Bob Sikes Airport is Making the Panhandle Economy Take Off

A Gem Among Airports

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courtesy of Okaloosa county

TA 747 taxis along a runway at Bob Sikes Airport near Crestview. Recent improvements at the airport have included resurfaced runways and taxiways and a new terminal.   


Airports are a vital part of the Florida Panhandle’s economy, and Bob Sikes Airport is no different. Nestled near Crestview inside one of the busiest aviation zones in the state, the airfield sports an 8,000-foot runway, an instrument landing system and hundreds of acres that are ready for development. Eight aerospace companies call Bob Sikes Airport home, and more than 2,700 people work there with a total payroll of $108,208,000.

But there’s more to come as Okaloosa County invests millions of dollars in hopes of landing more business opportunities.

Mike Stenson, deputy director of Okaloosa County Airports, said recently that the airport has made, and continues to make, significant improvements to maintain a competitive economic edge. He even describes it as a brand-new airport with plenty to offer potential tenants. The runway, taxiways and other connectors were all recently resurfaced, and Emerald Coast Aviation — the airport’s operator — recently completed a new terminal building.

“It’s a great location for any company looking to grow,” Stenson said. “We’ve got a world-class airfield in the center of the aerospace corridor for the region. You will be hard-pressed to find something like it with the size and capability we have with the space available. We’ve worked close with the Florida DOT and FAA to secure millions of dollars in grant funding to build a world-class airport suitable for any aerospace company looking to grow.”

courtesy of Okaloosa county

Indeed, there is a lot of elbow room at the airport. Only about 500 of the facility’s 1,100 acres have been developed. In addition, some available land is already site-certified and ready to go. At the nearby Okaloosa County Industrial Air Park, for example, 135 acres were recently classified as “shovel-ready” through Gulf Power’s Florida First Sites site certification program, according to Nathan Sparks, executive director of the Okaloosa Economic Development Council.

“This prestigious designation was awarded in March 2015 by McCallum Sweeney Consulting, a premier site-location advisory firm,” Sparks said. “Achieving the certification required the completion of exhaustive due-diligence studies, including wetlands surveys, soil studies, utility verifications and cultural-resource studies. Now these parcels provide prospective purchasers with the certainty that development can occur quickly and with minimal front-end expense.”

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