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850 Business Magazine

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REDEFINING WHAT IT MEANS TO BE MOBILE

IN BUSINESS, MOBILE MEANS ANYWHERE. In the hotel lobby or at the airport, you’re constantly tending to your business. No matter where your business takes you, 850 Business Magazine is available at your fingertips and easier to use than ever. Our new website features more commentary and stories about the people, issues and changes in Northwest Florida. And it’s designed with a revolutionary interface that automatically adapts our pictures and stories to be easily viewable on any size mobile device — phone, tablet or laptop. So, say goodbye to pinching and zooming, and say hello to the new 850businessmagazine.com.

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The new 850 Business Magazine website �—� helping you do business in Northwest Florida » Resources for businesses, with archives on Finance, Human Resources, Management and more

» Breaking news stories and updates from our team of reporters, editors and photographers

» A new “Deal Estate” section, with property listings and information about buying and selling real estate

» A searchable archive of past 850 Business Magazine issues

» Dynamic photo galleries showcasing our area’s emerging and established business leaders

» Our latest digital flipbook

» An all-new searchable and sortable guide to the top dining establishments across the region

» Plus, more stories, commentary, photos and exclusive behind-thescenes web content Current. Quotable. Well Read.

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OUR BANK IS BUILT ON A SOLID FOUNDATION MEET OUR TALLAHASSEE DIRECTORS Understanding the communities we serve is a significant part of Centennial Bank’s success. Our Tallahassee board of directors and experienced local bankers are committed to you and our community. Through involvement in many local civic and non-profit organizations, our board and bankers help to make our region stronger, more vibrant and prosperous for all. Centennial Bank is built upon a solid foundation of outstanding financial performance, experienced local leadership, committed bankers and the loyalty of our customers.

CLOCKWISE FROM BOTTOM LEFT: Matt Brown, Mark O’Bryant, Jim Haynes, Tracy French, Dr. Joe Camps, Lawton Langford and Chase McNeill

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850 Magazine June – July 2013

IN THIS ISSUE

32

86

850 FEATURES Wooing Site Selectors 32 Some of the top site consultants in the country talk about what the companies they work for are seeking when they decide to relocate or expand. Not surprisingly, Northwest Florida has many of the necessary ingredients to lure these businesses. The area’s biggest challenge? Thinking regionally. By Steve Bornhoft

Real Estate Recovery 38 Summer is the busy selling season, and this one is shaping up to be a good one across the 850. Home prices are gradually bouncing back, a good thing for sellers. But it’s also a good time for buyers, including those looking at real estate for investment purposes. As a further sign of the region’s economic recovery: Commercial development across the region is starting to pop with new construction. By Wendy O. Dixon On the Cover: Home marketed and listed by John Paul Somers & Company. Photo courtesy of John Paul Somers Real Estate Broker and Company.

In This Issue

27 OUTREACH 850

8  From the Publisher 11  Letters to the Editor 14 Business Arena: News & Numbers 83  Sound Bytes 98  The Last Word from the Editor

ALSO INSIDE Learn how The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship at Florida State University is extending its programs to help businesses find success. Look for this sponsored report in every issue of 850 to learn what’s happening at JMI.

Departments THE (850) LIFE 13 Dom Damiano dishes on food and business success on the Emerald Coast.

Corridors

MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES 16 Designers and architects are focusing on more employee-friendly workspaces.

HUMAN ELEMENT 20 When you need to fill a position at your office, there are many ways to do it. But what’s best?

PHOTOs BY Scott Holstein

Special Report

51 SUCCESS WITH SOUTHERN CHARM

j ackson County business outlook

86 Steve Evans is a former corporate executive making a profound impact on the Tallahassee business community in his retirement.

EMERALD COAST

It’s the Law

2013 JACKSON COUNTY BUSINESS OUTLOOK

CAPITAL

24 When the Legislature went home, this is what they did for — and to — business.

92 The Flora-Bama Lounge, famous in song and local lore, is still the place to party.

Deal Estate

Forgotten coast

46 Now you can find out what’s hot in real estate in every issue of 850. We’ll preview the trends, who’s selling, who’s buying and what commercial projects are in the works.

94 The Apalachicola airport is giving customers the red carpet treatment, and it’s giving a boost to this area’s economy.

A look at Jackson County’s business climate.

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BUSINESS TEAM BUILDING ON ANOTHER LEVEL

June – July 2013

850 THE BUSINESS MAGAZINE OF NORTHWEST FLORIDA

Vol. 5, No. 5

President/Publisher Brian E. Rowland

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EDITORIAL Director of Editorial Services Linda Kleindienst Staff Writer Jason Dehart Editorial Coordinator Laura Bradley Contributing Writers Lazaro Aleman, Chay Baxley, Laura Bradley, Steve Bornhoft, Jason Dehart, Wendy O. Dixon, Rosanne Dunkelberger, Lee Gordon, Ashley Kahn, Lis King, Thomas Monigan, William Patrick, Zandra Wolfgram Proofreader Melinda Lanigan Editorial Intern Chay Baxley CREATIVE Creative Director Lawrence Davidson Assistant Creative Director Saige Roberts Graphic Designers Jennifer Ekrut, Lizzie Moore, Laura Patrick, Shruti Shah Production Manager/Network Administrator Daniel Vitter Staff Photographer Scott Holstein SALES, MARKETING & EVENTS Marketing and Sales Manager McKenzie Burleigh Director of New Business Daniel Parisi Traffic Coordinator Lisa Sostre Account Executives Rhonda Chaloupka, Jon Fistel, Darla Harrison, Lori Magee, Tracy Mulligan, Linda Powell, Chuck Simpson, Chris St. John Special Projects and Events Special Projects and events Manager Caroline Conway Special Projects and events coordinator Lynda Belcher OPERATIONS Administrative Services Manager Melissa Tease Accounting Specialists Tabby Hamilton, Josh Faulds Receptionists Chay Baxley, Mary Elizabeth Bosco, Kimber Fraley, Jazmeen Sule WEB Social Media/Systems Management Specialist Carlin Trammel 850 Business Magazine 850businessmagazine.com, facebook.com/850bizmag, twitter.com/850bizmag Rowland Publishing rowlandpublishing.com SUBSCRIPTIONS A one-year (6 issues) subscription is $30. To purchase, call (850) 878-0554 or go online to 850businessmagazine.com. Single copies are $4.95 and may be purchased at Barnes and Noble in Tallahassee, Destin, Pensacola and Panama City and in Books-A-Million in Tallahassee, Destin, Ft. Walton Beach, Pensacola and Panama City and at our Tallahassee office. Proud member 850 Magazine is published bi-monthly by Rowland Publishing, Inc. 1932 Miccosukee Road, Tallahassee, FL 32308. 850/878-0554. 850 Magazine and Rowland Publishing, Inc. are not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts, photography or artwork. Editorial contributions are welcomed and encouraged but will not be returned. 850 Magazine reserves the right to publish any letters to the editor. Copyright June 2013 850 Magazine, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or part without written permission is prohibited. Member, Florida Magazine Association and three Chambers of Commerce throughout the region. Awards4U is the official provider of mounted features for Rowland Publishing titles. For more information contact Sam Varn 850.878.7187.

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From the Publisher

Mentoring is an Art — and a Gift

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Steve it was time for the region to know more about him and what he has accomplished. By reading this article, I know you will learn much about a great leader who is also a fine, honorable and respected individual — and then take from it a few “gold nuggets” of learning that will make you a better friend, businessperson, parent and individual and ultimately not only make your life better, but also the lives of people you come into contact with. I know he has for me. Thank you, Steve. In this issue, alongside our cover story on the real estate industry in Northwest Florida, you will find a new regular feature of our magazine, a section called Deal Estate. One editorial trend I have seen in some of the city magazines that I consider to be ahead of the curve is a devotion of editorial space to covering the real estate industry. At the beginning of the last decade, everyone was a brilliant and shrewd real estate investor who had to stand under an umbrella to protect themselves from the profits falling out of the sky. But then the bubble burst, and the inflated real estate values began to plummet. For many, the value of their home or commercial property was far less than what they still owed on the mortgage — and we saw a complete collapse of the market. Today, however, things are turning around. Prices are normalizing and properties are starting to sell. Bruised and battered real estate investors are starting to come out of their caves. Banks are beginning to lend money again. Most importantly, we now have a rebounding market that is forming a solid foundation for the revitalization of our local, regional, state and national economies. We welcome your critical feedback and recommendations as to what else we might look to cover as we develop this new section of our magazine.

Brian Rowland browland@rowlandpublishing.com

Photo by SCOTT HOLSTEIN

Growing up, the first and most critical mentors in life are your parents. With the decision to bear children, parents also have the obligation and duty to mentor their child’s development into an individual who can successfully move into society. This is a job not to be taken lightly and requires lots of time, effort, consistency and, most of all, love — sometimes tough love. Done right, a child’s journey into adulthood will result in a healthy, mature person who is ready, willing and able to be a contributor to society, prepared to assume the parental role and replicate the process to bring along the next generation. There is just so much one can learn from parents and in school that will adequately prepare one to be successful in a professional life — whether you’re a doctor or a laborer. Professionally, people need training and mentoring in order to become most proficient at their chosen career. There is an individual in Tallahassee who has risen to the top as a mentor to so many individuals and organizations in the past decade that I can say he has profoundly and positively affected our community’s developmental growth curve in many ways. I believe Tallahassee would not be the community it is today or will be tomorrow without the mentoring and leadership skills of Steve Evans. I have had the privilege of knowing Steve for the past seven years and am very fortunate to be one of the individuals he has mentored and been there to advise when very complex business situations landed in my lap. I know my limitations and am smart enough to know when I do not have the skill sets to make the right decision without counsel. Steve is one of the individuals in my life I am fortunate to be able to call and get some time to download the variables. He has the unique ability to listen, ask questions and dissect all the possibilities — most often breaking them into simple categories for me to analyze. He never tells me what to do. Rather, he coaches me through the process of looking at a challenge through a different set of eyeglasses to then see clearly what is the best decision. A humble “behind the scenes” person, it took a lot for me to convince


850 MAGAZINE

works for us “It is with great enthusiasm that Hunter & Harp endorses Rowland Publishing.” MARC BAUER, JT BURNETTE & CHAD KITTRELL Principals, Hunter & Harp 850 Magazine advertisers since 2008

Hunter & Harp has forged a great relationship with Rowland Publishing that has elevated brand awareness and leveraged common business goals. As a result, Hunter & Harp has seen unprecedented results via targeted and tactical image campaigns in the excellent portfolio of Rowland Publishing magazines. The number of documented guest and customer visitations as a direct result of advertising in 850 and Tallahassee Magazine demonstrates a solid return on investment. In addition, readers of Tallahassee Magazine have voted Hunter & Harp affiliates as Best Of Tallahassee for the past three years. It is with great enthusiasm that Hunter & Harp endorses Rowland Publishing.

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FROM THE MAI LBAG

I just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed the Don Gaetz article (A Presidential Conversation) written by Kim Yablonski in the February/March edition of 850 Magazine. As a business magazine in this region of the state, you are demonstrating the impact of elected officials who are an integral component of business in this area. I hope to see more stories of this kind in the future. Susie McKinley Tallahassee

Finally got a chance to read latest 850 (February/ March 2013). Really enjoyed your The Last Word. Times sure have changed. Ed Moore Tallahassee From LinkedIn

850 is a great magazine! Every exec in North Florida should get a subscription. :) I am a regional exec and your articles keep me informed on the road. They have also led me to many new resources and people when I am working across the Panhandle. Todd Byars Tallahassee

It seems to me that the only “new life” that they’re talking about over in Pensacola nowadays (New Attitudes Can Change an Old Town, February/March 2013) might have come from all the immense funding assistance provided them by BP, national insurance companies and our federal government taxpayers via the Obama Administration, which came following a series of unplanned disasters: Hurricane Ivan in 2004 … national economy and ensuing American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 ... and the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010. If correct, what is the next unplanned disaster that will keep it all going? Tom Brantley Tallahassee 850 Business Magazine

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Executive Mindset

) The (850 Life    s urvive and thrive

Culinary ‘Godfather’ Dom Damiano, Destin Founder, Fat Clemenza’s

“C How much did your family background influence what you are doing today? Both families were in the produce

business and both families were phenomenal cooks and bakers — absolutely amazing. A lot of our events in our lives revolved around food, smells, tastes. There is a trigger mechanism to the comfortable things that go on.

Tell us about your earliest experiences in the kitchen. I think I started mak-

ing St. Joseph’s Day cookies when I was 10 years old. I had two sisters, and we didn’t sleep in our beds at all that week, because they were covered with wax paper and about a million cookies ... we fed an army on St. Joseph’s Day.

How did Fat Clemenza’s get its name? We kind of did the restaurant like how we grew up — we patterned it after every big city, urban restaurant that we’d ever been in. So we put 20 names in a hat. My name was, Leave the Gun, Take the Cannolis. My son said, “That was Fat Clemenza, Dad,” and I thought, “Fat Clemenza was pretty cool — he only killed one guy and he cooked all the time.”

In addition to your regular menu, you are famous for your blackboard specials. How did that come about?

It’s what we found growing up with neighborhood restaurants in Chicago, ’cause Gramma’s in the kitchen cooking something special. We use the blackboard

Photo by SCOTT HOLSTEIN

for a couple of reasons. One is we get to play every day. Someone in the kitchen is making something that’s going on the board, whether it’s a soup or dessert or entrée. The other reason is that it fills the need to expand the horizons on the customers’ side. It gets them eating things that they might not have tried before.

You added a banquet facility in Fort Walton Beach, with a demonstration kitchen. Why? In the first six months I

saw we had a lot of very big tables. It’s not uncommon to have a 50 top. So the theory is to do the multi-purpose room next door, set up with audio/visual and whatever capabilities are required for corporate events as well as rehearsal dinners and banquets. It’s doing very well; some months we’re completely sold out. We are attracting a lot of military for private dining and dinners, which is great. The cooking classes are doing well. We have Chef Dan Pettis and Yoshi from Harbor Docks. We keep it under 22 people. We can crank up a meal for our guests and hand them a few recipes, show them a few tricks to make it a dining experience. We have a lot of talented chefs at both restaurants at our disposal to showcase their skills.

Have there been any surprises at the Uptown Station location? I did not real-

ize how much a need there was for lunch service. We are a “go to” spot for locals having business lunches. That’s nice.

ome over here, kid, learn something. You never know — you might have to cook for 20 guys someday,” Peter Clemenza intones to a young Michael Corleone in one of the few light-hearted scenes from the iconic film, “The Godfather.” But cooking and doing it well is no joke to someone like Dominic Damiano, who can trace his family roots to Sicily and Calabria — the toe of Italy’s boot. Five years ago, Damiano and three partners — Chris Damiano, Mimmo LaInnusa and Saverio Jacovelli — turned a failed Destin restaurant called O Solo Mio into Fat Clemenza’s, and the results have spoken for themselves. Once again in 2012, Fat Clemenza’s won EC Magazine’s Best Italian Restaurant and his weekend breakfast service, which he coined Mama Clemenza’s European Breakfast, won Best Brunch. In April of 2011 Damiano branched out by opening Clemenza’s at Uptown Station in Fort Walton Beach. Both restaurants feature classic red-and-white checkered tablecloths and large blackand-white “family” portraits mounted on the walls. Some are actually Damiano’s relatives, while others are famous for their association with La Cosa Nostra. But as any seasoned diner can relate, it’s not possible to eat atmosphere. And classic Italian cuisine is Clemenza’s savory trademark. — Thomas J. Monigan

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Executive Mindset

Business Arena    n ews + numbers statewide

Economic Impact of Florida’s Hospitals

I

n 2011, Florida’s hospitals generated 927,763 full- and parttime jobs and $120 billion in total economic contributions statewide, according to a University of Florida economic impact study released in March 2013 by the Florida Hospital Association. Hospitals paid $17.12 billion in employee salaries and benefits; average annual earnings per employee were $56,437.

(The total employment impact of Florida hospitals in 2011 was 25.5 percent higher than estimated in a 2009 study.) Each year, Florida’s hospitals care for 2.6 million inpatients and 8.7 million patients in emergency rooms, deliver 200,000 babies and perform nearly 2 million surgical procedures.

In 2011, there were 301 non-federal licensed hospitals in Florida, with 63,774 beds.

Regional numbers (this includes the 18 counties in the 850 area code):

Region 1

Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties

Employment (full and part time)

29,505 $4.1 billion

Economic Output

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Region 2

Bay, Calhoun, Franklin, Gadsden, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Leon, Liberty, Madison, Taylor, Wakulla and Washington counties

Employment (full and part time)

30,722 $3.3 billion

Economic Output


Holmes

Escambia Santa Rosa

Walton Okaloosa

County/ Hospital(s)

Jackson

Washington Bay

Gadsden Leon

Calhoun Liberty Gulf

Jefferson

Bay

Bay Medical Center, Emerald Coast Behavioral Hospital, Gulf Coast Medical Center, HealthSouth Emerald Coast Rehab Hospital, Select Specialty Hospital-Panama City

Wakulla

Franklin

Calhoun

Calhoun-Liberty Hospital Inc.

Escambia

Economic Contributions of Hospitals in NW Florida’s counties County

number Employees of (full and part-time) Hospitals

Baptist Hospital Inc., Sacred Heart Hospital of Pensacola, Select Specialty Hospital-Pensacola, West Florida Hospital, West Florida Rehabilitation Institute

Franklin

Economic Output

George E. Weems Memorial Hospital Florida State Hospital, Gadsden Memorial Campus of Capital Regional Medical Center

(revenues/sales)

Gadsden

Bay

5

9,071

$1.14 billion

Calhoun

1

219

$20 million

Escambia

5

20,300

$2.7 billion

Sacred Heart Hospital on the Gulf

Franklin

1

151

$11 million

Doctors Memorial Hospital

Gadsden

2

2,897

$12 million

Gulf

1

221

$21 million

Holmes

1

188

$19 million

Jackson

2

817

$82 million

Jefferson

0

0

0

Leon

5

16,376

$1.9 billion

Liberty

0

0

0

Okaloosa

5

4,885

$744 million

Santa Rosa

4

2,276

$287 million

Wakulla

0

0

0

Walton

2

2,034

$251 million

Washington

1

425

$44 million

Source: Economic Impact of Florida Hospitals, University of Florida Food & Resource Economics Department Values are expressed in 2012 dollars. Economic output reflects revenues or sales associated with the industry or economic activity.

