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

As I reflect on the past couple of months here at One Okaloosa EDC, the old Willie Nelson standard “On the Road Again” comes to mind. Spring is always a busy season for our external marketing efforts, and this spring has certainly been no different in that regard. A prospecting trip to California at the end of March was followed by a trip to Atlanta in April for MRO Americas. Organized by Aviation Week magazine, MRO Americas is three day expo focused on the aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) subsector. This year’s event welcomed 15,750 attendees from all 50 states and 89 countries. In addition, there were more than 2,100 display booths to visit! As is typically the case when we attend a trade show, One Okaloosa utilizes a third party consultant to set meetings and ensure that our time on the ground is maximized. In the end, we had substantive discussions with nine prospective companies during the event – and one of those has already reciprocated with a visit to Okaloosa County!

Before hunkering down to host our own annual trade expo - TeCMEN Industry Day - on May 17, we found ourselves back on the road in early May – this time for the SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington D.C. This event is designed as a “springboard” for foreign companies seeking to open new facilities in the U.S., with states and communities like ours eager to showcase our value proposition. This was One Okaloosa’s first time participating in SelectUSA, and we had a number of great meetings with companies from Denmark, Switzerland, Ireland, Japan, India and the Czech Republic. While the majority of the companies we met with were early stage and just beginning to evaluate the possibility of a U.S. expansion, we see a real opportunity to position ourselves as a trusted advisor – hopefully leading to future favorable outcomes for our community.

Lastly, I would like to offer a sincere thank you to all who supported our 6th annual TeCMEN Industry Day, whether it be as one of our 11 planning committee members, 17 sponsors, 26 speakers, 50 exhibitors or 350+ attendees. Most of all, I would like to thank my “small but mighty” team here at One Okaloosa who once again rose to the occasion and did the work of a much larger organization. This year’s iteration of TID was record setting in many ways, and without dedicated individuals like Kay Rasmussen, Linda Sumblin, Martin Pringle, Monica Earley and John Ferrandini, none of it would have been possible.
Defense Support Initiatives
By Bob Marinan, Chairman

The DSI has had a very busy two months with the final submission of our 2024 budget requests and a trip to Washington D.C. to meet with and to discuss our requests with congressional staffers. A few of us traveled to Washington D.C. the last week of March and met with the staffs of Congressmen Gaetz, Dunn, and Waltz. We also met with the staff of Senators Rubio and Scott, a professional staffer on the House Armed Services Committee, and a military Pentagon leader. Broadly, the topics we broached were funding requirements and support status of the Military Mission Line (MML), Child Development Centers (CDC), Eglin Gulf Test & Training Range (EGTRR) upgrades, and installation infrastructure improvements. We were impressed with how knowledgeable each participant was regarding our priorities and it was obvious they had paid attention to the Point Paper we had transmitted to them. 
They all understood the importance of the MML to Eglin’s missions and to the security of our National defense. While they felt there wouldn’t be a permanent moratorium they were confident a protection would be granted in some form. The offices of Gaetz and Waltz in particular, had many questions on the status and general feelings in the areas regarding the CDC need. 
Surprising to us, was how every office had questions regarding the “Rice” whales in the Gulf. For those not aware, live nor inert air-to-ground weapons are not allowed to be dropped over the eastern Gulf for the protection of the endangered Rice’s whales. This has caused testing issues with the 96TW and is a reason why you’ve seen more closures of Hwy’s 85 and 285 for required testing. Recently, it appeared a workable solution is forthcoming that would re-open the EGGTR to all missions since the whales are in a sliver of the range and reside rather deep in the water.
In April, we sent a letter of support to Congressman Waltz’s office for the required infrastructure funding needed to support the Long-Range Standoff Weapons (LRSO) development facility on Eglin AFB. Continued military construction funding is required to build a multi-level secure environment to develop the necessary hardware and software required and a test facility for it. 
In April, Governor DeSantis signed multiple bills that prohibit Chinese citizens from purchasing land in the state. This is an ongoing US issue with the Chinese trying to secure land near sensitive defense bases and contractor facilities. We will continue to monitor this issue.
Technology Coast Manufacturing & Engineering Network
By Holly Karr, Chair

Things are heating up at TeCMEN as we head into summer. Did you go to TeCMEN Industry Day? It was hot stuff!
Before we get too excited about our signature event in May, we have news on our April TeCMEN meeting. Radiance Technologies was both breakfast meeting sponsor and spotlight member. We learned all of the really cool things they do here, in Huntsville, and across the country. We also heard they’re looking for office space in Okaloosa County.

