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

Have you heard? Northwest Florida has been discovered and the buzz is literally everywhere. The 2020 US Census found that, as a whole, Okaloosa County grew from 180,822 to 211,688 between 2010 and 2020 – a 17% growth rate. While nearly 20% growth is impressive in its own right, some Okaloosa County Census tracts experienced growth well beyond that – with one Crestview Census tract reporting an eye-popping 116% growth rate.

To put it in perspective, Florida as a whole grew by 14% during the same timeframe, ranking our state as the 8th fastest growing state in the country over the past decade. Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated population growth as people and businesses alike fled states and cities with high taxes, punitive business regulations and repressive social policies. confirmed that Florida was the “most moved to” state in the country last year. In total, 220,890 new residents moved to Florida between July 1, 2020, and July 1, 2021 from elsewhere in the U.S.

Locally, our realtor friends regularly share anecdotes about all the people moving to our area from places like Atlanta, Birmingham, Louisiana, Texas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio and yes, even California. It seems that the pandemic caused countless individuals to reevaluate their current situation, and for many, the answer was to relocate to a state and region that offered the things they were lacking. As a result, real estate has quickly become scarce and, in keeping with basic economic principles, prices have increased as supply has diminished. According to the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors, Okaloosa County now has less than two month’s worth of inventory available, while the median home price has climbed nearly 25% year-over-year – from $336,011 in Dec 2020 to $419,000 in Dec 2021. 

While Okaloosa’s average private sector wage has grown by 11% over the past year – and at $49,622 now ranks as the highest in Northwest Florida – the stark reality is that real estate is becoming less and less attainable for many local wage earners. The military recently addressed this disparity through a temporary increase of the BAH (Base Allowance for Housing) for military members, but with another 2,100 military personnel and their families due to arrive at Eglin in the next three years, the situation is going to be further amplified.

To be clear, the growth in Okaloosa’s civilian and military population is exciting. It absolutely translates to good things for our local economy. However, we must ensure that we can sustain this growth without leaving behind those who either protect and serve our nation or fill the tens of thousands of private sector jobs that are the backbone of our economy. Bottom line, the time is now for a comprehensive, community-wide workforce housing strategy.   
Defense Support Initiatives
By Bob Marinan, Chairman

The DSI is a military advocacy group and with the start of the New Year, the DSI is busy drafting our Legislative Point Paper in support of our military priority requests for FY23. The priorities will be similar to last year with some modifications based on changes over the last twelve months. Support for the Military Mission Line and Eglin Gulf Test & Training Range (EGTTR), continued support of the Eglin AFB redevelopment plan and the development of new weapons center will be included. We will also be addressing and informing our Congressional and Florida staffs on potential impacts of any proposed budget cuts. A never-ending process!

Currently, the FY22 budget has identified nearly $100M in military construction funding for Eglin AFB. It also includes $40M for initial planning and engineering for a Weapons Technology Integration Center (WTIC) at Eglin AFB which the DSI has actively advocated for over the course of five years. It is short of the estimated $400M required for the full development of the center; so advocacy continues. 

In December we received a guest presentation from our friends at OCEANA who have been synergistic partners in our quest to secure a permanent moratorium for the military mission line and prevent future oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The current Presidential Executive Order in place now can be rescinded at any time. The House has passed multiple bills blocking offshore drilling. However, in the Senate controversial items in the bill are being worked. We also discussed wind turbines and their location in the eastern Gulf is a threat to the EGTTR. 

In January Colonel Meeks, the relatively new Commander of AFRL Munitions Directorate, briefed the DSI on its new position as a component of Space Force Command. They are now one lab serving both the Air Force and Space Force. The lab priorities highlighted were digital architecture for weapons development and utilization, supporting entrepreneurial efforts and increased cyber security. His goals are; smarter weapons, long-range effects, space technology and special operations. The Col is very personable and engaging should you get the opportunity to meet him. 
Technology Coast Manufacturing & Engineering Network
By Nic Dezinski, Chairman

TeCMEN Historical Fact: You may not know that TeCMEN started in 1988 with a grant from DARPA that was awarded to Okaloosa/Walton Community College. As a result of these grants, 13 other organizations like TeCMEN were started around the country to enhance the competitiveness of defense contractors and other small to mid-size businesses. The concept for TeCMEN is based on an idea that was borrowed from Italy called a Collaborative Industrial Network. TeCMEN was then transferred to One Okaloosa EDC three years later and is the only organization of its kind still in operation today.