Gulf

Holmes

Jackson

Campbellton-Graceville Hospital, Jackson Hospital

Leon

Capital Regional Medical Center, Eastside Psychiatric Hospital, HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Tallahassee, Select Specialty Hospital-Tallahassee, Tallahassee Memorial Hospital

Okaloosa

Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, Gulf Coast Treatment Center, North Okaloosa Medical Center, The Rehabilitation Institute of Northwest Florida, Twin Cities Hospital

Santa Rosa

Baptist Hospital Inc. (d/b/a Gulf Breeze Hospital), Jay Hospital, Santa Rosa Medical Center, West Florida Community Care Center

Walton

Healthmark Regional Medical Center, Sacred Heart Hospital on the Emerald Coast

Washington

Northwest Florida Community Hospital

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Executive Mindset

Management Strategies

  

f riendly work environments

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The Race For Happier Work Environments Re-calibrate workspaces and pile on perks to attract and keep great employees By Lis King

A

Open Air Making use of daylight helps give the main lobby of the Escambia County Central Office Complex a natural and airy feel. Open floor plans offer views for 98 percent of the staff.

photo by Shawn Sandusky

simple space for brownbaggers may still be the workplace norm, but if trend-watchers are correct, companies trying to attract and keep great employees should consider upping the ante. Such as making room for a cafeteria and hiring a chef to turn coffee breaks and lunch-hours into gourmet events. Or setting up a gym or adding hiking trails for employees more interested in fitness than in adventurous meals. Or how about a room simply for napping? Sounds extreme? No, says Vicki Long, executive vice president of the American Institute of Architecture’s Florida chapter. The trend towards more employee-friendly workplaces is very real. She grants that not every company can emulate the dot-coms that started it all, famously providing their employees with such perks as basketball courts, top chefs on call, child care facilities, ping-pong tables and beautiful outdoor spaces for hanging out. But smaller measures work, too, she asserts. For example, the right colors can create happier interiors, and people act favorably to lots of natural light and indoor greenery. But can perks and attractive surroundings really sway an employee to choose one workplace over another? Recruiters say that naturally the salary and benefits are major concerns, but perks are nice and who wouldn’t like to work in a place that wants you to be happy? A case in point is the Navy Federal Credit Union in Pensacola, which architect Steve Jernigan of Bay Design Associates, also in Pensacola, describes as a terrific employeefocused workplace. “I admire this project,” he says. “The design is based on a simple philosophy: Healthy employees equal healthy business, so the architects and interior designers emphasized natural elements. Oxygen-producing plants are everywhere, and through a 400-footlong exterior glass wall employees manning the phones have a view of woods. A fitness trail winds through the campus, and a gym, an on-site health clinic and weight watchers’ options in the cafeteria are in sync with the philosophy.”

Outdoor Offices Victor Prebor, a partner in Lunz, Prebor, Fowler Architects in Lakeland, talks about “the greater school of office design,” a new tenet which holds that employees do better when they can alternate their work spaces and not be stuck at their desk all day. “With

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management strategies Environmental Gold The 79,000-square-foot Central Office Complex has a gold-level LEED certification and one of the largest green room systems in the state.

mobile technology there’s no reason why they can’t switch to café tables, lounge areas or even an outdoor area,” he says. “In fact, this idea has led to a lot of interest in outdoor workspaces,” he continues. “This is especially true in nice climates like Florida’s, but companies should be forewarned that this is an idea that could backfire. True, we all love outdoor spaces, and they’re great for inspiration and relaxation, but not all work is fit to be taken outside. Think of the weather. There’ll be heat, humidity and storms to contend with. Just think how difficult a simple task like leafing through documents becomes on a windy day.” And you can’t do a power presentation in bright sunshine, adds Gerard Bush, the creative director of the brpr Group, a public relations firm in Miami. He tells that when the firm moved to its current offices a couple of years ago, he had pictured that employees would bring their laptops to the 500-square-foot deck boasting gorgeous city views. “We also thought we might have client and staff meetings out there,” he says. “But the distracting urban surroundings and the afternoon humidity did us in. So we hauled the outdoor conference table inside, and now employees use the deck to cure writers’ block and entertain clients. And it’s a fantastic place to enjoy the city’s fireworks.”

Going Green

photo by Shawn Sandusky

Environmentally sound buildings are innately employee-friendly, notes Jernigan, who points to the Escambia County Central Complex in Pensacola. A Bay Design project, it was awarded the county’s gold-level certification as a LEED building (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). The 79,000-square-foot building features one of the largest green roof systems in Florida. Jernigan explains that the landscaped roof not only reduces storm water runoff and provides insulation, but also offers employees a nice place for outdoor breaks. Other employee-friendly features are lots of natural light and open floor plans that offer views for 98 percent of the staff.

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Altogether, LEED certification is a very good thing for employees, notes Jernigan, even when it doesn’t include a roof garden or a view. For LEED certification also stands for lo-voc paints and other environmentally friendly design elements. That plus improved AC systems means vastly improved air quality.

Interior Trends Yesteryear’s workplaces, with rows of windowed offices reserved for executives and everybody else making due with cramped, dark cubicles are disappearing. And good riddance, says Victor Prebor. Open floor plans with different types and sizes of workspaces, meeting rooms and common areas are much more dynamic. They foster project-teaming and generation-sharing collaboration. “We use a lot of glass when we re-calibrate spaces,” he says. “We did it in our own design studio. Both exterior and many interior walls are glass, letting in great natural light, making the most of our lake view and encouraging employee interaction.” He admits that often office workers previously allocated traditional offices hate the idea of an open floor plan, but once they’re in it they like it. “They’re finding it much more productive and friendlier,” he notes.

Man’s Best Co-Worker In a dramatic departure from uptight corporate environments, dogs are now welcomed by 17 percent of U.S. employers, says the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. Having canines wandering around offices might seem a distraction, but the association says that it’s quite the opposite. Dogs make people happy and in high-stress environments they are a welcome diversion. Taking a stroll with a dog or even just scratching him behind the ears lets even the most stressed-out employee relax. Numerous studies show that being with a pet lowers blood pressure and stress levels while heightening endorphins. To further learn about the effects of dogs in the workplace, the Pet Products Association surveyed 50 small and large pet-friendly companies. No dog lover will be surprised that these companies reported a lower rate of absenteeism and a willingness to work longer hours.

The No. 1 Employer Inevitably, business magazines and TV shows have begun rating companies in terms of employee-friendliness, and — surprise, surprise — Silicon Valley can’t hold a candle to a Southern company, namely SAS near Raleigh, N.C. In fact, when Google put together its perk package some years ago, it used SAS as its model. SAS is the world’s largest privately held software company, and its 4,200 U.S. employees work on a 300-acre hilly campus featuring two subsidized day care centers for 600 kids, three cafeterias (one with a piano player, who takes requests), kitchens serving free snacks (Wednesday is M&M day), a healthcare center with a staff of 56, a gymnasium, billiards hall, sauna, Olympic-size pool, hair salon and manicurist. Plus there is dry cleaning on site, a UPS depot, a book exchange, car detailing, a meditation garden and, in season, a tax preparer. The idea of such an array of perks could give corporate Scrooges heart palpitations, but the fact is that although SAS employees’ salaries are fairly modest and no stock options are available, their loyalty and productivity are indisputable. The employee turnover says it all: At SAS it is a low 2 percent compared with an average of 22 percent in the rest of the software industry. . 850 Business Magazine

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Executive Mindset

Human Element

  

D o’s and Don’ts of Hiring

Hiring For Success Finding the right fit for your company isn’t always easy By Will Patrick

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ost employers know it’s critical to have the right team members working at their company. As the saying goes, “You’re only as good as your worst employee.” Therefore, an effective hiring process is necessary for success. And whether you’re a business owner, a company manager or rank-and-file team member, everyone is ultimately affected by a new hire. So what should an employer do if, for one reason or another, they need to find that right person for a job … in a hurry?

Three Reasons Why You Might Need to Hire in a Hurry 1. Your business just scored a huge contract. Great! But in doing

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so you’ve taken on more responsibility than your staffing can currently handle. It’s time to hire qualified help. 2. Your best employee walks into your office and announces she’s moving on — at the worst possible time. How are you going to replace her? 3. You had to let someone go because it just wasn’t working out. How can you make sure that situation doesn’t happen again? The truth is, these situations happen all the time. Fortunately, these days it’s easier than ever for employers and employees to find each other. In fact, thanks to social networking websites, corporate recruiters and global headhunting services, the real challenge may be narrowing down the list of potential candidates for a single job.


Keep in mind though that these hiring smaller information technology compaservices are not all the same. Ensuring sucnies such as Pensacola’s Digital Boardwalk. DO’S cess starts with choosing the right online “When we’re under the gun like we are >> Always have several vehicle, and that decision will depend on right now,” says Tim Shoop, president and candidates in your pipeline; how much time and money a firm can CEO of Digital Boardwalk Inc., “we utilize even if you don’t have a current need, you will afford, as well as the level of expertise the local and regional technical recruiting someday. job opening requires. Most of all, while firms. They screen and do all the recruiting, >> G et to know a candidate’s these websites make finding applicants a perform background checks and usually personality. Websites can cinch, it’s finding the right fit for your comproduce results within a couple of days.” only get you so far. pany that should be the ultimate goal. One such firm is called TEKsystems — a >> When in doubt, ask trusted Susan Sturza, corporate recruiter for flagship company of the international IT associates in your industry. Tallahassee-headquartered Mainline staffing behemoth Allegis Group (reportThey know who’s good and Information Systems, says that in recent ed $8.2 billion in annual revenue). With who isn’t. years Mainline has moved away from proven track records, large placement firms >> Include a “career” tab using traditional job boards, such as careercan provide ideal solutions for firms seekor link on your website. Serious candidates will builder.com and monster.com, and now ing qualified employees in a hurry. often come to you. uses LinkedIn.com almost exclusively. The Such services can also be expensive, >> If you have time, Craigslist reason? It’s less time intensive than combhowever; they typically charge the hiring can be an inexpensive ing through hundreds of resumes from company a sizable commission — and they solution. If not, a corporate sites like Craigslist. can even command a percentage of the recruiter can usually deliver. “By purchasing the ability to use the new hire’s wage. recruiting module on LinkedIn, any orgaSo what does Shoop do when he isn’t in nization is able to reach out to any person a hurry? Simple: Craigslist. “It’s been sucDON’TS who’s accepting emails and solicit interest cessful and inexpensive for us. That’s really >> Don’t spend money posting for an open position within the company,” important for a small business.” your job opening if you don’t need to. There’s a lot says Sturza. In other words, she’s flipping David Vincent of JRA Architects has of good people looking for the traditional approach of posting an had a much different Craigslist experiwork. ad and waiting for responses on its head. ence. “In the last three to five years, with >> Never hire just to fill a seat. Because LinkedIn is essentially an interacthe economy being the way it’s been, I’ve tive resume posting website, Struza can found that putting an ad in the newspa>> Don’t limit candidates to your immediate need or proactively initiate an exchange with a per or going online to post an opening is to what they think they candidate she’s already interested in. overwhelming.” might want. Instead, listen One shortcoming to this approach, howVincent was receiving 50-60 resume to them and figure out how best to place them. ever, is that an employer only has the abilresponses per job posting, with some appliity to send a candidate an inquiry; there’s cants responding from as far away as New >> Try not to eliminate a candidate that’s going the no guarantee the candidate will respond York City and Detroit. Don’t get him wrong, extra mile, even if their in a timely manner or at all. And while Vincent admits that such interest isn’t “necapproach seems a little LinkedIn has facilitated positive results for essarily bad, but it’s too much.” unorthodox. many of Mainline’s recent hiring needs, Vincent has been in charge of hiring and >> Don’t waste your own time Sturza says that she would instead rely on firing for the Tallahassee and Panama City looking for a needle in a haystack, especially if Mainline’s own network of contacts when Beach architectural firm over the last 15 you can afford to have a looking to fill an executive-level or highly years. These days, rather than use Craigslist, professional handle a more specialized position. the senior vice president recommends relychallenging search for you. It’s easy to see why. With more than ing on trusted contacts. 600 employees, a multi-state presence and “The best way of hiring is to call up conclients such as IBM, Hewlett-Packard and tacts within the trades, in my case other RedHat, Mainline can afford to lean on its vast network of human contractors or engineers, and ask them if they know anybody that’s capital. But that approach doesn’t necessarily work as well for really good that’s been let go or is out of work,” says Vincent. “The

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Will Your New Hire Be a Good Team Player?

Some questions you can ask in your next interview with a

Here are interview tips to make sure the answer is “Yes,” from Bruce Piasecki, author of Doing More with Teams: The New Way to Winning.

potential employee: 1. What was your best team experience?



>> Conduct interviews in a team of four or five leaders. This will

2. Can you tell us about some of your biggest wins? Your

replicate the dynamics of the team setting the new employee will be working in. Good team players tend to do well in settings of four or five people asking an avalanche of questions.

biggest losses? 3. In the best of all possible worlds, do you want to work for us for a year, three years or five years?



>> Look for an intrinsic ability to “bond” with interview team

4. Do you seek one mentor or two in our group? People who

members. Even more important than dress, training or résumé, is the candidate’s ability to “bond” instantly to at least three to five members in the interview team.

want to work with only the CEO or the founder are typically not great team players. (Take note of that!) 5. How coachable are you?



>> Look for a comfort level with the rapid-fire give-and-take of

the interview team. People who work well in teams don’t get ruffled. They answer your pointed questions with calm and with precision, without being terse.



>> They demonstrate a desire to work with you for a long time.

As a player in the global economy, your quest is to generate revenue through respect, relationships and long service. You are always looking for a longer term player, someone who is coachable in a matter of seasons, not just individual project events. Fierce individualists tend to make their mark, then move on.



>> Good team players look for feedback. In fact, they long for it. … they

want to get a feel for the path of improvement available to them.

Bruce Piasecki is president and founder of AHC Group Inc., a management consulting firm specializing in energy, materials and environmental corporate matters, whose clients include Suncor Energy, Hess, FMC, the Warren Buffett firm Shaw Industries, Toyota and other global companies in his Corporate Affiliates training workshops. Since 1981, he has advised companies about the critical areas of corporate governance, energy, environmental strategy, product innovation and sustainability strategy with his teams of senior associates. See brucepiasecki.com and ahcgroup.com for more details.

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way the economy’s been, there’s a lot of good people out of work.” Which is why many employers would do well to take note of applicants willing to go the extra mile to get noticed. Just as appropriate skills and experience are necessary criteria for job placement, candidates exhibiting intangibles such as determination and resourcefulness can prove to be very effective hires. For example, at the height of Florida’s double-digit unemployment morass in 2009, Sean Reilly was a Craigslist-er looking for work. He was doing contract work for Chicago’s public school system and desperately wanted to move to Florida to watch his granddaughter grow up. Trouble was he couldn’t get a job. After sending out dozens upon dozens of resumes, he received only one reply. It was from Technology Services Group, a North Florida tech firm. Reilly quickly responded but didn’t hear back. He then decided that his only option was to aggressively pursue the lead. In fact, he was so bold that he recalls initially being received as a potential red-flag. But, as luck would have it, a skilled TSG employee ended up leaving the company on short notice, and Reilly was by then firmly planted in the firm’s hiring pipeline. Fast-forward three years, and today Reilly is a senior network engineer for TSG and has an ownership stake in the company to boot — making him part employee and part employer. What about industries such as tourism and hospitality, where twodimensional websites pale in comparison to the classic face-to-face interview? Kristina MacKenzie, corporate director of human resources for Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort and Spa, says not to worry. Headhunting sites like Monster.com and local advertising services can both be effective. The key, she says, really depends on what position an employer is trying to fill — and she would know: Hilton Sandestin employs a staff of 450, plus many more during peak seasons, in an industry where employees are constantly in direct contact with customers. “I would definitely say that when someone walks through the door, do not be limited by what the candidate says. Or, by what you think, as the employer, you need,” says MacKenzie. “Instead, really talk to them. Get to know them and figure out the best placement.” Just as there are multiple tools for hiring the right employee, there are just as many challenges to finding the right fit for your company. Knowing your circumstances will determine the best approach. And knowing you hired the right person for the job will engender the confidence to take on even bigger challenges.

THE USTA TALLAHASSEE TENNIS CHALLENGER WAS A HUGE SCCESS!

THANK YOU

How important is it to make a good hire? If you make a mistake, it can cost you money.

According to a 2012 survey by Careerbuilder.com of nearly 2,500 hiring managers and resource professionals: >>

41 percent of companies made a bad hire in the last year that cost them at least $25,000. (24 percent said a bad hire cost them more than $50,000.)

>>

69 percent reported their company was adversely affected by a bad hire.

>>

The most common reason for making a bad hire? 43 percent said they needed to fill the job quickly.

to all of our wonderful volunteers and sponsors for helping make it a great 21 years of professional tennis in Tallahassee. TALLAHASSEECHALLENGER.COM

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Executive Mindset

It’s the Law    2 013 Legislative Wrap

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Business Success Florida Legislature approves measures to help economic development By Linda Kleindienst

W

hen the Florida Legislature adjourned its annual session in May, lawmakers had approved a host of bills to benefit business — including some of Gov. Rick Scott’s economic development priorities — that hopefully will give a little boost to the state’s economic recovery. “This Legislature cut taxes so we’ll have more jobs in this state,’’ Scott declared soon after lawmakers adjourned. After the traditional hankie-drop ending the 60-day session, business advocates praised a wide range of legislative actions that are expected to boost retail sales, cut down on taxes limiting economic development and reduce regulations that businesses say hinder expansion. But lawmakers also included a provision in a wide ranging tax bill that would guarantee the state is getting its money’s worth out of state grants handed to companies that promise to create new jobs. Here’s a look at some of what lawmakers approved, bills that are expected to win Scott’s approval:

Manufacturing Permits — The permitting process for manufacturing plants would be expedited, and local governments would be given more flexibility in developing manufacturing. Manufacturing Tax Break — Eliminating the tax on new equipment for manufacturing was one of Scott’s top legislative priorities this year. The tax would not be collected for three years, beginning April 30, 2014. According to the Florida Chamber Foundation, while the rest of the state’s economy grew .5 percent from 2010-2011, Florida’s manufacturing industry — 17,5000 companies that employ more than 300,000 workers — grew 3.3 percent in that time. “The exemption … enhances Florida’s ability to attract new businesses and help our existing manufacturers grow,” said Stan Connally, president and CEO of Gulf Power Company. “Economic development is a competitive sport, and this improves our odds of winning.”

Economic Development Incentives — Worried the state isn’t getting the bang for the buck that it should, a tax package passed on the last day of the legislative session creates a schedule for reviewing state incentives and economic development programs in an effort to prevent spending on programs that don’t deliver promised jobs. All applicants for an incentive would be evaluated for “economic benefits” and the state Department of Economic Opportunity would be required to publish information about incentives provided to business.

Sales Tax Holiday — It’s billed as a consumer-friendly move to help back-to-school shoppers by exempting certain school and clothing items from the state and local sales tax. But it’s a highly sought after holiday by retailers who say shoppers tend to spend more money when they’re getting a tax break, boosting the stores’ bottom lines. The exemption, which would kick in during a three-day period Aug. 2 through Aug. 4, would apply to items such as clothing, wallets, shoes, bags and backpacks valued at $75 or less. It also would apply to school supplies that cost less than $15 and, for the first time, personal computers and related accessories costing $750 or less.

