Focus on the Economy

Notable business news in the Emerald Coast Corridor.

Focus on the Economy

DESTIN – A regional leadership conference on how to stimulate economic activity in the Northwest Florida market will be held at the Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Destin, Oct. 15-17. “Stimulating the Economy with Transportation, NW Florida’s Gulf Coast Cleared for Take-Off,” is sponsored by the Walton Area Chamber of Commerce, Florida’s Great Northwest, Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater Panama City Beaches Chamber, Coastal Vision 3000/THE Beach, The Building Industry Association of Okaloosa & Walton Counties, Inc. (BIA), Bay County Chamber of Commerce, Niceville-Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce, The Florida Association of the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Emerald Coast Association of Realtors, 850 Magazine, The Walton Sun, The Destin Log, The Northwest Florida Daily News, and the Greater Fort Walton Beach Chamber of Commerce.

  • Florida’s Great Northwest, along with a group of 18 other partners, recently released “Florida’s Innovation Benchmark Study,” an in-depth review of the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities associated with efforts to build an innovation-based economy. Strengths for attracting outside talent include Florida’s desirable quality of life, cultural diversity and willingness of companies, universities and organizations across the state to work together on economic opportunities.

Bring on the Tourists

VISIT FLORIDA has awarded a $2,500 advertising grant to the Destin Area Chamber of Commerce. Shane Moody, Chamber President and CEO, said “These funds will be used for continued tourism promotion and will help us continue to position the Destin area as a world-class resort.”

  • New resort hotels are coming to Pensacola Beach. Little Sabine Inc. is building the Indigo Hotel on a portion of its 26-acre property on the Gulf of Mexico. The nine-story Indigo will be the first hotel in a three-phase development of the site, formerly home to the old Holiday Inn, which was razed after sustaining heavy damage from Hurricane Ivan. Hotel developer Julian MacQueen is building a new $60 million, 206-room Holiday Inn in October. When Indigo’s 162 rooms and Holiday Inn’s 206 rooms come on line in spring 2010, Pensacola Beach will have a total of nearly 1,300 rooms, a 37 percent increase over the totals before Hurricane Ivan.
  • Officials with Coastal Vision 3000 recently announced the appointment of Mel Ponder as its first executive director. Ponder is responsible for steering the nonprofit group’s efforts to brand the 181-mile Gulf Coast region in Florida’s Panhandle from Pensacola to Port St. Joe as “THE Beach.”
  • In November the Destin Commons shopping center will celebrate its fifth anniversary of operation. It has hosted over 50 million shoppers, according to Marketing Director Crystal Petti.

Harbor Help

The Destin Area Chamber of Commerce and the Destin Harbor Association have merged. “This merger will mean that the Chamber will take on the challenge of assisting these harbor district business owners in marketing and redeveloping the harbor,” said Chamber Chairman Myra Williams, Howard Group.

  • Legendary Yacht Club of Destin has made dry storage slips that accommodate boats up to 50 feet in length available for purchase, providing permanent and affordable water access for boaters to Gulf Coast waterways. Construction is underway for Phase I of the Owner’s Clubhouse, which includes the swimming pool, pool bar, pool deck, fitness facility, private owner’s lounge and restaurant. For the first two years, new owners will get a temporary full golf membership to Regatta Bay Golf & Country Club, fuel (not to exceed $3.50 a gallon), association dues waived, and a five-night stay at Emerald Grande.

Attention, Entrepreneurs

Earlier this year Pensacola Junior College and Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce opened a business incubator, the Gulf Coast Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Blink MD, a Pensacola-based medical software company, is the first tenant.

  • Premier Island Management Group LLC, a luxury island destination rental and homeowner association management group, has announced its debut with the management of three premier properties on Pensacola Beach. Rob Babcock, a 20-year hospitality industry veteran, former general manager and vice president of Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort in Destin, along with Michelle Evans, previously Sandestin’s vice president of finance, have formed Premier Island Management Group. Zandra Wolfgram, who most recently worked for Seaside, will head the new group’s marketing and public relations program. The company will manage the rental and homeowner association operations at Portofino Island Resort & Spa as well as the rental operations at Beach Club and Emerald Isle.
  • Publix Super Markets Inc. is establishing a presence in Escambia County. Its recent acquisition of Albertsons stores includes four in Escambia County, a new market area for Publix. The super market store chain announced in June that it had agreed to purchase 49 Florida stores from Albertsons LLC, including 15 in North Florida.

Local Honors

James C. Binnicker, president and CEO of the Air Force Enlisted Village (AFEV), was recently named “Executive of the Year” by the Florida Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. AFEV is a non-profit charity that provides a home for the surviving spouses of retired enlisted service members. The award recognizes leadership, innovation and commitment. “His whole career has been about taking care of people, and nowhere is that more evident than here at the Air Force Enlisted Village,” said Cathy Landroche, the AFEV’s Director of Marketing. Binnicker oversees Teresa Village, an independent living apartment complex in Fort Walton Beach; Bob Hope Village, an independent living garden home complex on 80 acres in Shalimar; and Hawthorn House, a 64-apartment assisted living residence on the Bob Hope Village campus.

  • Insight Marketing Communications Inc., of Navarre, was recently honored with two awards from the Southern Public Relations Federation. An Award of Excellence and a Certification of Merit were presented to owner Sabrina McLaughlin and Leda Broxson. The awards were for marketing programs for Gulf Coast Community College Marketing Research, for the Image Printing Spice Box and for the Emerald Coast Children’s Advocacy Center.

New Name, New Buildings

Walton County and Northwest Florida State College (formerly Okaloosa Walton College) have partnered to build a $30 million Community Services Complex on the college’s Niceville campus. It will house the county’s Emergency Operations Center, college instructional programs, ROTC and a new athletic arena. The construction contract has been awarded to Speegle Construction Inc. of Niceville.

Fiduciary Conglomeration

Synovus Financial Corp. of Columbus, Ga., has announced it is combining two of its Florida Panhandle banks into a single charter with the name Coastal Bank and Trust of Florida. The regional bankholding firm said its consolidation of Bank of Pensacola and Vanguard Bank and Trust in Valparaiso makes sense because of their geographic proximity. The new Coastal Bank and Trust of Florida would have total assets of more than $1.8 billion with 27 locations, 36 ATMs and 320 employees. No locations would close, according to the Synovus corporate office.