TeCMEN Industry day (TID) - The Gulf Coast's Premier One Day Event showcasing the greater NWFL area technology, manufacturing & defense industry sectors started off the new year in great shape with 38 companies registering for 44 booths and 15 sponsorship packages sold. Thank you to our event sponsors for your support! TID will be Tuesday April 26th at the Destin-Fort Walton Convention Center. This is a great event to network with your greater NWFL area STEM and defense industry sectors. If this is the audience for you then you should register to attend the event. Registration for individuals and exhibitors is open and you can find all the details about the event and agenda at Help spread the word, if you would like event flyers to share please contact One Okaloosa EDC.

Thank you to our new member Cintel, a Huntsville based defense contractor for joining this elite group of professionals. A huge shout out goes to our renewing members, Arma Global, HSU Educational Foundation, Okaloosa Technical College, Reliance Test and Technology, Rocky Bayou Christian School, TEKsystems, Emerald Coast Science Center, and Vertex Aerospace AIS.

Here is a recap of the last two TeCMEN meetings. 
  • December - Member Spotlight - Bit-Wizards Jason Monroe, Associate Director, Solution Development provided an informative update of the Bit-Wizards current and future plans. Chad Vuyovich with MAG Aerospace provided an update on the concept of their new building Mission Enhancing Capabilities Configurations Calibrations, (MEC3).
  • January - Guest Speaker – University of West Florida provided an update of the programs and activities including the UWF Haas Center projects.

Looking forward to seeing everyone at our next meeting:
  • February - Guest Speaker, Ayesha Haider, Florida SBDC at the University of West Florida
  • March meeting – CANCELLED in support of attending the 2022 Florida Power & Light (Gulf Power) Northwest Florida Economic Development Symposium

If you are a technology, manufacturing or engineering company, please consider joining us at our next meeting in February and experience this unique networking opportunity with Okaloosa County’s elite group of STEM and Educational leaders.
Business Expansion and Support Team
By Kevin Lovelace, Director of Business Success

Boeing Selects Fort Walton Beach for Competitive Expansion Project
On January 24, 2022, Boeing Global Services announced that it has selected Fort Walton Beach for a competitive expansion project, investing $2,550,000 in a 20,000 SF addition to their current facility located on Hill Avenue in the Fort Walton Beach Commerce and Technology Park. Boeing plans to add 12 new, full-time employees at an average wage of $70,000 per year over the next 24 months, a welcome addition to the 500+ Boeing employees who currently work at Boeing’s two Fort Walton Beach facilities. One Okaloosa EDC greatly appreciates the excellent partnership between Boeing, the City of Fort Walton Beach and the Okaloosa County Board of County Commissioners that allowed this exciting project to come to fruition!
Project Activity
Project activity is busier than it has ever been, with 30 companies considering Okaloosa County for existing business expansions or new businesses seeking build-to-suit opportunities. As reflected, these companies represent over 15,700 new jobs, over $4.5 billion in capital investment, and are from a diverse set of industries including manufacturing, aerospace, automotive, food & beverage, distribution, and business services among others.
Members in the News
Gloria Frazier, CEO and President of ERA American Real Estate has been inducted into the National ERA Hall of Fame. Having formed the local brokerage in 1981, Gloria and her team continue to be one of the most influential real estate companies.

Fort Walton Machining has kicked off a new partnership with Edwins Elementary School. Fort Walton Machining assembles and manufactures custom-designed, precision machined parts. They are currently partnering with the District's Middle and High School Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. This will be the first Elementary program they are involved in with Okaloosa County School District.
Welcome New Members
Welcome Emily Ferrandini

Please join us in welcoming Emily Ferrandini to the One Okaloosa Team as our Administrative Assistant. Emily is a military spouse and a psychology graduate with a desire to help others. You will enjoy getting to know Emily as much as we have; her positive, can-do attitude is undeniable.

Welcome to the Team, Emily!
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
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