Employment Benefits — Local governments would be stopped

Worker Training — The $74.5 billion state budget includes a

from setting their own policies on forms of compensation like sick leave. Business interests oppose being forced to offer governmentmandated leave benefits that vary from one location to the next. Enterprise Florida — Funding is increased for Florida’s efforts

doubling of funding — to $12 million — that goes to employers for worker training through the Quick Response Training grant program. The program has been lauded by site selection consultants and economic developers as an important tool for job growth.

to attract international business, including funding for offices in China, Israel and Japan, and for expansion of Enterprise Florida’s small business trade program.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

Photo by SCOTT HOLSTEIN

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SPONSORED REPORT

OUTREACH 850 a program of the jim moran institute for global entrepreneurship

Move Forward with Support An Entrepreneur Support Organization provides vital business assistance

S

et up to assist business growth, an Entrepreneur Support Organization (ESO) can make the difference in the long-term success of any business. Such organizations include small business development centers, chambers of commerce and economic development corporations. The challenge is finding the time to work on your business and not in your business. When a business owner takes advantage of services provided by an ESO, they are usually better prepared and educated on handling issues and challenges moving forward. The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship, an ESO housed at Florida State University’s College of Business, recently launched a new resource called the CEO Peer2Peer Group. CEOs and business owners are able to join these confidential groups set up with 8-12 participants from similar but non-competing businesses. Each member brings an issue, challenge or idea to the table and receives feedback and advice from fellow members who have been faced with similar experiences. The person receiving the group’s wisdom then reports back on the ultimate solution implemented and its business impact.

Small business development centers located around the state provide another frontline of ESOs for startups and established businesses. Their services include counseling and hosting workshops on a variety of topics from writing a business plan to financing opportunities. They also provide marketing demographic tools, financial analysis of your business and growth acceleration plans — all at no cost. For networking opportunities, one of the best ESO resources is your local chamber of commerce. Most chambers in the region offer events that are designed to foster new business connections and referrals. The Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce, for example, hosts the Business Nuts & Bolts, a breakfast meeting with an emphasis on networking and recognition and where fellow chamber members provide wise advice. These are just samples of what services are available. Entrepreneur Support Organizations were created with the ultimate goal of moving business forward. They are successful when your business is successful; so take a moment and reach out to them. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

ESOs provide networking opportunities for entrepreneurs.

“The Jim Moran Institute is one of a kind, continually supporting the entrepreneur community through outreach projects and on-campus activities.” – Chad Kittrell, Hunter & Harp

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SPONSORED REPORT

OUTREACH 850

DIRECTOR’S NOTE

photo by scott holstein

Q&A: John and Kathy Bell, Coloney Bell Engineering

a program of the jim moran institute for global entrepreneurship

The Plan is Set

I J

ohn and Kathy Bell own Coloney Bell Engineering. Their company employs 10 people and provides forensic engineering and failure analysis. Based in Tallahassee, with a second location in Fort Lauderdale, Coloney Bell handles investigations and documentation for law firms, insurance companies, appraisal companies and large corporations.

Q: Seldom, if ever, do our clients have a negative experience with Coloney Bell. Once they experience working with us, it usually leads to additional work with them as well as referrals. The most difficult part is getting in the door. What are some “secrets” to becoming recognized and then to be given that chance? A: One of the key “secrets” to becoming recognized is to leverage the opinions of trusted, independent third parties. Seek out the referrals of customers and recognized industry experts across multiple social media platforms. Q: What are your recommendations for tracking sales leads and clients? A: There are a number of low cost and free tools on the Web for tracking sales leads and clients. How valuable that information is will be driven by the quality of the information your staff provides. Simple ramification techniques applied

love it when a plan comes together, and with Outreach 850, the plan is set. When I came on board to The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship late last year, I wanted a game plan that would assist as many businesses in the North Florida area as possible and measure our effectiveness. This feature in 850 Magazine is one way of getting advice and information to businesses on a broad scale. Other programs that we are implementing and continuing include:

to the entry and tracking process are excellent ways to increase staff participation and enthusiasm.

• the Small Business Executive Program — providing a select group of business leaders and entrepreneurs up to 40 hours of business training

Q: How many times should I contact a potential client before giving up on closing a sale? A: The typical sale involves 7-12 contacts or interactions with the potential customer. Most sales professionals give up well before committing that level of effort. Create and execute a unique step-by-step sales staircase for each potential client.

• the recently launched CEO Peer2Peer groups — bringing 8 to 12 CEOs together in a confidential setting to help each other grow their business

Q: Some service companies develop a VIP list of their top clients. Developing the list is easy, but what should I do with it? A: Indeed, many service companies develop a VIP list. In fact, a large number of firms provide special or extended services to their VIP clients. Interestingly enough, very few clients are made aware of their special status and the associated benefits. Create an ongoing VIP awareness program for your top customers.

• our established Advice Straight Up — presenting our world-class speaker series • an Entrepreneur Support Organization (ESO) network — giving businesses a one-stop resource center. All of these initiatives are designed to help businesses understand that assistance exists. Because we are limited in our own resources at The Jim Moran Institute, we will pilot the new programs in Tallahassee with plans to extend them throughout the 850 region. Founder Jim Moran always said, “The future belongs to those who prepare for it.” We want to help your business prepare for the future.

Mike Campbell Director, North Florida Outreach

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Tim Duff, Keith Hay and Paul Watts, COO Electronet Broadband Communications

RE AL CUSTOMERS . RE AL ISSUES . RE AL SOLUTIONS . FSU Credit Union has multiple locations throughout Tallahassee and Crawfordville. We were experiencing problems with our communications provider, which was affecting many of our branches. We contacted Electronet for assistance and they provided new broadband connections. After the new Electronet circuits were installed, our performance improved dramatically. We were so pleased that we had Electronet build ďŹ ber into one of our newest branches. We have been very pleased with the performance and the reliability. Plus, we like the fact that we can call on our local representative if needed, not some auto attendant or an 800-phone number. We are very pleased that we made the switch to Electronet and highly recommend them. Keith A . Hay

3 4 1 1 C a p i t a l M e d i c a l B l v d . Ta l l a h a s s e e , F L | 2 2 2 . 0 2 2 9 | w w w. e l e c t r o n e t . n e t 30

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SPONSORED REPORT

OUTREACH 850 UPCOMING EVENTS

a program of the jim moran institute for global entrepreneurship

Education

July 3, July 17, July 26, August 7, August 22 Tallahassee Chamber One-on-One Confidential, free consultations with Director of Outreach through the Tallahassee Chamber.

July 11, July 18, August 1, August 22 CEO Peer2Peer Group CEOs meet to resolve challenges and grow their businesses.

August 10 Advice Straight UP Held during the annual conference of The Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation.

Entrepreneurship Starts Young

August 14 Small Business Executive Program Kick-off of Fall Session bringing 25 CEOs and business owners together for 40 contact hours to help improve and grow their businesses.

Visit nfl.jmi.fsu.edu for more information.

College of Business fosters development of new business leaders

E

ntrepreneur (äntrəprəˈno͝or) noun – A person who has the ability to create and operate a firm and is willing to accept the risk that goes along with building and running his or her company. This is a simple definition for a very complex process that Florida State University has embraced as a major focus for the entire campus. President Eric Barron has declared that FSU will become an entrepreneurial university. In keeping with this call, the FSU College of Business has created a world-class program to identify and train future entrepreneurs. In its fourth year, the program graduated its first class of 40 students in 2012. Each year since 2009, 40 sophomore students

have been selected for induction into the entrepreneurship program. The culmination of the curriculum occurs during the sophomore year when they create an actual company that they operate for two semesters. Funding for their companies is provided through the generosity of The Jim Moran Institute for Global Entrepreneurship. If, at the end of the year, they have produced a net profit, the students repay the initial investment endowed by The Jim Moran Institute. Any profits are donated to a charity of the students’ choosing. This very competitive program has proven to be a tremendous asset for our region and the future of the 850 area.

The Jim Moran Institute supporters include:

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Jobs-O-Meter Neal Wade, head of the Bay County Economic Development Alliance, has set a public goal for the new jobs he hopes to bring to the area this year. 32

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The Right Site Companies may not get everything they want, but consultants see that they get what they need By Steve Bornhoft

A

s 2012 was drawing to a close, Bay County’s chief economic development officer, Neal Wade, convened a meeting billed as an update on the local Economic Development Alliance’s industrial recruitment efforts. Hundreds of business people reported to the event, all given to a sense of anticipation. The media turned out. Florida Commerce Secretary Gray Swoope, who also serves as president of Enterprise Florida, was to speak. Surely, an announcement of real economic import, one involving hundreds of new jobs, was in the offing. First, however, came news that Swoope would not be attending. Unexpectedly, he had flown to Texas, where a niece had sustained serious injuries in a fall from a horse. So, one of Swoope’s lieutenants filled in for his boss, speaking in general terms about the importance of cooperation between state and local entities where economic development is concerned. The stand-in played a message that had been recorded by Swoope on his way out of town and assured his audience that the secretary wouldn’t have done that for just anybody. Everyone understood. Next came Wade and drum-roll energy overtook the room. In tantalizing fashion, Wade unveiled a series of icons on easels — giant flash cards, really — each one representing a factor in an elaborate equation. A skilled workforce, Wade computed, plus a deepwater port; available buildings and sites; a new airport; the potential for quick return on investment; an attractive environment/quality of life; ambitious, contemporary marketing efforts; and visionary leadership EQUALS, well, a pledge. At least for now. Wade had no sexy, game-changing project to talk about. On this day, there would be no balloon-drop crescendo, no confetti, no pom-poms. Instead, he

Photo by SCOTT HOLSTEIN

offered the group a promise: Bay County, he confidently said, will add at least 1,300 new jobs in 2013. Wade’s bravado was lost on a crowd that came looking for a ring and a date.

Forging Unions In fairness, let this be said: Bringing about unions of communities and industry isn’t easy. That nut has been an especially hard one to crack in Florida given a business climate which, prior to the arrival of Rick Scott in the Governor’s Mansion, site selection specialists say, was “cumbersome,” “uninviting,” “nightmarish.” Today, however, there is growing new reason to share in Wade’s unbridled optimism. Larry Sassano, an economic development officer with more than three decades of experience, is the president of Florida’s Great Northwest (FGNW), whose mission it is to market and brand a 16-county region stretching from Escambia County east to Jefferson County as a “globally competitive location for business.” FGNW works with regional partners to recruit new jobs and investment throughout Northwest Florida. Investors include corporations, utilities, colleges and universities, and the Gulf Coast Workforce Board. In the span of just two days in February that immediately preceded the big snow that smothered Boston and much of the Northeast, Sassano met with 14 site selection consultants in New Jersey and New York, specialists whose clients include Fortune 500 companies. The list included familiar accounting firms — Jones, Lang, LaSalle; Ernst and Young; KPMG — who offer siteselection services in addition to tax and auditing work. Sassano met, too, with specialists who deal exclusively with the economic development concerns of major companies, experts including Dennis Donovan of WDG Consulting, regarded as one of the most renowned site consultants in the country.

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“We didn’t have a bad appointment,” Sassano enthused. “All of the consultants were very interested in giving and receiving information. They weren’t just meeting with us to be nice.” Sassano was satisfied that the consultants were aware of FGNW and of efforts by Scott and the Legislature to bring about a more business-friendly Florida. “They do their homework,” Sassano said. “To be successful and land the projects that they do, they have to understand large, medium and small economies so that they can reliably recommend to their clients the best site locations for their expansion or relocation. The companies we called on are all very good; they’re going to earn their fees by providing clients with the best advice and evaluations available.” What feedback and questions did Sassano entertain? Referring to a stack of index cards, Sassano offered a sampler. Consultants wanted to know about: >> The availability of hangar space for an aerospace

“All of the consultants were very interested in giving and receiving information. They weren’t just meeting with us to be nice.” Larry Sassano, president of Florida’s Great Northwest

project. >> The availability of large parcels as sites for custom buildings. >> What it takes for a business to prequalify for incentives

offered by the state. >> Business taxes. >> Training grants. >> Business retention programs. >> The population of military retirees in Northwest Florida

and the skills they possess. “A lot of retired military men and women stay in our area and look for second careers,” Sassano addressed one of his notes. “They are well trained, disciplined and add great value to our workforce, but they are hard to track. They don’t figure in your typical economic analysis report, so we’re going to have to work with the bases to gather information about them.”

Importance of Regionalism Sassano judged his NJ/NY mission to be a success owing not only to the information exchanges he engaged in, but because he came away with projects that may work in Northwest Florida. Those possibilities Sassano passed on to economic development officers in counties of interest to site selectors and their clients. Going forward, he may work jointly with prospects and the counties to offer recommendations and information about state incentives and processes, or the counties may run unaided with the baton and simply thank Sassano for bringing projects to their attention. Meanwhile, Sassano believes that the future of FGNW, which has been downsized due to a falloff in financial support, is secure. “We brought all the EDOs in the region together and asked them what we could do to help them the most with economic development activity,” Sassano said. As a result, FGNW is a leaner organization focused tightly on three priorities: branding the region; developing strong strategic and marketing plans;

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and arriving at an economic development institute as a source of continuing education for EDOs. Mark Sweeney, senior principal at McCallum Sweeney Consulting in Greenville, S.C., is among site selection consultants who are aware of Northwest Florida and are believers in regional promotion. Like Wade (Alabama) and Swoope (Mississippi and now Florida), he spent years at a state department of commerce, in his case, South Carolina. He provides consulting services to economic development organizations across the United States in areas including site certification and incentive strategies. “Pensacola, Panama City and Tallahassee are distinct, but it makes a lot of sense in this economy to market regionally,” Sweeney contends. “Florida’s Great Northwest has been out there for some time, and they’ve gone through some leadership changes, but it’s been curious and somewhat disappointing to see the organization struggle with fundraising to the extent that it has. That speaks to the fact that among the citizens and businesses of Northwest Florida, there is still something of a learning curve. People from throughout the region need to understand that your economy is tied together, your marketing is most effective when you work together and the regional organization has and in the future will continue to provide great value.” Sweeney finds that regions can successfully market diversity, and that individual communities do not have to lose their identities in the process. His clients think regionally, he says, and recognize that infrastructure tends to be regional. The benefits associated with a new airport don’t stop at the county line. “We like to see communities within a region who are friendly rivals, not cutthroat competitors,” says Sweeney, who credits Wade with having been a visionary regarding regional cooperation. “Working with Gray Swoope in the Meridian, Miss., area, he forged cooperation across state lines, not just county lines. That’s a real challenge, both legally and politically. He appreciates the value of getting into the marketplace on a regional basis.”

Florida’s Improved Business Climate Florida, Sweeney says, is in a position to be much more competitive than it was five years ago. He gives Florida’s business climate today a B or a B+ with an arrow pointing up. “You’re moving in the right direction,” Sweeney offers. “Business climates are dynamic things — they do change — and, quite frankly, the leadership at the Governor’s Office tends to set the tone for business and economic development. Right now, the dynamic in Florida is positive, and we expect things to continue to be positive.” To Northwest Florida, Sweeney also assigns an upward arrow. He believes the region has the potential to be highly attractive to manufacturing and distribution operations; that it provides excellent access to the Gulf Coast and the Southeast; and that its labor force would be deemed adequate if not appealing by various manufacturers.

Photo by SCOTT HOLSTEIN


Thinking Regionally One of the biggest challenges faced by Larry Sassano, head of Florida’s Great Northwest, is getting everyone in the region to work together for economic development. 850 Business Magazine

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Site Ready for Industry Air infrastructure has improved, he says, given the advent of the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. “Aviation-sector businesses should be interested in your region both due to the strength of the new asset; the property it will open up for aviation-related activity and also the history of aviation, including military bases, along the Gulf Coast,” Sweeney says. The airport near West Bay also has piqued the interest of site consultant Mike Mullis, the founder of J.M. Mullis, Inc., headquartered in Memphis with additional offices in Mexico, Europe and Asia. As a project location consultant, Mullis specializes in aviation and aerospace. He likes Bay County because of the airport and what he perceives to be the skill sets possessed by military retirees in the region. “I like Panama City; I like it a lot,” Mullis says and one gets the feeling that, for him, that is effusive praise. A Panhandle property owner for 25 years, Mullis has abandoned his habit of flying into and out of Fort Walton Beach in favor of using ECP (Northwest Florida Beaches). He credits the Southwest Airlines/ECP relationship with making the region known to areas of the country that had no awareness of Northwest Florida until recently. Mullis broadly described an aerospace project that Bay County may land soon. Hundreds of jobs would result, Mullis said, but congressional authorization of federal funds will be required to make it fly. “Bay County has a shot at this and that’s new; it’s a new day in Florida,” Mullis said. “Logistics, workforce and operating costs are key consideration for businesses. You’ve got to incentivize things on the front end so that companies can begin almost immediately to earn ROI. And you’ve got to accelerate permitting. Let’s be honest. Permitting in Florida historically has been a nightmare, and it will take time to overcome that reality and that reputation.” For Mullis, the best of county economic development officers are those who think outside of their “canned programs,” listen carefully to the needs of a prospect business and calculate honestly whether their communities are in a position to meet those needs. And they’ve got to be great closers. Wade sees his role precisely that way. “My job is not selling Bay County,” he says. “My job is to thoroughly understand clients’ needs and to offer them honest assessments of our strengths and weaknesses in hopes that we represent the right fit. Only then can we establish and maintain credibility with businesses and the site consultants who represent them.” Wade knows that if the Jobs-O-Meter planted in the yard outside his office is to top 1,300, he must maximize his relationships with site selectors. (The meter, resembling a thermometer, is like those used by community United Way campaigns.) “Site selectors are some of my favorite people,” Wade says. “When it comes to economic development, they are the people you need to reach.” Sean Helton, public relations manager with Enterprise Florida, is thankful that site selectors are giving more consideration to Florida than they have in years. Over the past 18 months, Enterprise Florida has received a “significant number” of requests and referrals from site consultants and, since the first of the year, activity has picked up even more. “Many of the projects being discussed have a military focus,” Helton points out. “A lot of homeland security and defense projects. But we’re hearing from IT and manufacturing businesses, too. Not necessarily mega-projects, but small to medium. Interest is coming from businesses already in the state that are looking to grow and from businesses looking to relocate from other states where the cost of doing business is relatively high.” Asked about Northwest Florida’s strengths as seen by Enterprise Florida, Helton offers a list reminiscent of Wade’s flash cards. He notes, too, that BP compensation awards have made available money for creating new incentives for qualifying investment projects.

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ulf Power Company has kicked off a new program designed to help communities create jobs by having large sites ready for business growth and expansions. Through the program — the first of its kind in Florida — potential industrial sites will be submitted to a site consultant firm retained by Gulf Power. The firm, McCallum Sweeney Consulting, will evaluate the sites, make recommendations for preparing the site for a new business and then certify the site once the improvements have been made. “Having project-ready sites is critical for Northwest Florida to be competitive in economic development,” said John Hutchinson, Gulf Power’s director of Public Affairs and Economic Development. “Surrounding states have many sites that have the stamp of approval by an expert. It’s time we had such a program in our region.” Site certification programs take much of the risk out of the game for a new business coming to town, according to Hutchinson. “They know the site has been inspected and all the preliminary work has been done, such as permits, drainage work, the engineering for utilities, an available supply of water, transportation infrastructure such as roads and rail — all vital steps for locating a major employer.” Gulf Power is paying for all of the program design costs and will pay onehalf of the consultant costs for publicly owned parcels submitted by cities or counties. The consultant fees amount to about $20,000 per site. Private developers can participate as well but will have to pay the full amount of the consultant fees. Gulf Power will not pay for any of the site improvements for public or privately owned sites. Hutchinson said large companies competing in a global market want to move quickly, and having certified sites allows them to do this. And, it takes the guesswork out of the process, which provides the kind of assurance businesses want when they expand or relocate. Sites must be located within Gulf Power’s service territory and be at least 50 acres to qualify for the program. “It’s all about preparing our communities for job growth,” Hutchinson said. “We have to have a competitive product to present to expanding or prospective businesses. Certified sites get us in the ball game.”