Biggest News: The 6th Annual TeCMEN Industry Day was May 17th and what a record-breaking event! We sold out a few days before the registration cut-off date and had a waiting list of 20+ folks trying to get in. We also sold the highest number of booths in the event’s history. But we couldn’t have done it without the generous support of panelists, speakers, and sponsors. Thank you to the following companies who know the value of TeCMEN Industry Day!
  • Speaker Room – Florida Power and Light
  • Programs – Northwest Florida State College
  • Nametags – Okaloosa School District CTE
  • Tote Bags – University of West Florida, Haas Center
  • Water Bottles – Rocky Bayou Christian School
  • Coffee Cups- ARMA Global
  • School Ambassadors – HSU Educational Foundation
  • Technology – PMI Inc.
  • Morning Break – General Dynamics OTS
  • Workshops – FloridaMakes
  • Networking Lunch – CHELCO and PowerSouth Energy
  • Lunch Placemats– GSC Systems
  • Reception – Okaloosa Gas District - Stick around for the exhibitor’s door prizes!
  • Website Support – Creative Web Solutions

And the 2023 Signature Event Sponsor – Live Oak Fiber!

Also, during TeCMEN Industry Day, we presented two outstanding individuals each with our new annual award, the TeCMEN Member of the Year trophy, for their support and dedication to the TeCMEN mission in 2023. Congratulations Caralee Gibson of GSC Systems and Nic Dezinski of Vertex Solutions!

The June TeCMEN meeting will feature Rep. Pat Maney.

This last news is too exciting to hold back: Our July meeting will be in Crestview at the NWFL State College Aviation Center of Excellence in the HSU Innovation Institute at the Bob Sikes Airport plus presentations by other Crestview companies.
Business Expansion and Support Team
By Martin Pringle, Project Manager

As my brief time with the EDC is drawing to a close this week, I wanted to share my thoughts on what I have learned in the Project Manager role and how our community is on an astounding trajectory. I didn’t have much knowledge about economic development when I began this position back in January, and the whole experience has been incredibly eye-opening. It has been wonderful to be a part of such an amazing team in a phenomenal county. Okaloosa has been the place I’ve called home since 2005, and the amount that I have seen it blossom over that time pales in comparison to the growth and success this community ought to see over the next 15-20 years.

As I shared in the last newsletter, the assets that the county has put together regarding ‘shovel-ready’ industrial sites available are invaluable. Every week there seems to be a new organization seeking expansion or industrial development that is considering our beautiful county. The Shoal River Ranch Gigasite and Okaloosa Industrial Air Park are just two of the industrially-zoned areas that we have to offer, and we have laid a foundation for flourishing growth of our community in these areas.

From my perspective, the biggest drawback our county currently faces for companies looking to either relocate, expand, or build-new is a statewide issue. It is challenging for Florida to compete for organizations looking at the Southeastern region as our neighboring states often offer more financial incentives to entice companies to their state. That said, Okaloosa County, municipalities and their representatives do a magnificent job of attracting companies with local incentives and by a unified show-of-strength regarding how well all of our various entities work effectively and cohesively together. It is a testament of our strong community and it has been an honor to be a part of these past few months.

I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to thank the wonderful EDC team: Nathan, Kay, John, Linda, and Monica for being such marvelous leaders and colleagues. It has been an absolute pleasure serving with this organization alongside the community and its leaders. Also, thank you to the EDC Executive Committee and county business leaders who have been so wonderfully welcoming. When selected, my replacement will surely be ecstatic once they realize the distinctive gem they’ve found in this organization and position. Best wishes to all of you and I look forward to witnessing Okaloosa’s continued growth and prosperity!
Welcome New Members
Members in the News
On Monday, May 1, 2023, Forever Warriors, sponsored by Step One Automotive Group, launched #OperationTDY at Rocky Bayou Christian School in Niceville. #OperationTDY is aimed at ensuring military children always feel welcomed and a part of the school’s community, no matter how far they travel in support of America’s military. 
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, Talent Attraction, Military Missions, Transportation 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