Expedited Shipping

Team effort made Bay County FedEx facility a reality
Expedited Shipping
↘ A new FedEx Ground regional distribution center is located in Bay County at Port Panama City’s Intermodal Distribution Center, located north of Panama City on U.S. 231. Photography by Mike Fender.

The Panama City Port Authority’s Intermodal Distribution Center is home to a new $55 million, 251,000-square-foot FedEx Ground regional distribution facility. Recently opened, it is four times the size of a structure the company built at the center in 2013.

Within a few years, that building became too small to accommodate FedEx’s rapidly expanding operations in the busy corridor between Tallahassee and Pensacola.

The venture was code-named “Project Rocket,” an apt metaphor for the way stakeholders quickly came together to draft plans, sign papers and begin construction. A key player in this fast-moving dynamic was the Bay County Economic Development Alliance (EDA), a public-private partnership whose mission is to support existing Bay County businesses, recruit new ones, and work to grow and diversify the local economy.

EDA president Becca Harding said her office fielded a request from a consultant who was trying to find a site suitable for one of its clients.

“We didn’t know what the company was,” she said, “but they needed a 33-acre site, and they needed to move very, very quickly.”

The company turned out to be FedEx, whose timeline was indeed ambitious.

“They needed to have it built within a one-year time frame because they needed these distribution services from Pensacola to Tallahassee, and we’re right in the middle,” Hardin said. “So, logistically, it made a lot of sense for them to be in Bay County.”

“Logistics and distribution is a target market for us, and the park where it’s situated, just north of Panama City between Panama City and I-10, was the perfect spot for FedEx,” said Ben Moorman, the Bay County EDA’s vice president. “It allows them easy access to multiple locations out of that one centralized place.”

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Pickup and delivery manager Steven Lankford and senior manager Marina Boeira in the offices at the new, 251,000-square-foot FedEx Ground regional distribution center in Bay County. When Bay County Economic Development Alliance president Becca Hardin fielded a call from a consultant representing a client that needed a 33-acre site in a hurry, she initially had no idea who that client was. It would prove to be FedEx. Photography by Mike Fender.

In addition to being adjacent to four-lane U.S. Highway 231, the Intermodal Distribution Center is served by the Bay Line Railroad and is within reasonably close proximity to the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport and Port Panama City.

Fortunately for all concerned, 54 acres of the 240-acre, city-owned Intermodal Distribution Center was certified for industrial development, and land was available.

“Certified means shovel-ready,” Harding explained. “All the trees are gone, the pad is ready, the property is zoned appropriately and all utilities are on the property. So, a company can start construction very quickly and not have to wait for the site to be cleared, utilities to get there, or for permitting or zoning.”

FedEx considered alternatives to Bay County.

“They could have gone out of state; they were even looking at sites in Alabama,” Hardin said. “The No. 1 edge that we had was that this was a certified, shovel-ready site. We worked closely with Gulf Power at the time, which is now Florida Power & Light, to get the site certified. And the city was intimately involved as was the Port Authority. The city agreed to build a road in the park to the facility to make sure that all the infrastructure was there; the Port Authority negotiated a very fair price per acre.”

The quick and successful completion of the FedEx project was a boon for the local economy and a feather in the cap of the EDA, which Harding said made a good impression with the FedEx consultant (McCallum/Sweeney), the building’s developer (Westmoreland Company Inc.) and the tenant.

“The developer does a lot of deals with FedEx, and that’s opened the door to more discussions with FedEx and some other prospects that he deals with,” Hardin said. “So, it’s a win-win. It’s a high-tech, state-of-the-art distribution center and a showplace for us to show off to other prospects.”

It’s a win for the projected 200–250 employees that the new FedEx center plans to hire. Plus, the entire project — the way it came about, the way it was put together and the way all of the parties worked to make it possible — is a reflection of the area’s growing economic vitality.

“If you’ve been in the 850 area lately, you’ve seen that this area is just exploding,” Hardin said. “We have had some difficult times in Bay County; we suffered through a Category 5 hurricane and then two years of the pandemic. But we came out on the other side of the pandemic just exploding with construction projects and growth. Everywhere, you see cranes up.”

Hardin noted that The St. Joe Company, Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare and Florida State University are combining to develop a new hospital in Panama City Beach. In 2022, the EDA announced four projects involving companies that the EDA successfully wooed.

“We have a lot of interest in growing advanced manufacturing at our airport,” Hardin enthused. “The federal government committed $5.2 billion to build the Tyndall Air Force Base of the Future. We’re getting three F-35 squadrons, which equates to about 72 aircraft and almost 4,000 servicemen and women. So, there’s just a lot going on, and it’s a great time to be in this area because there’s a lot of energy and excitement in our community. We’re on fire.”

Categories: Economic Development