Growing Interest in NorthWest Florida

“Right now, the dynamic in Florida is positive, and we expect things to continue to be positive.” Mark Sweeney, senior principal at McCallum Sweeney Consulting

Karen Moore, who chairs the Economic Development Council of Tallahassee/Leon County, said the council has experienced a “steady drumbeat of inquiries,” both from site selection specialists and company representatives. “They are interested in both the city and the region. We have potential projects that add up to a robust pipeline.” Prospects have been impressed by Leon County’s educational institutions, the character of its workforce, the number and quality of cultural opportunities it offers and its proximity to Gulf beaches. All of those factors helped bring about the Kaye Scholer law firm’s decision to move its operations staff to Tallahassee. “I’m excited about Kaye Scholer because it will mean 100 jobs immediately, not over five years,” Moore said. “And we think it will lead similar employers to consider our community. I hope it brings about a real domino effect.” The Tallahassee/Leon EDC has revamped its communication and outreach activities, an initiative that included the redesign of its website. Given the significant number of inquiries that the EDC has received from companies in Central and South America and China, it resolved to make the site “trilingual,” Moore said. “English, Spanish and Mandarin. In the last 18 months, we’ve conducted fam (familiarization) tours with visitors from 19 countries.” Scott Luth, the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce’s senior vice president for economic development, reports that he has been seeing stepped-up interest in the greater Pensacola region. Inquiries, he said, are coming from local companies considering expansion, and outside site consultants looking for new locations on behalf of their clients. “Consistent with our new strategic plan, we anticipate increased interest specifically in our identified target industry sectors: cyber security, maintenance/repair and operations for both marine and aerospace companies, and back-office support,” Luth said. Indeed, the Chamber in February received a $250,000 state grant, awarded by the Florida Defense Support Task Force, to establish a Center for Excellence for Cyber Security and Forensics. The goal is to build a lab that local, state and federal entities can use to combat cyber security breaches while bringing more public awareness to the issue. Chamber President Jim Hizer is optimistic that the center will help establish Pensacola as a leader in applied research in cyber security and attract more high-tech industry to the area. But Northwest Florida isn’t without liabilities. North-south connectivity isn’t where it needs to be, Helton says, the Gulf coast is prone to hurricanes, military budgets are seen as vulnerable to cuts and nearby states offer incentives that are hard to match.

Closing the Deal Top considerations for businesses seeking sites, Helton said, are a highly skilled workforce; locations that provide ease of distribution of goods; shovel-ready, affordable sites; fast-track permitting; low costs of doing business;

high quality of life and state and local incentives. Location decisions are done as a series of decisions, Sweeney has found. “For our strong manufacturing projects of a substantial size, usually the first cut — not necessarily the most important — is do you have property and infrastructure that meets our needs, not only in terms of capacity, but schedule. And if you do, then we can start looking at other things including workforce and incentives. “Some would suggest that incentives are no longer important and have gone by the wayside, but that is anything but the truth. Companies are aware of incentive potential. They know what incentives mean and how to use them in a location decision. In the U.S. and around the world, capital flows freely, companies have choices. Our federal system and our states each set individual policies, fiscal policies, tax policies, incentive policies. Where you do something makes a difference, and incentives help influence the choice of a location and the success of that location.” Sweeney contends that Florida has long had good incentivizing tools at its disposal, but has by and large left them in the toolbox. But the state is doing better, he says. The No. 1 improvement for Sweeney has been a new management process that makes state incentives more approachable and more easily implemented. Meanwhile, Sweeney isn’t sure that local government entities are all that sure about their role in incentives, “but experience is a great teacher. “As communities see more opportunities and confront the challenge of coming to the table to try to support a decision, local participation will slowly but surely improve. There are some locations that already do an outstanding job, and the state does require local participation in its grant programs. Every part of the process seems to be improving.” Helton points to the Family Dollar distribution center project in Marianna as a model of cooperation and one in which incentives played a big role. Local, state and federal partners poured $24 million in incentives into the facility, which opened in 2005. Learning curve progress, unfortunately, has coincided with a decline in the number of opportunities available. “I think it’s a positive time in America, but it’s not wide open boom time,” Sweeney says. “Project activity, from our perspective, is clearly up over the last 18 months versus the previous 18 months, but we’re not back to the rah-rah days or the days, shall I say, of funny money. There are fewer opportunities. That’s where leadership can come in. You want to win opportunities, and you need to be smart about all of them. It’s important for the community to recognize that life in general and the world of business attraction and business investment, in particular, is full of risk. It’s full of risk for the companies and as communities play a role by providing incentives, there is risk in that.” But Wade isn’t scared. His Jobs-O-Meter is a sure sign of that. “We’ve had one Walmart to come online in Bay County already this year and a second one will open soon near Pier Park on the Back Beach Road,” Wade grins. “So that’s 400 jobs right there.” He is kidding, sort of.

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The Comeback As consumer confidence improves, the real estate market is reinvigorated

By Wendy O. Dixon

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The real estate pendulum is finally back on an upswing.

Home prices, which drive much of the economy, rose more in 2012 than at any time since the housing bubble burst, surging to their highest point in six years. It’s a spike that was unthinkable just two years ago. Economists who study home prices across 20 American cities say they have risen 5.5 percent, the biggest increase in six years, according to S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices. Commercial real estate is also doing well, especially in Northwest Florida, with new retail stores and restaurants sprouting up in Panama City Beach, Tallahassee and Destin. And rental properties are being built in college towns and resort areas, all signaling a return in consumer confidence that has been lagging for the last five years. “The sizzle is back,” Summer Greene, 2012 president of Florida Realtors, said in late December. “With home sales strongly trending up and the supply of homes for sale drying up, the market is hot. And we expect these trends to continue into 2013 with the jobs market improving, low mortgage rates continuing and consumer confidence getting stronger.”

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Strong Recovery John Paul Somers, a Realtor based in Destin and 30-A, says business is booming as customers with cash are aggressively moving to buy up quality properties.

Primary Residential Real Estate Florida’s housing market wrapped up 2012 with more closed sales, higher pending sales, higher median prices and a reduced inventory of homes for sale compared to the year before, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors. Although The St. Joe Co. had a net loss of $8.6 million, or 9 cents a share, during the fourth quarter of 2012, North Florida’s massive landowner actually bounced back in 2012 with a $6 million net profit for the entire year. While that totaled only 7 cents a share, it was a substantial improvement over 2011, when the company had a net loss of $330.3 million, or $3.58 per share. What brought the change in 2012? Increased home and timber sales. “Our residential development business, in particular, experienced improving trends in sales volume and pricing, and that momentum appears to be carrying forward into 2013,” explained Park Brady, St. Joe’s CEO. “Although the economic recovery is still slow, we are optimistic about future growth in our businesses.” More good news: Mortgage rates remain low, with Freddie Mac reporting that a 30-year, fixed-rate mortgage averaged 3.66 percent for 2012, down from the previous year’s average of 4.45 percent. What does this mean for homebuyers? More house for their money. People can now afford larger homes with more amenities than they could in 2006, at the height of the real-estate bubble.

Tallahassee Things are looking up from a few years ago, according to Debbie Kirkland of Armor Realty, 2012 president of the Tallahassee Board of Realtors. “2009 and 2010 were probably some of the worst years we’ve ever experienced — (for) 40

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Realtors and our community in general. It’s still a bit of a buyer’s market, but average sales prices are going up every quarter.” According to figures from the Tallahassee Board of Realtors, there were 2,208 sales of single-family homes the first 11 months of 2012, up 9.3 percent over the same period in 2011. The number of days a home was listed dropped from 101 to 87, a decrease of 13.9 percent, with the single-family home median price listed at $162,500. Tallahassee didn’t take as much of a hit as other areas of the state, said Donald Pickett, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker/Hartung and Noblin Inc. and owner of TRENDS, Tallahassee Real Estate N Data Services. But the Capital City’s real estate market still suffered. “Real estate is very localized,” said Pickett. “Prices aren’t up that much in Tallahassee, but they are up somewhat. They have generally stabilized, and sales are up.”

Bay County As the market improves and the inventory of distressed properties shrinks, the median price should begin to inch upward, real estate experts say. In Bay County, homebuyers are getting while the getting’s good, gobbling up real estate in Lynn Haven, Panama City and Panama City Beach. Erica Price, Realtor with Keller Williams Success Realty, sees confident homebuyers moving in droves into Bay County. “Since 2011, prices have begun to climb. Banks are starting to loan money, loosening up on their restrictions. Interest rates have gone down considerably,” she said, citing a recent contract for $190,000 with an interest rate of 3.1 percent for 30 years. “Roughly 70 percent of my buyer base is moving in from out of town,” she said. “Most are military transfers and retirees. Two couples, both snowbirds who rented for years, are now wanting to buy.” Some homebuyers want to spread out, looking for a house with more Photos by SCOTT HOLSTEIN


acreage or vacant lots. “One week I had three people call looking for vacant residential lots just for the property,” Price said. “One wanted to use the land for gardening.” She is seeing multiple bidders on the property and says buyers previously skeptical of the market are starting to feel the relief of the comeback and are more relaxed about buying property. “People were skeptical and it was difficult for them to make a decision. This year people are looking for investment opportunities, looking for foreclosures, starting to flip again.”

Okaloosa and Walton counties In 2012, median prices rose and inventory shrank across Okaloosa and Walton counties, according to the Emerald Coast Association of Realtors. “A sixmonth inventory is considered a healthy market. In Okaloosa County, at the end of 2012, the single-family home inventory level was at 6.6 months,” said Anne Rendle, CEO of the association. “Condos and townhomes continue to have higher inventories than do single-family homes, however, these are decreasing as well. In Walton County, the inventory of townhomes and condos decreased by 27.2 percent in 2012 over 2011, to a 9.7 month supply. As supply goes down, prices will inevitably begin to come back up.” Rendle sees the Emerald Coast housing market coming back to life. “While the prices aren’t where they were in 2004 and 2005, they probably won’t be for some time,” she said. “Short sales and foreclosures are still a fact of life and will be for a while to come. For those sellers who aren’t in a short sale or foreclosure situation, this is becoming a good time to sell.”  Realtors in the Emerald Coast area are reporting that some listings are receiving multiple offers, and buyers have returned to the purchase market in significant numbers. “We are in the midst of a recovering real estate market,” said Rendle. “While there may still be a few bumps along the way, I believe we will continue to see median prices slowly increase, inventories decrease and more homes sold across the Emerald Coast.”

Residential Rentals Tallahassee Construction of apartment complexes, particularly on and around the Gaines Street Corridor, is a major factor in the rebounding Tallahassee building industry. “Student housing construction dominates, with people from Atlanta and Birmingham buying land around Florida State University, Florida A&M University and Tallahassee Community College and focusing on putting a lot of money in student housing,” said Daniel Wagnon, principal and broker with Structure Commercial Real Estate An estimated $130 million in multifamily-unit construction is under way, much of it targeting students attending the three schools. Anyone who has driven down Pensacola Street from the Civic Center to the stadium in the past few months, or along parallel St. Augustine Street heading back toward downtown, has seen the landscape change. The single-family homes and duplexes that once populated the area have been replaced by three-story apartment buildings that offer all the modern amenities minutes from the heart of campus. Three high-end apartment complexes are under construction in close proximity to FSU and FAMU and all are scheduled to open this fall. CollegeTown, a project of the Seminole Boosters at the corner of Woodward Avenue and Madison Street, is a combination of residential, retail and restaurants/nightclubs. At the corner of Copeland and St. Augustine streets, 601 Copeland will offer student housing with the latest amenities and a variety of floor plans. The Luxe on West Call will have retail on the ground floor and one-, two-, three- and four-bedroom units on the second through sixth floors.

On The Move The bulldozers are ready to roll on property owned by The St. Joe Company, located across the street from the ever expanding Pier Park in Panama City Beach.

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City Commissioner Gil Ziffer said the boom in multi-family construction is good for Tallahassee, as well as for the students. “This is going to get them out of their cars and off our roads,” he said. “They’re within walking distance to campus, whether they go to Florida State or Florida A&M.” But Ziffer also acknowledged that some of the new complexes, with retail and restaurants on the ground floor and modern amenities in the apartment units above, aren’t for students; they’re for singles, young married couples, graduates who want the vibrancy and the connectivity of the college atmosphere. “Our generation graduated from college and moved where the job was,” he said. “This generation figures out where it wants to live, then finds a job there. Things have changed.”

Panama City Beach

“Since 2011, prices have begun to climb. Banks are starting to loan money, loosening up on their restrictions. Interest rates have gone down considerably.” Erica Price, Realtor with Keller Williams Success Realty

Rental property occupancies in Panama City Beach and Destin are at pre-recession levels. Tourism was up 12.33 percent for fiscal year 2012, according to the Panama City Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau. Small businesses are witnessing sales at record levels, and it is apparent that an economic recovery is well under way.

Fort Walton Beach The rental market is doing especially well in military heavy Fort Walton Beach, as Eglin Air Force Base adds thousands of jobs from base closures elsewhere, according to Larry Hall, property manager for Lorraine Rainewhite Realty. “The influx of military families has resulted in a 95-percent occupancy in our managed properties.”

Commercial Construction Tallahassee The long-awaited CollegeTown project next to Florida State University will have plenty of restaurants and bars open in time for the first home football game this fall. And right next door, a 14,000-square-foot Urban Outfitters. For meals and after-hours, look for Madison Social, a “gastropub” with quality food and craft beers; Samba Cantina, a Southwest concept restaurant/bar; Recess, a rooftop pool and bar developed by Hunter & Harp; and Brooklyn Water Bagel. According to Ed Murray, president of NAI TALCOR, there are only two spaces left to lease. Close to Midtown, Whole Foods has a projected Oct. 15 opening date for its 36,000-square-foot store in Miracle Plaza off Thomasville Road. Also signing contracts, according to Murray, are Island Wings, Zoe’s Kitchen, Barbaritos, Millenium Day Spa, Fab’rik (women’s fashion) and Alumni Hall (collegiate apparel). After closing just over a year ago, Peterbrooke Chocolatier is reviving its brick-and-mortar presence in Tallahassee with a new storefront in The Verandas at 1355 Market St., next door to Tasty Pastry Bakery and a store in the Miracle Plaza next to Whole Foods. Despite a depressed office market, the recently finished Summit East Office Technology Park has done well, said Chip Hartung, president, broker 42

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and owner of Coldwell Banker Hartung and Noblin Inc. Realtors. At the crossing of Highway 90 East and Interstate 10, expanded regional offices for First American Title, Auto Owners Insurance and Megas are coming new additions to the office park. In Spring 2014, a vacant lot at the intersection of Tennessee and Monroe Streets will be home to a 20,000-square-foot mixed-use, split-level building. Hunter & Harp Holdings early this year began construction on the downtown four-story Gateway development. Anchor tenant Walgreen’s will occupy the first level, with drive-through accessibility from Tennessee Street. The Monroe Street level will include leasable tenant space, along with a parking garage. Additional leasing space, ideal for retail or business offices, will occupy the upper floors. The project promises to be a pedestrian-friendly, metropolitan addition to Tallahassee’s downtown. Said Wagnon, whose Structure Commercial Real Estate has clients throughout the Southeast, “The (real estate) market is based on job growth and industries. Industries are getting better balanced and getting better profit margins. Real estate is one of those mechanisms to do that. We’re seeing companies consolidate multiple offices into one regional office without affecting their employees and client base. The teleworking model, in which sales reps share hotel offices or modular offices since they’re only in there a few hours a week, is something industries are doing a lot now.” Wagnon said that initiatives of Gov. Rick Scott have focused on duplicating what efficiencies work in the private sector, resulting in reduced rental rates in Tallahassee as buildings are vacated by the government. “As a result of the vacancies, Tallahassee is starting to take a look at how to bring in private industry and have job growth in the medical industry. Hopefully we’ll see new construction and make the real estate industry stronger.”

Pensacola/Fort Walton Beach Fort Walton Beach, with its military and defense contractors, remains a healthy market in terms of office retail. “And the Pensacola office market is very healthy. Existing offices have been absorbed and turned into a landlord-friendly market there,” Wagnon said. “With the latest market price correction, you see investors are starting to venture over to the tertiary (suburban) markets like Pensacola and Tallahassee and buying office assets. Rental rates are increasing. Businesses are able to downsize from 10,000 to 5,000 square feet of space, pay more per square feet and still not have to close the office.”

Port St. Joe Nearby, one of St. Joe’s key initiatives for 2013 is the Port at Port St Joe. “Our Port boasts the shortest distance to the Panama Canal of any port in the United States,” said Brady. “That fact coupled with the long-term growth prospects for the Southeast, will be, we believe, the basis for building a vibrant port within the next few years.”

Destin New construction is also booming in Destin, with the addition of retail space at the popular outdoor mall Destin Commons. Robert Perry, general manager for four years, says the mall has changed its tactic after the drastic


Emotion Buying With low interest rates and lingering foreclosures, there’s hot competition to buy resort-area properties as an investment or second home, says Chris Kent, a real estate broker based in Santa Rosa Beach.

hit the Destin economy took in the late 2000s, approaching national and regional tenants to move in. “The boom that happened in early 2008 allowed the mom and pops to thrive at first, but unfortunately they couldn’t survive the downturn,” he said. “Now we are going after national and regional tenants.” The mall occupancy is at 100 percent, and is adding 100,000 square feet of retail space, expecting a May 2014 opening. “We’ll have 20 to 25 new tenants, including stores and restaurants. We’ve already got letters of commitment for over 60 percent of that new square footage.”

attractive for tenants, now is the time to lock in long-term leases, prior to expected rent appreciation, advises the real estate firm. Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport is driving industry growth and job growth, according to Wagnon. “It’s great for Panama City Beach because of the over production of condos,” he said. “In Panama City, the medical community is still driving office growth, as is the financial sector. You can buy something for 40 cents on the dollar, invest in it and remain at or below market rates. Usually it’s a user who buys 10,000 square feet, uses 5,000 and rents out the other 5,000.”

