the first ever TeCMEN Inspired Holiday Sweater contest. Attendees voted Miranda Adams, of Kratos Defense, as the winner of a Panera gift card with her Grinchy entry. Next our spotlighted member, Elizabeth Hayes from PeopleTec told us about their FAST Mission Assurance, Quality, & External Integration work for the Department of Defense and Civilian Federal sectors.
This month’s meeting was a real treat as Emerald Coast Aviation was the breakfast sponsor. The following representatives from five sectors shared their perspective on growth opportunities and/or challenges expected within their sectors during 2023, and offered suggestions of how TeCMEN can be helpful with responding to these. 
  • Manufacturing – Dee Setzer, Fort Walton Machining
  • HR/Staffing – Jim Howe, HR Landrum
  • Technology – Matt Zimmermann, Beast Code
  • Education (K-12) – Steve Horton, Okaloosa County Schools
  • Education (Post-Secondary) – Dennis Braun and Dr. Jeff McGill, Northwest Florida State College

Following the presentations, TeCMEN members were encouraged to contribute additional thoughts/insights to supplement the information shared.  

Vertex Solutions is pulling out all the stops as they are our spotlight member and the meeting sponsor for the February meeting. Vertex Solutions will highlight their partnerships with Government and private-sector organizations to solve their training challenges.
While the year is still new, register today for individual attendance or one of our few remaining exhibitor booths at the Industry Day. You’ll be in great company with our Signature Event Sponsor, Live Oak Fiber. It’s not too late to grab one of our two remaining sponsorships or tickets at

Business Expansion and Support Team
Just like clockwork, our state economic development partner Enterprise Florida released the new county-level average wage data earlier this month. Along with providing insight as to how local private sector wages our trending – and how our local economy is faring relative to our peers – the official wage release is important in that local, regional and state incentive programs have eligibility provisions that require companies to hire a certain number of new, full time positions and pay an average wage greater than the County’s then-current average wage as determined by Enterprise Florida. As of January 1, 2023, Okaloosa’s average private sector wage was $53,156, or $25.56/hr. This represents a 7.12% increase from last year, when our average wage clocked in at $49,622. 

If you are wondering how Okaloosa’s $53,156 average wage compares to other northwest Florida counties, we continue to have the highest average wage in the region. Case in point, 2023 average private sector wages came in at $47,163 for Bay County, $48,528 for Walton County, $42,696 for Santa Rosa County and $51,269 for Escambia County. 

While wage growth is certainly a good thing, with incentive programs requiring companies to pay a premium of at least 10% to 15% above a county’s average wage, companies looking to locate or expand in Okaloosa will have a higher bar to meet in order to qualify (along with needing to pay a higher wage in order to be competitive in the marketplace). This is not a bad thing mind you, it simply means that the higher wage industry sectors (aerospace, defense, technology and advanced manufacturing) that One Okaloosa focuses our target marketing / outreach efforts on continue to offer the greatest potential for long-term success.

Welcome New Team Members
Martin Pringle, Project Manager
As Project Manager, Martin assists existing businesses in maintaining their competitive positions, promotes workforce development partnerships, develops community proposals, and works directly with One Okaloosa EDC’s many partners. He has recently retired from active duty service in the U.S. Air Force where he most recently served as Chief Resource Advisor and Director of Facilities. Martin graduated with High Distinction from Liberty University earning a Doctor of Strategic Leadership degree. In 2019, he was awarded the U.K. Ambassador Award and was the 2016 Society of American Military Engineers' Engineer of the Year for U.S. Air Forces in Europe. In his free time, Martin enjoys playing and watching sports, doing home improvement projects, and traveling.
John Ferrandini, Administrative Assistant
As Administrative Assistant, John ensures that One Okaloosa provides excellent customer service to its investors and clients. He also manages the organization’s social media and curates website content. Additionally, John is responsible for maintaining the office and its supplies for day to day use. John is a Veteran of the United States Army where he served as an Intelligence Analyst for 3rd Battalion 7th Special Forces Group. He is currently enrolled at Northwest Florida State College taking classes toward his Associates Degree in General Education. In his free time, John enjoys spending time with family, playing sports, working out and playing guitar and drums for his church worship teams.

Welcome New Member
Members in the News
The Fort Walton Beach City Council's Police Department was designated as a Florida Accredited Law Enforcement agency in December. In August, assessors from the Florida Commission for Accreditation (CFA) conducted an in-depth three-day review of the department. The Police Department was awarded its accreditation status becoming the only municipal law enforcement agency in Okaloosa County, and one of only a few agencies in the Panhandle, to be accredited, according to a press release.

Northwest Florida State College received a $21.8 million grant from Triumph Gulf Coast to double the capacity of their nationally-recognized nursing program. The entire project cost is estimated to be around $51,000,000. NWFSC’s Nursing Program Expansion project seeks to address the shortage of nurses in the region and the country.

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
Jillian McQueen, Chairman; Chad Vuyovich, Vice Chair; Dr. Mike Mosley, Treasurer; Neko Stubblefield, Secretary; Nic Dezinski, Member-at-Large; Leslie Sheekley, 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
Martin Pringle, Project Manager
John Ferrandini, Administrative Assistant
Linda Sumblin, TeCMEN Manager
Penny Mercer, Accounting Deparment
Monica Earley, Event Coordinator
Sal Nodjomian, TCPI Consultant
Post Office Box 4097
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32549