Panama City Beach In Panama City Beach, construction crews and cranes signal a sign of life after the economic downturn. Mammoth mall Pier Park is a primary market catalyst, providing thousands of jobs and drawing tourists in unprecedented numbers. New construction for Pier Park North, with 400,000-square-feet of retail space to include major chain stores and restaurants, will essentially make it the central hub of Panama City Beach. In addition, a new Walmart, along with a just opened 38,000-square-foot Harley Davidson store on U.S. Highway 98, indicates Panama City Beach’s commercial real estate market is strong. With a retail sector of almost 4.3 million square feet, and a multi-tenant retail segment of almost 2.5 million square feet that is now experiencing improving occupancies, Panama City Beach’s retail market conditions are beginning to ripen to a point that will soon support rental rate appreciation, according to JPB Commercial. The multi-tenant segment has tightened from 11-percent vacancy in 2009 down to 7.9 percent, as of second quarter 2012, and while rents have declined in the past few years and remain very Photo by SCOTT HOLSTEIN

Rural Areas Robby Roberts, second-generation real estate broker for Prudential Jim Roberts Realty, manages a diverse collection of real estate sales in Washington, Holmes, Jackson and Calhoun counties, including farmland, timber tracks, commercial and residential. Roberts estimates a drop in price of around 34 percent from its highest point to where it is today. “Prices are stabilizing, and it’s a great time to buy because interest rates are 3 percent or less. People can afford a lot more house,” he said. “In the same breath, we also have distressed properties. We still have some corrections to make; it is a slow process.” In agricultural regions, there’s now a big demand for row crop farmland for peanuts, cotton and corn, particularly irrigated land. The second largest source of income for the area after government jobs, farming produces $469 million annually and provides 4,367 full and part time jobs, second behind government income, according to Jackson County Extension Director and Livestock and Forages Agent Doug Mayo, who reports for the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) extension. 850 Business Magazine

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Second Homes (Okaloosa, Walton and Franklin counties) As consumer confidence gets a boost, many homebuyers are taking advantage of the low interest rates and lingering foreclosures to buy second homes, either as an investment or for personal use. Chris Kent, a Santa Rosa Beach-based real estate broker and counselor, has contributed to the envisioning, planning, development and marketing of more than 100 destination resorts, neighborhoods, new towns and villages in the United States, Great Britain, South America, South Africa and Germany. The Town of Seaside, founded in 1981 as the world’s first New Urbanism community, brought Kent on to help conceive a plan to sell the new community sprouting up along Scenic Highway 30A. The first lot sold in 1982 was for around $15,000. Rapidly, the value of the home sites rose, selling for $40,000. With few remaining lots today, one Gulf-front site is listed at $2.9 million. Though Seaside now is one of the most famous beach towns in the world, the character of Seaside remains, as does the real estate sales strategy. Kent’s counseling work with real estate developments is based on anticipating the rise and fall of the market, and he says things are looking up in the near future for high-quality projects. “We do multi-dimensional feasibility assessments, where we’re truly figuring out the shape and character of each property,” he said. “For the last few years it has been for assembling meaningful properties. Part of that assessment means asking what one could do with it. “We’re seeing stabilization and competition for properties, which means

Open Spaces Plenty of affordable land is available in Northwest Florida’s rural counties, where buyers are looking for farm land to plant profitable row crops like peanuts, cotton and corn.

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the market is beginning to bottom out,” he said. “We’ll get down to some level where people are comfortable with it and see the cycle go back up. It’s done it for the last 30 years, since I’ve been in the real estate business, and it will continue for the next 30 years.” Based on Kent’s research, resort markets react more quickly than the typical permanent residence area. “When the resort market slows down, we tend to slow more quickly,” he said. “And in a rising market, we rise more quickly.” Kent noted that the resort real estate buyers make decisions based on a more emotional level than primary homebuyers. “If you have to buy a home in order to get your kids into a good school, that’s a certain level of emotional investment,” he said. “If it’s purely for fun, it requires a higher level of emotion because you don’t have to buy it.” John Paul Somers, a Realtor based in Destin and Scenic 30-A, says he’s busier than ever and can barely keep up with the listings because business is so good. “The general state of real estate in Northwest Florida is recovering strongly, as the market’s breadth is diverse and of profound, positive sentiment,” said Somers, who has specialized in luxury residential and commercial properties for the past 26 years. “The fundamentals are leading to impressive sales traction.” Somers added that people are excited about real estate again. “The psychology of the market is like that in 2004,” he said. “There is a lot of enthusiasm and anticipation of a great time to invest in this area’s fabulous lifestyle. From 2003 to 2005, acquisition was based on flipping property for short-term gain.” Conversely, there is a solid foundation being formed now, fueled by a significant volume of cash buyers. “For buyers who have had cash parked on the sidelines, they have been patiently awaiting this opportunity, as they seem to be in an aggressive posture to move rapidly to contract and closing,”


he said. “It’s not uncommon to see multiple offers on good-quality properties in Destin and 30-A.” While Northwest Florida doesn’t currently have as many foreign buyers as South Florida, Somers sees the new Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport playing a key role with an influx of international buyers. “It will be a big engine for the area eventually,” he said. “We’re seeing a considerable amount of people who are from South Florida and the West coast who fall in love with the Gulf Coast and now want to reinvest in what they deem to be a more value-oriented investment.” Richard Eimers, broker and managing partner at Eimers Realty in Destin and 30A, has seen residential inventory dwindle from 4,400 active listings in 2008 to 1,600 in January of 2013. And his buyers are somewhat surprised at the recent spike in prices. “People are coming in thinking they can buy at 2009 or 2010 prices, but they’re shocked to see 2013 prices, which are up,” he said. Still, they are gobbling up homes and condominiums, causing multiple bids on properties. Barely able to keep up with demand, he recently hired three new real estate brokers. “We’re at the beginning of the season, and we’re already seeing an increased level of activity,” he said. “Most of the buyers are cash buyers.”

St. George Island Inventory is dwindling all over Northwest Florida. And while prices are up along 30-A, St. George Island, a quieter section of North Florida in Franklin County, hasn’t seen that same increase. “Prices are not going up yet,” said Marilyn Bean, broker associate with Century 21 Collins Realty. “But our supply is down and demand is high. So at some point we should see prices going up. Even though we’ve hit bottom and interest rates are low, it’s still going to be a while before we see an increase.”

Photo by SCOTT HOLSTEIN

With a market of mostly end-users (retirees or second homeowners who will rent out their homes), St. George Island realtors expect to see a steady increase in values, which will be healthier for everyone. “It’s those who see the investment potential who are keeping us busy,” Bean said. Jason Naumann of Naumann Real Estate Group, based in Tallahassee, expressed a great sense of encouragement about the direction of real estate in the Forgotten Coast, noting that many people who could not have purchased a second home during the housing boom are now able to, thanks to the continued modest prices and interest rates. “People are jumping off the fence and making purchases they’ve contemplated for years,” he noted. “If you look from St. George all the way to the Emerald Coast, it’s been trending upward for a year.” Naumann added that higher interest rates and down payments for raw land and second homes can further deter already-skeptical buyers. But he also pointed out that construction loans, which offer primary home financing rates to build a second home on raw land, can allow buyers to design their own home, and get it for the same price they would pay for another — perhaps not as custom tailored — house. “There are opportunities to buy properties at such reduced prices that it’s really worth considering,” Naumann concluded. The St. Joe Co. is targeting the retirees also. “We’re excited about our key initiatives in 2013,” CEO Brady said. “We believe that the retiree demographic presents us with a unique opportunity given our development expertise and the fact that we own a substantial amount of contiguous land located in a desirable part of the country. To that end, we’ve been working with the best active adult community planners and consultants in the country and collaborating with national builders to bring that concept to reality.”

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Deal Estate Just Listed

A Bold Move Destin resident takes a leap of faith By Laura Bradley

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I

Quick Look

Photos Courtesy Eimer's Group

Northwest Florida’s Elite Title Company

n the aftermath of the real estate roller coaster in the late 2000s, there are mixed levels of confidence from buyers. Some are hesitant to rejoin the market, and others have chosen to dive right in, taking advantage of some relatively low home prices and expressing great faith in the market. Such is the case with this listing; the current owner listed the home after already having purchased a new home in The Oaks for $3,000,000. This home enjoys an incomparable location in Burnt Pine, a private, guard-gated county club community inside Sandestin Golf and Beach Resort. The lot overlooks the fifth green of the Burnt Pine golf course from a quiet, tree-lined cul-de-sac with plenty of privacy. The house itself is as elegant as its surroundAddress: 2988 Bay Villa Ct. ings — a Tuscan-inspired structure with Travertine floors, granite counList Price: $1,400,000 tertops, exquisite lighting, fans and ($346.02/sqft) plumbing features. Square Feet: 4,046 The house boasts plenty of space for all with four bedrooms, three full Bedrooms: 4 bathrooms, two half bathrooms and Bathrooms: 3 full, a three-car garage. Three separate and 2 half HVAC systems and Pella windows and doors are a couple of the house’s Contact: John Holahan, high-end structural details. An Eimers Group Real Estate & Land, (850) 337-0800, incredible pool and spa feature wirejohn@eimersgroup.com less Aqualink to make control and maintenance of the pool a breeze, giving buyers more time to enjoy the outdoor kitchen and fireplace. For an even richer taste of the outdoors, the view from the second floor balcony and outdoor living area by the pool provide potential buyers a visual feast — and an excellent reason to give this property a look.


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in three days, but in this case it was not too good to be true. In that short time, this Golden Eagle gem in the Tallahassee area sold for only $28,000 below its $715,000 asking price. There was a lot to like about the house, said Realtor Yvonne Howell of Coldwell Banker Hartung and Noblin, who represented the buyer. The house is situated on almost an acre of waterfront property, just a stone’s throw away from Golden Eagle’s clubhouse, pool and tennis. “What they loved was really the floor plan and the location; they really liked the Golden Eagle area,” said Howell. The floor plan offers plenty of space, with four spacious bedrooms, an office, a bonus room and four bathrooms spread over 4,000 square feet. The outdoor living area (including a saltwater-filtration, screened pool) is situated to let the space act as an extension of the rest of the house, visible from many vantage points. “The living spaces wrap around the screened pool with glass enclosures, which brings the outside in for a very relaxed feel,” explained Howell. The master bedroom’s position on the opposite end of the house from the other Address: 2146 bedrooms affords privacy, which, along Golden Eagle with the nice office, was another key sellDrive West ing point. “The house just flowed,” Howell List Price: $715,000 noted. Its layout was all that her buyers were ($170.36/sq. ft.) looking for. Additionally, updates in the kitchen and Sold For: $687,500 bathrooms with “the most current and up($163.81/sq. ft.) to-date products” were a nice touch. The Square feet: 4,197 kitchen is particularly unique, with three ovens — a welcome abundance for the Bedrooms: 4 buyers, one of whom loves to bake. The Bathrooms: 4 kitchen’s central location also made it perfect for both family living and entertaining.

3520 Thomasville Rd, Ste. 500 • Tallahassee, FL 32309 (850) 656-3747 • (850) 656-4065 Fax

Photos courtesy Coldwell Banker hartung & noblin (just sold)

Quick Look

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Deal Estate it's Just Business

Growing Coton

Changes at Carriage Gate

>> The homegrown giftware and

>> Georgio’s restaurant, a tenant at Carriage Gate for nearly 20 years, has moved out, concentrating the entire restaurant operation at Georgio’s Apalachee Parkway location. This leaves another unit up for grabs in the shopping center. >> Also relocating is the Leon County Tax Collector office. This space will be filled with the much-anticipated specialty grocer Trader Joe’s, which should open following construction between October and December of this year. >> The Florida Bank building, which has been vacant for over a year, is being torn down, and in its place will be 74 new parking spaces, says Patrick McKinley, leasing agent for Regency Centers. The entire parking lot will be resurfaced, and the façade will be redone, giving this Tallahassee shopping center a fresh face for its new tenants.

Trending >> Downtown continues to have the strongest and highest valued com-

mercial spaces in Tallahassee. The market’s small size, combined with the difficulty and cost of new construction, has kept values relatively high, but vacancy is still around 18 percent — the highest it’s been in 20 years, according to Jimmy Nystrom, an agent at NAI TALCOR. Rates for Downtown’s “Big 5” class A buildings (Highpoint Center, 215 S. Monroe, Monroe Park Tower, Alliance Center and the League of Cities Building) dropped a little but still start around $26/square foot, compared to $24/square foot in 2003 and more than $30/square foot between 2006 and 2009.

Magnificent private estate located in the heart of Tallahassee. This extraordinary, gated estate will stimulate a passionate response one room at a time. This residence includes over 11,464 square feet, six bedrooms, five full and three half baths, two offices, six fireplaces, sensational gourmet kitchen, home theater, gym, sauna, lighted sport court, putting green, playground, infinity pool and spa. An exquisite, resort style living that is unlikely to be duplicated. Contact Carmin Nedley for additional information (850) 524-2442.

Carmin Nedley

850-524-2442 (cell) 850-893-2115 csnedley@hotmail.com

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photo courtesy Linley Paske (coton colors)

décor company Coton Colors was enjoying a banner year in 2012, and the lease was up on their company offices in an industrial area on Garber Drive. Business owner Laura Johnson decided it was time to buy a headquarters for her 18-year-old company and found the perfect spot, purchasing an unfinished, bank-owned building for $415,000 in July 2012 at 2718 Centerville Road in Tallahassee. The move increased Coton Color’s corporate office and design center space from about 3,000 to 11,000 square feet. The two-level building, which formerly housed a commercial furniture business, was about 20 years old and in the midst of being renovated when the builder went bankrupt. After the sale, Childers Construction built out the interior in 60 days, and Coton Colors moved in Dec. 26. While the bottom level of the building — which houses the sales staff, a small warehouse for samples and a photo studio — is more traditional offices, the upstairs design center is truly unique. Before the original renovation was halted, the space was planned to be a builder’s showroom, with a variety of ceiling and doorway designs. Johnson decided to retain these features, creating an eclectic look to the offices and open spaces that are conducive to collaboration, as well as a multitude of meeting spaces.


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ALL WORK ALL PLAY EVERY DAY This gorgeous, beachfront home-away-from-home is an absolute mustsee. Located on deep water in the gated St. George Island Plantation, it’s also close enough to home to let you get plenty of use out of it. The private boat slip and lift on the community dock near Bob Sikes Cut allows easy access to the Gulf. The property is just a short walk from the beach, and a community pool shared by only nine properties provides more fun in the water for those who prefer a pool to the ocean. Enjoy sunrises, sunsets and stargazing over the bay from the sunbathing deck, which faces the Gulf. The house is impressively constructed for energy efficiency, with 12-inch-thick exterior walls made from 8-inch masonry block covered List Price: $1,475,000 ($343.33/square foot) with 4-inch brick, concrete pilings and cross beams, and floors of 8-inch Year Built: 2002 hollow-core concrete deck panels. Square feet: 4,334 The ground level features a heated/ cooled game room, a screened area for Bedrooms: 6 fish cleaning and cooking with seating for eight people, and a garage. Six Bathrooms: 3.5 bedrooms offer more than enough Contact: Century 21 sleeping space for a large family and Collins Realty, 4,334 square feet promises plenty of (850) 927-3100, century21collinsrealty.com living space, too.

Photo courtesy Collins Rentals, Inc.

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Success with Southern charm


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TAB L E OF CONTE NTS

4 Quality of Life John Alter

9 Demographics

Welcome! A Chamber’s job is to navigate the future. What could be more exciting than that? Successful futures happen when governments, education, large corporations and small businesses all plan together and set a common course toward a shared destiny guided by a mutual vision. Get the right people together, set up a structure that will harness their talents and enthusiasm, and watch things happen. The Jackson County Chamber of Commerce welcomes this style of teamwork to its future. We’re interested in the visitor, the investor and the resident-to-be. We welcome folks who want to join us on our journey — especially as a member of our Chamber. In our world we know what we must do to secure the future. We want to do everything we can to maximize the investment our members and business partners have made. We want to return their investment in the form of services, managed growth and success. We work to make folks eager to testify that, “I’m glad we’re a Chamber member!” We often speak about the importance of successful businesses in our communities. Growing markets lead to satisfied customers, and that produces profitable communities. As you read our stories on Jackson County we believe you will want to get to know us better. If you want to hear more about our efforts to navigate our future, we are ready to share it. We would like you to be a part of our adventure.

10 Economic Development

12 Educated Workforce

17 Health Care

20 Transportation

22 Ecotourism

26 Agriculture

36 Real Estate

38 Chamber Benefits

Produced in partnership with:

John Alter Chairman, Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Creative. Print. Solutions.™

Cover photos by Scott Holstein 2013 B U S I N E S S O U T L O O K

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qual it y of l i fe

Herman Laramore of Bar L Ranch and his Australian Kelpie cow dog check daily on a thousand head of cattle.

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Quality Lifestyle

Jackson County mixes Southern charm with high quality jobs and amenities

photo by SCOTT HOLSTEIN

A

ntebellum homes line quaint streets. The atmosphere of small towns harkens back to the days of yesteryear. Bucolic scenes abound cattle and horses grazing in lush pastures, fields of cotton and peanuts stretching toward the horizon. Famous underground caves lure divers from around the world while area rivers offer plenty of recreation for locals and visitors alike. Jackson County, only 65 miles west of Florida’s state capital, Tallahassee, is located in the heart of Northwest Florida. It is close to the beach, close to major commercial airports and close to larger metropolitan markets and their varied offerings. While a mostly rural location, however, it offers a diverse and vibrant lifestyle that is comfortable and casual yet has robust cultural, educational and religious offerings. “We’ll never be Orlando, and we don’t want to be,” explained John Alter, the 2013 chairman of the Jackson Chamber of Commerce. “We’ve got natural Florida. I think there is a long range opportunity to take advantage of our geography, which isn’t going to change.” Jackson County’s mix of quality small town environment with wide-open spaces, colleges, cultural offerings and medical care are important selling points when the county is working to lure new businesses to town. A concerted, coordinated effort by local business, elected and community leaders is aimed at improving economic development in the county. And the lifestyle the region offers is not lost on corporate executives looking to expand or relocate. 2013 B U S I N E S S O U T L O O K

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From Alford to Marianna Jackson County has 11 incorporated cities of varying size and some unincorporated areas of note. One of the latter is Two Egg, the home of Academy Awardwinning actress Faye Dunaway and the

Chipola Center for the Arts at Chipola College has a new, state-of-the-art main theater for performing arts.

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Two Egg stump-jumper, reportedly a mini-Bigfoot. The muncipalities are: Alford, Bascom, Campbellton, Cottondale, Graceville, Grand Ridge, Greenwood, Jacob, Sneads, Malone and Marianna. Their populations range from about 100 into the thousands, but 66 percent of the population lives in the county’s unincorporated area. Marianna, with a population of about 7,000, is the county seat and the largest city in the county. Called by some the “Belle of the Panhandle,” in 2010 it was named the Florida Rural Community of the Year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Particularly in the past decade, the city has made use of state and federal grants

to improve its appearance, putting a fresh touch on a downtown that 20 years ago had the downtrodden look taken on by so many small towns across the country. But investments in the renovation of old buildings, much done by local businesses, decorative street lighting, parks and a new farmer’s market, among other things, have revitalized the area into a picturesque main street community.

Culture Abounds In 2012, the Chipola Center for the Arts, located on the Marianna campus of Chipola College, opened. It provides the community with a 655-seat state-ofthe-art main theater for performing arts; a 150-seat flexible experimental theater

photo by Lee O’Kelley Photography

“I go back seven generations,” said David Melvin, who moved back to Marianna, the county seat, in 1992 to open his own engineering firm. “We have a small town atmosphere where everyone knows everyone and works together. But it’s large enough that you have a lot of the essential things you like to have in a community — a college, a theater, a Walmart, a Lowes. To me, it’s just the right size.”


for intimate works, cutting-edge programs and recitals; an art gallery in which to show works by Chipola students and faculty, as well as local, national and internationally-recognized artists; plus a dance studio, teaching areas, costume and scenery shops and offices. The Center is designed to serve the Chipola College community and local cultural organizations and is a welcome addition to a growing community looking for more cultural offerings. Those offerings already include work by the Artists Guild of Northwest Florida, which promotes local artists, and Keith Martin Johns, a renowned professional artist who moved from South Florida to Graceville in 2011 to continue painting images of Florida both the guild and Johns work with students and help the Baptist College of Florida develop the school’s new Fine Art Department. “This vision was birthed during my tenure in the Tampa Bay area and is now manifesting itself in this small, peaceful town of Graceville,” Johns has said of the move.

Natural Offerings

photos by SCOTT HOLSTEIN

An outdoor person’s paradise is an apt description for Jackson County. Hunting and fishing opportunities abound. Pristine lakes like Lake Seminole, crystal clear springs like Blue Spring and meandering rivers like the Chipola also provide for recreational boating, swimming and tubing. State parks provide visitors with natural wonders, including the state’s only public caverns, and camping that brings you face-to-face with the natural wonders of Florida. The Chamber’s Alter said he’s amazed at the number of people he meets who are surprised to learn about Jackson County. “Recently, a busload of folks coming back from Biloxi stopped in Jackson and got a tour of historic homes and a nice, catered dinner at the Russ House. They promised to come back,” Alter added. “We think if people get a little taste of what’s here, they’ll come back.” The owner of a pine tree farm, he’s particularly interested in developing more eco- and agri-tourism opportunities within

Sneads Park on Lake Seminole, which offers water sports and fishing.

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Don Mueller collects olives from the trees at his farm near Marianna.

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the county. “I think people will get a real bang out of a peanut or a cotton harvest.”

Plenty of Diversity Jackson offers a mix of longtime residents, new residents looking for the serenity of a bucolic community with a strong sense of place, young and old, including retirees from Northwest Florida’s military bases.

And when it comes to churches, there’s close to at least one of every kind — traditional and non-traditional. One list of churches shows 141 associated with a traditional Christian denomination, and 53 listed as “other.” “It’s a Southern Bible Belt town with a wide diversity of religious expression,” explained Art Kimbrough, who came home 10 years ago to head the Chamber

of Commerce and only recently retired from that job. Rivertown Community Church, which started in nearby Blountstown, is one of the newer offerings with its expansion into Marianna. A focus of the church is to create a more liveable community and, as such, has helped intersect faith with community and economic development in the region. Civic organizations range from the NAACP to Children of the American Revolution to Partners for Pets and include service organizations like Rotary, Optimist, Pilot, Altrusa, Kiwanis and others.

Imagine Jackson In 2001, community leaders decided it was time to establish a vision for Jackson 20 years out. Their top priorities were: liveable communities, a health economy and a high quality environment. Some of their objectives have been accomplished in the first decade, including: Better educational opportunities — All public schools in the county rate an A or B from the state, and Chipola College now offers four-year degrees.

Jim Dean, Marianna city manager, shows off the new downtown farmers’ market.

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Identify and evaluate natural assets — The new push from county tourism officials specifically targets the expansion of ecotourism. In short, while keeping one eye on the past and protecting what makes Jackson special, the county is looking to a future that will continue to bring new business and new residents to its borders. Jackson’s leaders think it has something special to offer that others will want to share. “This is God’s country,” said Bill Stanton, director of the Jackson County Development Council, who has been working at building the county’s business base for 42 years. “And I think it is the best place in the world to live and raise a family.”

photo by SCOTT HOLSTEIN

Attract new jobs/Avoid intra-county competition — The collaboration between the cities, county and local elected, business and community officials has helped bring new business and jobs to Jackson, compensating for jobs lost during the recession.


Jackson County Demographics Population 2012 (estimated) Under 18 years of age 18 to 65 years 65 years and older Female  Male Land Area Water Area  Persons Per Square Mile Acres in Farmland

48,968 19.6% 64.3% 16.1% 45.2% 54.8% 916 square miles 38.9 square miles 51.1 211,916

Education (2011) (Persons aged 25 years or older) High School graduate or higher Bachelor’s degree or higher 

79.1% 13.6%

Altitude above mean sea level Length of growing season 

120 feet 238 days

Medical Hospitals Nursing Homes Doctors Dentists

2 4 160 18

Transportation Railroads CSX, east-west; Bay Line, north-south Major Commercial Airports/Distance from Marianna Dothan, Ala. Panama City Tallahassee

45 miles 54 miles 65 miles

Colleges or Universities (within 65 mile radius) Chipola College, Florida State University, Gulf Coast State College, Baptist College of Florida, Tallahassee Community College, Florida A&M University, Troy University (Chipola campus and Dothan, Ala.)

Deep Water Port Port Panama City Motor Freight

Applied Technology Schools (within 65 mile radius) Chipola Vo-Tech, Washington Holmes Vo-Tech, George Wallace Vo-Tech, Gulf Coast Vo-Tech

Family Dollar, Walmart, Rex Lumber, Anderson Columbia, Mowery Elevator, Spanish Trail Lumber

(Curriculum includes: data process; welding and cutting; sheet metal; electronic tech; machine shop; electrical wiring; and biomedical tech.)

Climate Temperature (annual average) January July Rainfall (annual average)

70.26 F 44.17 F 81.5F 54.69 inches

32 feet, 54 miles from Marianna Daily service from 20 carriers (12 Interstate)

Largest Private Employers

Average Annual Wage All industries

$31,064

Industrial Support Services Available Computer Services, Engineering, Plating (Pensacola), Machine Job Shop, Car/Truck Rental, Security Services, Job Printing, Bonded Warehousing (Panama City), Freight Forwarder (Panama City)

Painting the American Dream T E L L I N G Y O U R S T O R Y I N W AT E R C O L O R

aviation ”Blackhawk Rotor-Check in Honduras” community “Reflections of a Community” nature “Magnolia 1”

ARTIST/OWNER: Michele Tabor Kimbrough, TaWS Visit our website at taborartstudio.com

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community 850-557-0655

2916 Russ St., Marianna, FL 32446

SEND US AN IMAGE THAT’S IMPORTANT TO YOU … WE’LL BRING IT TO LIFE AS A CUSTOM WATERCOLOR. 2013 B U S I N E S S O U T L O O K

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econom ic developem ent

Making It Happen

Local officials and community leaders pull together to bring new businesses to Jackson County

W

hen Home Source International began looking for an American home for its “Made in the USA” products, it began the search in six Southeastern states. In the end, Florida was the winner when company leaders honed in on Marianna in Jackson County.

Nearly every piece of equipment that goes into a Mowrey elevator is fabricated at the company’s 380,000 square-foot Marianna facility.

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The deciding factors were the incentives provided by local and state officials and the skills of the local workforce. “It boiled down to we needed a place, and what the city, county and state put together was a deal that no one wanted to walk away from,” said Dennis Rudd,

House Source vice president of manufacturing. “It just got to the point where you couldn’t say no.” Important benefits included a location next to the Marianna Airport, close proximity to Interstate 10, plus the availability of rail lines and a nearby deepwater port, Port Panama City. By the end of 2015, it is expected the local Home Source plant will employ 303 workers at an average wage of $14 an hour (figuring in executive and blue collar wages). The plant’s furniture division is already working, and Rudd said the machines will soon be in place for the linen division to start churning out products for sale to retail outlets and the hospitality industry. The economic development victory of bringing Home Source to town, announced in June 2012, is yet another feather in the cap of a community that has successfully pulled together over the past decade to lure new business to this mostly rural area of Northwest Florida. The boost was desperately needed after the devastating loss of businesses, including the Russell Corp. fabric manufacturer, in the late 1990s. While agriculture remains the mainstay of the local economy, more clean industries are moving in. The county has scored enough successes in the past several years that it has managed to cancel out job losses from companies that were forced to close during the Great Recession — a claim that few communities are lucky enough to make. “Bringing in these businesses has been crucial,” said David Melvin, a civil engineer and owner of a consulting engineer firm who has been an essential partner with the county and city in analyzing infrastructure needs for companies looking at specific sites in Jackson County. “We made up for losses in employment. We’ve been fortunate to replace lost jobs.”


photos by SCOTT HOLSTEIN

Seeking new business has been a coordinated community affair for about a decade. The mold was set when local, state and community leaders pulled together to net a Family Dollar distribution center that is now a familiar site to travelers passing by Marianna on Interstate 10. Their efforts to persuade a Fortune 500 company in 2003 to build a $50 million distribution center amidst miles of cotton fields gave this small town an economic boost and provided hundreds of new jobs. Today, 300 to 400 trucks are loaded or unloaded each day at the site. It was the Family Dollar success — which included the community delivering on its promise to make needed improvements, including providing water and sewer, to the industrial park within a year — that helped pave the way for subsequent economic victories. “We convinced the company we could do it in one year, and we did do it,” said Bill Stanton, executive director of the Jackson County Development Council. “Then we were able to use that example (when bidding for other projects).” Melvin gives much of the credit to Stanton, a “master of economic development” who assembled the team necessary to work on the project and then was able to win the support of both the city of Marianna and the county governments.

“We have a can-do attitude here,” Melvin said. “We can make it happen. We can find you a location, and we can put together the necessary incentives and infrastructure to make it work here.” Art Kimbrough, who until recently served as president and CEO of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, called Family Dollar the “game-changing” project for the community. “It started the wheels turning on other projects,” he said. “The economy was booming, and we were in the five-year build up to the crash. Dynamics were shifting from stagnant to growth. And with that one success, they had a model they could replicate.” In 2006, Arizona Chemical committed to a $10 million distribution center project on an 11-acre site at the same industrial park on I-10, partly because the Family Dollar project had prompted some of the infrastructure improvements that would meet the needs of both. Again, state grants and local cooperation were essential in sealing the deal. Only a few years later, Jackson County found itself in competition with states from Texas up to Virginia for Green Circle Bio Energy, a Swedish-owned company willing to make a more than $100 million capital investment wherever it settled. Stanton led the drive to put together a site

for the company that included easy access to the Bay Line Railroad and the deepwater Port Panama City, along with a fourlane access road, turn lanes off Highway 321 and a traffic light. The result? In 2008, the world’s largest wood pellet plant began production at a 225-acre site in Cottondale. The plant has a 560,000-ton annual capacity for producing the renewable energy product from Southern Yellow Pine. Then, in 2009, Ice River Springs opened its Marianna facility, bringing much-needed jobs during the depths of the economic recession. It was part of an ambitious expansion plan by the Canadian company to enter the fast-growing U.S. bottledwater industry. In a 330,000-square-foot building — big enough to fit five football fields — the company works to produce 43,200 bottles of water per hour. Why did it choose Marianna? Logistics were a major selling point, the close proximity of I-10, which sits only seven miles away from the plant at the Marianna Airport Industrial Park. “What I found fascinating is how the community came together, going back to the Family Dollar experience,” Kimbrough said. “The penalty of failure was a lot bigger than the petty personal politics of the city and county. And that launched a decade of success for Jackson County.”

The Family Dollar distribution center off Interstate 10 was the first in many recent economic development successes.

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Educating the Workers of Tomorrow J

ackson County’s students — secondary and post-secondary — enjoy tremendous opportunities, some of which are rare for rural communities. High school students have a public school system with a high B average from the state (all area schools received either an A or a B in 2012). Those who aspire to seek higher education can choose between two institutions of higher learning that differ in focus, but have the common denominator of success: Chipola College and Baptist College of Florida.

Jackson County Public Schools Education in the state of Florida has recently faced much scrutiny, spurring statewide efforts for standardization and improved performance. Jackson County’s public schools already have a head start in performance; most area schools earned an A grade in 2012, and the average is a high B. No school in the district received below a B. “The biggest push in Jackson County is just to provide the highest quality education we can within the guidelines given,” said Larry Moore, deputy superintendent and director of human resources for the Jackson County School Board. There are changes being made statewide as to how information is delivered to students and how those students’ knowledge is ultimately tested. Like in every district, Jackson County schools are beginning to implement these changes. Common core standards, for instance, comprise a different method of instruction developed by governors 12

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2013 B U S I N E S S O U T L O O K

and commissioners of education from 40 different states. “It’s basically a different method of delivery for instruction,” explained Moore. “It really doesn’t change the content … It really just changes the method of delivery.” There is also a new teacher evaluation instrument, which (among other things) instructs that teachers’ annual evaluations are to be based at least 50 percent on student performance throughout the school year and on standardized tests. Next year, that instrument will apply to administrators, too. The Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT) is also slowly on its way out, says Moore, as end-of-course exams replace the standardized test. These comprehensive exams will enforce an educational standard statewide, with tests in various subject areas. Moore cites a close relationship between the school board and the teachers’ union as one important factor to the county schools’ success. “We have a really good working relationship with our teachers’ union, the Jackson County Educators Association. And there’s a cooperative effort on the part of the JCEA leadership and our administration to keep teachers informed of current issues and requirements. We’ve been fortunate in that regard.” Graduating seniors in Jackson County have a choice of two colleges without leaving home — a rare opportunity for small, rural communities. Chipola College and Florida Baptist College each have their own specific niche but also seek to be as inclusive as possible

while providing a supportive environment for students’ success.

Chipola College “Chipola’s mission is to provide accessible, affordable, quality educational opportunities to all who choose to attend,” said Gene Prough, president of the state college. Chipola is the third smallest and third oldest school in the Florida college system and was also one of the first three community colleges in Florida to begin offering bachelor’s degrees in 2003. The college now offers Bachelor of Science, Associate in Arts and Associate in Science degrees (with 40 programs total), as well as workforce development programs. The majority of Chipola students pursue Associate in Arts degrees, transferring to universities like Florida State University and the University of Florida as juniors after two years. Chipola proudly prepares these students for university education, and that preparation pays off. “On average, students who start at Chipola do better at the university than students who start at the university,” noted Prough, who largely attributes this success to the high percentage of fulltime faculty compared to adjuncts, in combination with an inclusive philosophy that works with students as individuals to help them achieve their academic goals. “We don’t ask students to fit our mold; instead, we stretch and change to accommodate them without compromising academic standards,” he explained. Such support systems as the ACE lab (which, Prough said, significantly improved Chipola graduation rates), offer students


photo courtesy chipola college

free peer tutoring, test reviews and supplemental instruction for high-risk courses, further promoting student success. Students emerge from Chipola amply prepared for the workforce; the teacher education programs have nearly a 100 percent placement rate, and the others are not too far behind. Such success certainly comes from hard work but also from close collaboration with the area workforce board. Chipola participates in the annual regional career fair sponsored by the workforce board, and one of the school administrators serves as a member. Additionally, the school’s Career Resource Center was established this year as a partnership between Chipola and the board, with a success coach to assist students with job searches, resumes, interview preparation and interest surveys, and provide information about demand occupations, job openings and projected pay for various occupations. But these successes do not come without challenges. “Our greatest challenge is limited funding,” said Prough. “With greater resources, the college could offer additional programs to better respond to changes in the job

market and the emergence of new targeted occupations. The college also needs additional resources to maintain and improve the physical learning environment for our students.”

Baptist College of Florida When Tom Kinchen took over as president of the Baptist College of Florida, he was told, “You’ve got 18 months.” If the school did not turn around, it was going to close. Now, 23 years later, the school offers 20 undergraduate degrees and two graduate degrees, and is still expanding. “You have to pay your dues, get out and get to work,” said Kinchen, who is a firm believer in community outreach — both for the college’s and the community’s benefit. Concerning students, Baptist College works to be inclusionary but focused. “We are very much a niche market — our trademark is changing the world through the unchanging Word,” said Kinchen, explaining that the majority of the student body is comprised of older students seeking out higher education (although the school has drawn

increasingly more young students). “We’re not here to weed anybody out; we’re here to strengthen them and build them up,” Kinchen stressed, adding that for students, the college is a supportive institution in an often-impersonal world — a “safe place to explore what God wants you to be.” To that end, the campus is very familyoriented: a small, intimate setting with the largest residence hall housing 40 students. Despite its small size, the campus is still brimming with activity; in addition to a new student union and center for technology and lab studies, the college also just opened a new first-class wellness center. In addition to construction, the school’s program selection is growing: All programs have now been approved for online distance education, and the school just began its graduate degree program with two Master of Arts degrees. “We’re drawing a much stronger student body than we’ve ever drawn,” noted Kinchen. Over the last two years, the college has seen 93 percent of its graduating student body move on to graduate school or find jobs in their respective fields. Of 51 Baptist colleges

Chipola College’s wide variety of offerings, including four-year bachelor’s degrees, provides quality options for area students.

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in the United States, Florida Baptist College ranks 47 in cost of attendance and second in the number of students graduating to vocations in Christian service. Kinchen pointed out that the college achieves all of this without debt. “We operate in the black,” he said, adding, “I’m not losing sleep over servicing debt.” But these successes do not come without occasional difficulty. Recently, Kinchen says that the greatest challenge has been the economy, with cuts of 10 percent of the overall operating budget in the last five years as contributions to the Florida Baptist Convention wane. However difficult times can be, Kinchen gratefully enjoys the support of the local community in Graceville. “We are delighted to be a part of this area,” he said. “We consider ourselves blessed to have our home offices here.”

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Educating the Workforce The central goal of the Chipola Regional Workforce Board is to help people seeking employment (or better employment), says Executive Director Richard Williams. But this effort can necessitate a variety of resources — and one of the most important is education. The Workforce Board often connects people who are not currently students with classes at the community college or vocational center to learn new skills. They reach out to students

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photo by SCOTT HOLSTEIN

Serving Jackson and surrounding counties for 39 years


through such resources as their center at Chipola College. “We also work with both in-school and out-of-school youth … trying to prepare them to enter the job market,” Williams added, explaining that includes outreach efforts through career guidance to help high school students educate themselves about opportunities in the local workforce and guide them toward the skills needed to enter those jobs. “I remember years ago, we did a study — a survey of graduating high school seniors. We found that a high percentage of them told us that they wanted to stay in this area, but they didn’t think there were any opportunities for them.” To fix this, the Workforce Board started a program in which the student would receive a stipend to spend three days with local employers to learn what they do and what they need out of students. In the end, the focus of all of these efforts is simply to connect people with good employment opportunities and train them with the technical and soft skills necessary to take advantage of those opportunities. Williams stressed that each regional workforce board has its own efforts, and the educational and outreach efforts of the Chipola Regional Workforce Board are tailored specifically to local need, concluding, “I always tell people, ‘It doesn’t matter what I can do — it matters what you need me to do.’”

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RENEWABLE ENERGY

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Programs that train workers for local jobs are valued by companies like Manown Engineering. Shown here are: (L-R) Jason Gilmore, COO of Manown Engineering, with Jason Hurst, VP of Baccalaureate & Occupational Education at Chipola College, with Cheri Gilmore, owner of Manown Engineering, and Darwin Gilmore, president of Manown Engineering, at the Manown Engineering facility in Bonifay, Florida.

One of the largest wood pellet facilities in the world Annual capacity of 660,000 tons Largest tax payer in Jackson County Infuses over $45 million into the local economy each year

GreenCircleBio.com 2013 B U S I N E S S O U T L O O K

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health care

Health care Comes Home

Renovation and expansion brings quality care to Jackson County

photo courtesy Jackson County Hospital

J

ackson County healthcare professionals have a favorite new buzzword: expansion. Between recruiting specialized physicians, purchasing the latest in innovative medical technology and completing multi-million dollar construction projects at local facilities, it’s easy to see why the term has gained so much relevance. At the frontlines of this expansive operation is Marianna’s Jackson Hospital, a recently renovated, 100-bed community-based healthcare system that fills a variety of medical needs (everything from family practice to cancer treatment) for Jackson County residents. But things at the county’s leading hospital haven’t always been so. A decade ago, plagued by inadequate facilities and limited resources, the hospital’s administrators and visionaries set out with a particular goal in mind, one that, they hoped, would improve the lives of their patients. The mission was simple: Achieve convenience without sacrificing quality by updating existing facilities and enticing new, talented doctors to join their ranks. Now, in 2013, according to the hospital’s CEO Larry Meese, that mission is complete. “We just completed an $8.5 million dollar renovation project in 2012 that included eight new emergency rooms housed in a 3,400 square-foot addition, which has enabled us to see more patients,” said Meese. “We’re seeing 14 percent more patients than last year in the same amount of time, and we’re doing it with a much better attitude.” For Robbin Catt, RN, chief nursing officer, Meese’s statistics are evidence enough of the hospital’s successful transformation into a major player for healthcare services.

Jackson Hospital has expanded its offerings — from cancer care to elective knee replacement.

Best of all, it’s good for the patients. “The patients are seen in the emergency room much quicker,” said Catts. “Our average length of stay in the emergency room is two hours from the time you walk in the door to the time that you’re discharged. You’re not spending time in the waiting room, you’re actually in the back, being treated and receiving the care that you need.” With the newer facility at full functioning capacity, employees and patients are happier. From an administrative standpoint, that sort of outright, public confidence in the hospital’s ability will ultimately translate into increased profitability. Profit, said CEO Meese, which will benefit the whole community. “By improving our service and quality more patients are choosing to stay in the county for their healthcare needs,”

said Meese. “Just like any other service industry, when people stay local then that’s where the dollars are being spent, and that’s better for the local economy.” While the potential for increased profit was a motivating factor in the hospital’s recent improvements, it wasn’t the only driving force behind the decision to renovate. “I think we’re motivated by our mission of providing exceptional health care to every patient, every day,” said Meese. “When you pay attention to that, you know you need to expand and make improvements so that you can meet that mission.” Jackson Hospital isn’t the only facility in town evolving to fit the growing needs of local residents. Jimmy Rigsby, the CEO of Campbellton-Graceville Hospital, has also seen expansion in recent years, 2013 B U S I N E S S O U T L O O K

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namely in the realm of an up-and-coming healthcare phenomenon involving “swing beds.” Facilities that offer swing beds, or beds that can be used for acute impatient hospitalization or “swing” to skilled nursing facility beds, are classified as part of The Critical Access Hospital Program, an addendum created by the 1997 federal Balanced Budget Act as a safety net for Medicare. “Eighty-five percent of our business at this hospital is Medicare patients,” said Rigsby. “Medicare and the other insurance agencies say that a patient has three days in an acute setting of a hospital. If from there we realize that the patient needs some kind of therapy, Medicare will pay for the person to be in the hospital while they’re receiving treatment. For us, it’s helped build up the number of patients we’ve been able to receive.” Times are changing in the world of health care. For Jackson Hospital, recent

renovations brought more than high ceilings and fresh floral arrangements. A new MRI suite was constructed, giving locals with ailments ranging from knee injuries to brain tumors the chance to be diagnosed and treated close to home. A number of new services, such as cancer screenings, reverse shoulder surgery and drug and alcohol medical stabilization, were also added to the hospital’s repertoire. In recent years, the hospital has also grown its medical staff to include new physicians in Cardiology, Hematology and Medical Oncology, OB/GYN, Orthopedics and Sports Medicine, Primary Care, General Surgery, Urology and Pediatrics. What that means for the people of Jackson County is simple — finally, you can receive the quality of care you deserve without traveling outside of your comfort zone. While the effects of such a claim are substantial on paper, they’re making even more of an impact on the lives of patients countywide.

For example, those suffering from osteoarthritis can opt to have an elective surgery, such as a knee or hip replacement, close to home, while still receiving the quality care they’d expect to find in a major metropolitan area. Chicken pox can be treated just as efficiently as a blood disorder, such as anemia or even leukemia, and both men and women can receive the full spectrum of preventive services. Dr. Jon Ward, a board-certified dermatologist and the founder of Gulf Coast Dermatology, was among the numbers of specialized physicians who contributed to Jackson’s recent surge in healthcare professionals. According to Ward, setting up shop in Marianna was simply a business opportunity that he and his partners could not pass up. “Marianna is located far enough away from our Dothan, Tallahassee and Panama City offices, so this office is very convenient for people who live within

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Jackson County Hospitals (2011) Hospital Beds

Employees (FTE)

Operating Revenues

Campbellton-Graceville Hospital 25

97

$7 million

Jackson Hospital 100

415

$43.9 million

Source: Florida Hospital Association

20–30 miles,” said Ward. “For us, the geography, the established and wellrespected medical community and the number of insured in Jackson County all made it an attractive place to locate.” It’s an attraction that’s given Jackson residents access to the latest and greatest in dermatological treatment and services. “We provide comprehensive care to patients of all ages, treating all diseases of the skin and all skin types,” said Ward. “We offer most modalities of treatment

so the patient is able to access the care that is right for them. In Marianna one of those treatments is Mohs Micrographic Surgery … Mohs allows us to remove the cancer layer by layer, examining each under the microscope until all of the margins are clear.” The hospital has gained supporters from outside its walls as well. One of the expansion efforts’ biggest advocates has been William Long, director of the Jackson County Health Department.

TOC physicians are leaders in research, advocacy and philanthropy, and through the TOC Foundation are devoted to education and research in order to continually improve the health and well-being of all athletes, with an emphasis on concussion management.

For Long, the hospital’s course of action was exactly the kind of hands-on, beneficial approach Jackson County’s healthcare industry needed. “The hospital has done a superb job in my opinion attracting new physicians, some 10 or 12, over the last few years,” said Long. “They’ve expanded outpatient services with the addition of an MRI and radiology offerings. They’ve brought in physical therapy and are doing a lot of work in cancer care that until the last three or four years simply was not available on the local level.” An increase in accessibility not just to health care, but to quality health care, means that Jackson residents can stay local, a convenience that Long said cannot be stressed enough. “In addition to the economic impact the hospital has on this community, it has also made it much more convenient for local folk who no longer have to travel outside of Marianna to have their healthcare needs met,” said Long. “That’s huge.”

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transportation

Strategic Crossroads

Jackson County proves it’s all about location

I

f there was one spot in all of North Florida that had just the right balance of highways, airways and railways, Jackson County would be that spot. “Jackson County is located as a gateway for both Alabama and Georgia into Florida,” said Bill Stanton, executive director of the Jackson County Development Council. “People don’t realize how strategically located we are from a transportation standpoint in terms of these other states.” Stanton’s not the only one who recognizes Jackson County’s many advantages and its potential for success. “(Jackson County) is just well-suited from a standpoint of logistics and distribution,” said Jim Brook, executive director of Opportunity Florida and co-managing partner of the Florida Rural Broadband Alliance. “The port in St. Joe is being renovated and will offer future capacity. It’d be hard for Jackson County to fail in these endeavors because of all these advantages. I survey counties, and we don’t pick one over another, but there are just a lot of advantages in Jackson County.”

Planes … Jackson County is a one-hour drive away from major airports in Panama City/Bay County, Dothan, Ala., and Tallahassee. Go a little bit further, say an hour-and-ahalf west on Interstate 10, and you’ll be at the Northwest Florida Regional Airport in Fort Walton Beach. “We are strategically located where we have all these available to us, and for a comparison, Tallahassee only has (the Tallahassee Regional Airport) within a one-hour drive,” Stanton said. In other words, Tallahassee residents only have one nearby option for flying, and with no competition the fares can be expensive. But in Jackson County, there’s 20

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I-10 I-10

so much competition from other airports that residents here have a choice between Dothan, Tallahassee or Panama City and can go wherever they want to go, with Northwest Florida Regional being a close fourth on the list. “From an air transport standpoint we are better situated than anybody else in North Florida. That includes Jacksonville, Tallahassee and Pensacola. And I think that’s a very important statement,” Stanton said. “When we try to attract business, invariably aviation is a factor. It’s not a drop-dead issue, but it is important.” Adding to the county’s airpower is the Marianna Municipal Airport, a former Army airfield that’s now a general aviation airport. The airport has two runways that are nearly 5,000 feet long, and one is being extended to 6,500 feet. The airport’s longer runway ought to make

it a desirable roost for corporate jets needing an extra bit of space. “A lot of people who have never done it just don’t know what a terrific business tool general aviation is,” said John Alter, chairman of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce. “I see great potential in our airport. We have a tremendous infrastructure at this airport in terms of good, wellbuilt runways. I see that as a potential part of our transportation infrastructure.”

Trains … Railways are important cargo movers today, and Jackson County enjoys a distinct advantage in that regard. Not only does the biggest national carrier, CSX, run east and west through here, but the Bay Line Railroad intersects it at Cottondale. The Bay Line is interesting because it runs from Port Panama City on


the coast north to Dothan, where it then intersects with the Norfolk Southern Railroad. From there, Stanton said, cargo can go anywhere in the United States. That makes the rail system in Jackson County a unique commodity for commerce. “If one had a business and wanted access to rail to go east and west across the country and north and south and had a reason to connect with a port, (Cottondale) is the only point to do that,” Stanton said. “And the biggest single project that has located in Northwest Florida in the last 25 years is at Cottondale, Green Circle Bio Energy.” Green Circle Bio Energy is perhaps the world’s largest wood pellet plant and started production in North Florida in 2008. It cranks out an annual capacity of 560,000 tons of pellets that are shipped as fuel to clients overseas. “They use the Bay Line Rail Road and they use the Port of Panama City, and without the railroad and the port that project would not have located in this area, period, and would not be in Northwest Florida, period,” he said.

… And Automobiles Just as Jackson County’s railroad network makes it a vital economic link, so too does its highways and roads. “We have the best highway transport corridor system in North Florida, and it’s for the same reason I say we have it for rail,” Stanton said. U.S. Highway 231 — the primary route between Atlanta and Panama City — runs north and south through the county and intersects with Interstate 10 and U.S. Highway 90. Highway 231 is a four lane highway from Panama City up to Dothan. At Dothan, 231 goes northwest to Troy while Highway 431 goes northeast toward Columbus, Ga. These highways in particular are “increasingly important” as the primary gateways into and out of Florida, from not only a passenger traffic standpoint but cargo hauling as well. “To sum up, on the transportation and logistics, logistics is the other word to apply, combining the assets we have — air, rail, truck and vehicle auto — we’re arguably the most strategically located area in North Florida,” Stanton concluded. Aside from cargo, these interconnected roads will prove vital as the county pursues ecotourism opportunities, Alter said. “We see ourselves nicely positioned there as potential stopping points as we bring tourism on line more and more,” he said.

Broadband Bump Infrastructure isn’t just roads, airports and rail. The Internet needs a strong foundation as well. The Florida Rural Broadband Alliance received $23.7 million in federal grants through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to build a wireless network across 15 counties in Northwest Florida and Central Florida. In the Panhandle, this network is being built and managed by Opportunity Florida. “It will help Jackson County by providing additional capacity and potentially reduces the capital costs of connecting businesses,” Brook said. “It could reduce the capital required to reach local industry.” 2013 B U S I N E S S O U T L O O K

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ecotourism

The Call of the Wild L

photo by SCOTT HOLSTEIN

ocal folks will tell you that Jackson County is where Mother Nature and Father Time made a pact to preserve “the very nature of Florida.” One visit to these low rolling pastoral hills dotted with majestic stands of pine and live oak and laced with unspoiled waterways … and you can see proof positive of their handiwork. Tourism is the No. 1 economic engine

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First used by Aboriginal Indians, visitors now flock to the only Florida caverns open to visitors.

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for the Sunshine State, and this patch of Northwest Florida is working to attract more tourist traffic. There are certainly entertaining events, festivals and activities that allow visitors to enjoy the great outdoors here all year round. But unlike much of Florida, the star attraction in Jackson County isn’t a cartoon mouse, but rather the wonders of nature that entice visitors here.

“People come here for the quiet, the pristine nature and to get away from it all,” says Pam Fuqua, executive director of the Jackson County Tourist Development Council. There is something for everyone looking to get a “bird’s-eye view” of Jackson County’s “green” scene. Water lovers can cool off in the meandering streams, rivers, crystal clear springs and


lakes — from the Chipola River to Blue Spring to Spring Creek to Lake Seminole — with swimming, boating, canoeing, tubing or diving. Land lovers can enjoy the picturesque scenery while camping, hiking nature trails and bicycling. Horseback riding, birding and tossing a line into the Apalachicola River and Ocheesee Pond are just a few of the delightful distractions for sportsmen who venture here. As for souvenirs, wading into river and creek beds for arrowheads, mastodon teeth and other artifacts become one-of-a-kind keepsakes any nature lover would prize. The backdrop in this county is filled with wildflowers, trees and plants more typical of the Southern Appalachian Mountains

of North Georgia. And woodpeckers, barred owls, beavers, alligators, snapping turtles, grey fox, bobwhite quail and other native wildlife found in the forested parks offer a quite a show for would-be wildlife photographers. Yes, ecotourism is a natural here. Still, the real thrill of Jackson County for those who love adventure just may be found diving underneath the surface of the cool, natural springs and inside its mysterious, craggy caves and caverns. Edd Sorenson is an avid diver born in Portland, Ore. One vacation visit to the caves in Blue Springs was all it took. He bought a house, packed a semitrailer with as much as it would hold and opened Cave Adventurers in 2003. There

are other cave systems in Florida, but Sorenson says what sets these particular seven caves apart is the luminescent, white limestone walls. “A dark cave eats up your diving light. These are more friendly, beautiful and your light goes a lot further,” he says. Over the past 10 years Sorenson has welcomed curious visitors to these caves from 18 countries and 46 of the 50 United States. After a typical day dive he says the first thing someone usually says is, “Wow, that is unbelievably beautiful. We’re coming back!” With this kind of reception it’s no surprise his watersport rental business has boomed. Sorenson calls his outfit “a dive shop/resort destination.” Meaning, there is everything you need if you crave a cave adventure. Cave Adventurers is located on Blue Spring which is a spring-fed swimming lake that measures five miles long. On the lake is a dock with pontoons, canoes and kayaks and equipment to explore the lake’s wonders by swimming, boating, diving or snorkeling. To dive you need to have an Open Water Certification. And for those new to the sport, there are four trained instructors on hand to teach a multitude of diving techniques, including one Sorenson popularized called Side Mount Diving, which places your tank on your side instead of on your back allowing you to explore even smaller, hard to reach cave passages. Underwater isn’t the only place for cave adventures. An attraction unique to Jackson County, the Florida Caverns State Park, allows visitors a chance to tour the state’s only walk-through cave system. Once used as shelter by aboriginal Indians, the caverns reveal an amazing world of black pools, brilliantly lit, jagged formations and dripping limestone stalactites.  “Many of our nature spots are actually historic, too, because they are featured in drawings from as far back as the 1600s, so nature and history in Jackson County go hand in hand,” Fuqua notes. In an area with such expansive green spaces filled with abundant wildlife, it’s no surprise that Jackson County is a hunter’s haven. With a Florida hunting license 2013 B U S I N E S S O U T L O O K

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and proper permits and species stamps you can hunt dove, duck, quail, turkey, small game and wild hog. But the area is especially known for its large whitetailed deer. And many may not realize that predator hunting is also allowed here for coyote and bobcat. Whether you are a seasoned pro or a novice, in the fall and winter McCoy’s Outdoor Gun & Archery Shop is the place to go in Marianna to get geared up for hunting season. In spring, hopeful anglers head to the shop to get rigged to reel in everything from brim to large-mouthed bass. Not only is the staff knowledgeable, but like associate Daniel Bennett, they are enthusiasts, too. So not only they can supply with you with all you need from guns and archery supplies to outdoor camping equipment, they can answer your questions about the area as well — including where to head to hunt. If you are looking for leased land, Bennett suggests the St. Joe Timber Company. If you prefer a public area, he says it’s worth checking out the Chipola River Wildlife Management, an expanse of 9,000 acres operated by the state just north of Marianna. Whatever it is that lures you to visit beautiful Jackson County the first time. Surely, it will be the call of the wild that brings you back time and again.

Dan-D-Ridge Plantation is one of several in the region that offer quality upland bird hunts.

photos by SCOTT HOLSTEIN

Tim McCoy offers a wide array of supplies for outdoorsmen at his store in downtown Marianna.

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Here Today Here Tomorrow O

ver the years we've seen a lot of banks come and go. Since 1969 we've built a solid foundation of trust with all communities we serve. We've been here for over 40 years – and we're not going anywhere.

It's never been easier to become a member of Focus Credit Union today! If you live, work or have relatives in Jackson, Gadsden or Decatur (GA) counties, you are pre-qualified for membership.

CHATTAHOOCHEE MARIANNA QUINCY BAINBRIDGE, GA

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Welcome to Sneads! This small country town nestled in the Florida Panhandle on the southwest shore of Lake Seminole is home to Sneads Park, featuring access to great boating and freshwater shing. Come enjoy the beautiful park on the water with all of its amenities, and look for these upcoming improvements: • More shing docks • Restaurant • Better boat ramps • Community center • Camp sites and cabins • Amphitheater

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Immediately adjacent to the CSX Railroad Close access to Interstate 10 City water and sewer Many Rural Enterprise Zone Incentives available 250 miles south of Atlanta, 70 minutes from the Tallahassee Regional Airport, 60 minutes from the NW Florida Beaches International Airport and 55 minutes from Dothan Alabama Regional Airport

CONTACT CONNIE LEA BUTTS, TOWN MANAGER

(850) 593-6636 • sneadsfl.com

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agriculture

Growing Wild

Agriculture still a viable industry in Jackson County

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otton, peanuts and beef cattle make up most of Jackson County’s agricultural output today, while advances in automated farming, improved soil management and increased efficiencies in beef production mean greater yield, better quality and less waste than ever before. “Obviously the efficiency in farming equipment and technique is so much greater,” said John Alter, chairman of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and owner/manager of about a thousand acres of farm and pine plantation land. “We’re more efficient nowadays. These guys can go out with GPS and get more out of a given acre or whatever than their daddy could. We’re still very much an agricultural county.” Pine trees — the longleaf variety — and hardwoods were an important economic staple of North Florida back when the timber was harvested and processed for

naval stores and material for ship masts. Today, that “silviculture” is still very much with us, Alter said. “The harvesting cycle is years instead of weeks or months, but it is still a crop and part of the food and fiber base of Florida’s agriculture,” he said. But in Jackson County at least, the king and queen of local agriculture is peanuts and cotton. That’s not to say there are no other endeavors going on. “We joke that we grow three things: pines, peanuts and prisons. But the yearly harvest is peanuts and cotton; not only that, but tomatoes and cucumbers. The produce variety of agriculture is kind of developing a little bit more. You’ll see large fields of tomatoes, acres and acres of them, and there is a subset of smaller farms that do certain business in the summer crops.” Doug Mayo, director of the Jackson County Extension office, agrees that

there’s a wide range of agricultural products being grown here, including beef cattle, Satsuma oranges, olives — and there’s even some international aquaculture taking place in the form of a caviar farm. But the biggest effort is in cotton and peanuts, which go hand in hand with one another. “If you look at the total acreage devoted to agriculture, far and away the driving number of business and dollars and land devoted to commodity agriculture in our case is primarily three crops: cotton, peanuts and beef cattle,” Mayo said. “There’s a wide range of other crops grown, but when you really look at all the hard-core numbers and greatest economic impact, those are our three main crops. But it doesn’t diminish the interest people have in following these innovators trying new things.” Ever since the boll weevil was pretty much eradicated some 20 years or

Dairy cows wander the 460-acre Cindale Farms between milkings. These “dry” cows are on a two-month break.

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photos by SCOTT HOLSTEIN

more ago, cotton has thrived in Jackson County. Peanuts, the one-time king, provide a needed rotation crop for cotton farmers. Meanwhile, beef cattle are fattened up on pastures not used for crop production. According to the University of Florida, in 2012 Jackson County had 43,098 acres of cotton and 34,726 acres of peanuts. That’s enough cotton to make 18 million pairs of jeans and enough peanuts for one billion sandwiches. Peanut production, while smaller in acreage, grew 10 percent over its 2011 numbers while cotton actually went down 4 percent from 2011. Pastureland seems to be dwindling; in 2009 it stood at 36,062 acres but in 2012 it had decreased to 27,387 acres. All told, land use maps for Jackson County show that approximately 211,916 acres of land are devoted to some kind of agricultural endeavor. However, that doesn’t diminish the efforts of a few locals who are trying to establish a foothold for new things, from international caviar aquaculture to Satsuma citrus and olives. These new players on the scene can be commended for their enterprise, but the challenge rests in finding and exploiting the right market. The bulk of the acreage and the bulk of the farmers are still engaged in commodity farming, because that’s the easiest way to market and sell large quantities of something, Mayo said. “There’s always people who are exploring new markets, new ideas and the reality is a lot of the unique agricultural things are more of a challenge to build a niche and carve out your own market,” Mayo said. “It’s very slow to build a niche market or create an alternate crop that fits a new niche and gets established.” Even then, it’s tough being a farmer. The number of dairy farms, for instance, has dwindled as the soaring cost of overhead and volatile milk prices have taken their collective toll. But there is still milk on the shelves, thanks to the plucky few who hang in there because they love the business. “We dairy not because of the grand income that we think might be available, we do it because we love to do it,” said Dale Eade, who runs a dairy farm

north of Marianna with wife Cindy. “We love taking care of animals, love being outdoors, for some perverse reason we like to work hard, and we enjoy being part of a community and having a dairy farm allows us to do that. We don’t dairy for money.” Adds Cindy Eade, who sits on the board of directors of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce and Farm Credit of Northwest Florida, “From my standpoint as a wife and mother, farming is a wonderful way to raise kids. I grew up a city girl and love living on a farm.” Meanwhile, the researchers and scientists at the North Florida Research and Education Center are successfully finding ways to make farmers’ dollars go further. Among its many efforts, the center has a Marianna farm which features a worldclass, computerized, multimillion-dollar feed efficiency unit that carefully studies and measures how cattle feed. “In real time we can see how an animal is eating and how it’s growing,” said Director Nick Comerford. “If we can get the same weight gain with less feed we save farmers money. The unit we have is one of three in the U.S., and the only one that deals with tropical and subtropical breeds of cattle, and that makes it unique.”

Agriculture is still a key economic driver for Jackson County, according to Doug Mayo, director of the Jackson County extension office.

Nolan Daniels (left) and grower Mack Glass in the midst of a Satsuma orange grove.

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real estate

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uring the real estate boom in the mid- and late-2000s, prices for homes and land in Jackson County soared to astronomical highs. Then the crash came, hitting even this rural area with unusual speed and bringing those prices down — way down. Byron Ward, owner of Chipola Property Development, explained that as a more rural, agricultural market, Jackson County usually has about a 6-month lag before feeling such economic effects. But with the real estate crash, “the banks stopped lending here just as quickly as they stopped lending in Chicago or anywhere else. And they also started freezing lines of credit, which is not what we’re used to.” But now, banks are lending and prices are beginning a slow rebound, meaning there is still plenty to choose from for buyers seeking a home bargain. Acreage is selling, and commercial real estate —

Redevelopment of shopping centers like Oak Station is resulting in 100 percent occupancy.

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especially redevelopment — is on the upswing. As a slower market, Jackson County’s commercial real estate is primarily redevelopment. “If a new company comes here, typically you don’t have to buy a new building,” Ward explained. Instead, existing spaces are redeveloped to suit new tenants. These projects are being undertaken by local — and national — development companies. Brad Combs, president of Combs Development Company in Phoenix, Ariz., has worked on two redevelopment projects in the area: the Oak Station shopping center and the old Walmart across the street. Combs recalled that the Oak Station redevelopment in 2010 followed a wave of commercial venture companies stepping back off the sidelines and investing again. “The fact that businesses are opening

is always a good indicator,” he said. “Certainly, people have confidence in the market. From a national retailer standpoint, that’s a really good indicator because national retailers are doing an awful lot of research.” The Oak Station redevelopment created space for many national retailers to move into Jackson County — the project was so successful that it necessitated a second redevelopment nearby. “We took [the Oak Station’s] occupancy level from 50 percent to 100 percent pretty quickly within that first 12 months, and we actually had a waiting list. There were some national guys that wanted to be in there, so we ended up buying the old Walmart building, too, across the street,” Combs recalled. B and K Properties owner and founder Bob Pforte believes that ventures and growth like this are not only a good sign about the present, but also a positive motivation for the future, as they increase confidence in the market and encourage further growth. “When people see all those things happening … they get a better attitude and they get more optimistic,” Pforte explained. “When people’s attitudes are better and they feel more optimistic, they have a tendency to get out and take a chance, and spend some money.” The real estate crash brought with it one benefit for commercial real estate: The scrutiny on lending now forces businesses to be very cautious in expanding and moving, which means that the ventures undertaken now are likely to prove stable in the years to come, keeping the economy strong in the long term. “There’s activity … creeping back, but it’s only in places where it really makes sense for the commercial development,” said David Melvin, president of Melvin Engineering. In 2009, in contrast, Melvin

photos by SCOTT HOLSTEIN

Real Estate is on the Rebound


Broker Robby Roberts says the market correction has helped young families afford homes.

points out that both the commercial and residential real estate markets were driven by “a lot of speculating.” The residential market was especially “out of control” prior to the crash, Melvin said, adding that residential subdivision development was overbuilt for the local population. Pforte explained that while the residential market is creeping back, the

gains are still limited: “The high-end homes are kind of slow; most of the homes that are selling are in the $75,000 to $150,000 mark.” However difficult the hit to the economy has been, however, Robby Roberts, broker and president of Prudential Jim Roberts Realty, pointed out that it was vital — particularly for the next generation of homebuyers. “If things had kept going like they were, our children would never be able to afford a home,” said Roberts. “Something had to bring it back to common sense. There was a lot of craziness going on.” Kathryn Milton, owner and broker of ERA Chipola Realty, said that the crash did not hit Jackson County any harder than other residential markets, and it might actually have had a less shocking impact than in other, faster markets. “We really never have been what you’d consider a high-commodity area,” she pointed out, adding that the residential market’s comeback is already underway.

“There’s been a lot more demand from individuals looking for more land,” she explained, suggesting that the migration of bigger-city dwellers back to Jackson County in search of space is a great sign for the future. Regardless of the recovery’s pace, both the commercial and residential real estate markets are poised for positive growth in the coming years. Commercial redevelopments will continue to increase confidence and draw more local and national businesses into the fold, boosting the local economy and, in turn, encouraging more residential purchases. In addition to these ongoing sources of growth, Melvin added that there is another economic stimulus on the horizon that might catalyze this growth even further. “When some of the settlements from BP start getting in the hands of the people in our area, I think they’ll start looking at places to invest those,” he said. “And I think that will add to our recovery in the real estate area.”

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Marianna

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Chipola Realty

Fax (850) 638-2044 846 Fifth Street Chipley, FL 32428 2013 B U S I N E S S O U T L O O K

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cha m be r benef its

What the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce Can Do For You Ambassadors

Business Advocacy

Goodwill ambassadors carry the Chamber message to members and the community at-large. These active Chamber supporters serve as a liaison with local businesses, community leaders and elected government officials. One of their primary jobs is to help new members settle into the community. They also help organize Chamber events, including the annual golf tournament, which raises funds to support Chamber programs.

As “the voice of business” the Chamber promotes a pro-business attitude among local businesses and throughout our communities. We believe our elected leaders are key elements in supporting the Chamber’s agenda.

First Friday Power Breakfast Boosted by corporate sponsors, this activity is a premiere networking “must attend” event for anyone interested in growing their business and learning more about business trends and critical issues facing the region. It is the way to gain a better insight into other local businesses and their owners.

Government Affairs Chamber officials have a strong relationship with local and statewide officials. Leaders often work with state government and legislative leaders on issues of local concern and testify before House and Senate committees when they meet at the state Capitol in nearby Tallahassee.

Leadership Jackson County This eight-month program is designed to cultivate an emerging group of local leaders, educate them on a wide variety of local issues — from health care to

Jackson County Discover the unknown. Hidden in the heart of Northwest Florida's panhandle, Jackson County holds pristine natural treasures and a tradition of Southern charm and hospitality. 4318 Lafayette St. / P O Box 130 Marianna, FL 32447 850 482-8061 | Fax 850 482-8002

jacksoncountytdc.com

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agribusiness to tourism — and have them work cooperatively for positive change in the community. The classes are limited to 20.

Member Services There are a multitude of tangible and intangible benefits to Chamber membership: notary services; use of bulk-mail permit; online calendar of events; printing of membership mailing labels; listing in online Business Directory; admission to monthly First Friday Power Breakfast; admission to Business After Hours networking events; and use of Chamber executive board room for small meetings. Other opportunities include business training seminars and special networking opportunities. This Chamber is always looking for additional ways for members to be glad they are members of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce.


Committed to Florida.

Committed to you. At Hancock Bank, we’re committed to serving Florida with 28 convenient locations from Pensacola to Tallahassee, and over 250 locations across the Gulf South. Recently BauerFinancial, Inc., the nation’s leading financial rating firm, awarded Hancock its highest 5-star rating. For more than 23 consecutive years, BauerFinancial has recommended Hancock Bank as one of the most financially sound banks in America. Find out more at hancockbank.com. Call 800-448-8812 Click hancockbank.com Come in to any of our convenient locations

Member FDIC

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BUSINESS NEWS

Capital

Local Happenings

New Beginnings >>  Ballard Partners has expanded its Tallahassee and Miami offices with the addition of former state Rep. Michael Abrams and Monica Rodriguez. Abrams will serve as chair of Ballard Partners’ public policy team in the Miami-based office, where he will enhance the firm’s lobbying efforts, while Rodriguez joins the Tallahassee office as a partner. >>  Tony Carvajal has rejoined the Florida Chamber of Commerce Foundation as executive vice president. He previously served in the post from 2007 into 2010.

>>  A $300,000 gift from the Florida Retail Federation has established a public/private partnership enabling the Florida State University College of Business to hire new faculty members, including a Retail Executive-in-Residence, for the college’s new retail management major in the Department of Marketing.

> >   R u m b e r g e r, Kirk & Caldwell has carvajal added Robert E. “Bobby” Long to the firm’s Tallahassee office as an associate. Long’s practice will focus on law enforcement liability, employment and labor and commercial litigation. >>  Sniffen & Spellman, P.A. has hired Maureen McCarthy Daughton, whose areas of practice include Administrative Law, Labor & Employment Law, Commercial Litigation and Land Use & Environmental Law.

VanSickle

>>  First Commerce Credit Union will help businesses learn how to access capital at a free SBA breakfast seminar on Thursday, June 13. The workshop will be held from 7 to 8:45 a.m. at the First Commerce Credit Union Administration Building in the Summit East Office Complex (on Highway 90, just east of I-10 exit 209B) at 2073 Summit Lake Drive. Space is limited so call (850) 488-0035 x3559 to reserve your seat or make reservations online at http://firstcommercecubiz.eventbrite.com/ .

>>  Melissa VanSickle, shareholder and attorney with CPHLaw, is the newly elected president of the Tallahassee Bar Association, which represents more than 600 attorneys, Florida Supreme Court justices and judges from the First DCA, circuit and county courts.

>>  Leonard Collins, most recently serving as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s general counsel, has joined the Tallahassee office of the statewide law firm Broad and Cassel. >>  Laura Williams has taken over as director of marketing at the Florida Sports Foundation, a division of Enterprise Florida Inc. She spent the last 14 years with the Baltimore Orioles in Fort Lauderdale and Sarasota. >>  LongHorn Steakhouse has promoted Preston Colangelo to managing partner of the restaurant’s Tallahassee location. Colangelo has worked for LongHorn Steakhouse for more than seven years and with its parent company, Darden Restaurants, for almost 15. >>  Floyd R. Self has joined Gonzalez Saggio & Harlan LLP, a national minority owned law firm, in Tallahassee as a partner in the firm’s Energy, Communications, and Utility practice group.

>>  After a 33-year tenure, Ron Spencer retired in May as executive director of the TallahasseeLeon County Civic Center.

Local Honors >>  Dean and Gloria Pugh, owners of AMWAT Moving Warehousing & Storage, earned the national “Mover of the Year” award from Move for Hunger, the nationwide hunger relief organization that works with moving companies to collect nonperishable food items from customers during the moving process. >>  Bill Herrle, executive director of the Florida operation of the National Federation of Independence Business, has been honored for his work in growing jobs for Florida families. >>  Capital Regional Medical Center has received the Get With The Guidelines®–Stroke Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award from the American Heart Association for its treatment of stroke patients. >>  The Tallahassee-based Zimmerman Agency has been named the largest public relations firm in Florida for the 11th consecutive year by O’Dwyer’s, the respected national industry source. >>  Gina Marie Senters, the general manager of Jim’s Pianos in Tallahassee since 2009, won a spring trip to Japan from KAWAI, a piano manufacturer, for totaling the most sales in a small, North American market between October 2012 and February 2013. >>  Gigi Rollini, an attorney in Holland & Knight’s Tallahassee office, has been named one of Florida’s Top 40 Litigators Under 40 by the American Society of Legal Advocates. >>  Brian Hayden, a civil litigation attorney with Rumberger, Kirk & Caldwell in Tallahassee, has been appointed to the Leon County Development Support & Environmental Management Citizens User Group. >>  Florida-based integrated marketing firm Taproot Creative has been selected as an honoree in the law category of the 17th Annual Webby Awards for the design and development of the Hopping Green & Sams’ website, hgslaw.com. >>  Linda A. Bailey and Felicia L. Nowels are

SoundByteS among the 190 lawyers who recently earned Florida Bar board certification. Bailey, the managing partner of Linda A. Bailey P.A. in Tallahassee, is certified in marital and family law. Nowels, who is certified in international law, practices with Akerman Senterfitt in Tallahassee.

bailey

Appointed By Gov. Scott >>  Gary Bryan Anderson, 48, of Tallahassee, vice president of governmental relations at HCA Healthcare, to the Florida Film and Entertainment Advisory Council. >>  Joseph R. Boyd, 43, of Tallahassee, a partner at Boyd, Durant and Sliger PL, to the Florida Real Estate Appraisal Board. >>  Kathleen A. Connell, 45, of Tallahassee, a police officer at the Tallahassee Police Department, to the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission. >>  Martin A. Fitzpatrick, a partner in the Tallahassee office of the Florida-based law firm Broad and Cassel, to the Circuit Court of the Second Judicial Circuit (consisting of Franklin, Liberty, Gadsden, Wakulla, Leon and Jefferson counties). >>  Katherine E. Langston, Joyce Phelps and Peter C. Debelius-Enemark of Tallahassee to the State of Florida Correctional Medical Authority. Langston, 47, is a general surgeon at Capital Regional Surgical Associates. Phelps, 61, is a retired home health nurse and former division director of family health services for the Florida Department of Health. Debelius-Enemark, 57, is a psychiatrist at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare. >>  Steven Seibert, 57, of Tallahassee, founder of The Seibert Law Firm, to the Florida Humanities Council. >>  Jacqueline “Jackie” Watts, 57, of Tallahassee, president and owner of Watts Mechanical Inc., to the Construction Industry Licensing Board.

Emerald Coast Local happenings >>  Navy Federal Credit Union is creating 1,500 new jobs and investing $200 million in capital in the Northwest Florida region less than a year after the company’s decision to create 640 jobs and invest $6.5 million in the area. >>  Priton, the manufacturer of “MyHouse” affordable homes primarily for the international housing market, is relocating to the Santa Rosa Industrial Park. The company recently purchased the former 84 Lumber location and has committed to hiring 200 employees over three years. The average wage for the new positions is $35,110 or 115 percent of the average county wage rate.

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>>  IMPACT 100 of Northwest Florida has selected its officers for the 2013 membership year: Sandy Sims, president; Kim Kirby, vice-president of communications; Della Goodson, secretary; Christine Carter, treasurer; Michelle Anchors, immediate past-president; Yvonne Freeman, grant liaison; and Jodee Hart, membership coordinator.

Local Honors

sansing

durney

>>  ServisFirst Bank Pensacola has named Matt Durney and Robert “Sandy” Sansing to its board of directors. Durney is president and principal of Durney Properties, and Sansing is the owner of multiple dealerships in the Gulf Coast Region from Florida to Mississippi. >>  The University of West Florida has been ranked No. 5 in the U.S. for first-time pass rates by small accounting programs on the CPA exam, according to the National Association of State Boards of

Accountancy. Within Florida, the university ranked No. 2 out of the Top 10 institutions for first-time pass rates, the highest ranking public university, and was ranked No. 3 for highest average scores on the exam, making it the second highest ranking public university behind the University of Florida. >>  Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union of Pensacola has been recognized as a 5-Star rated institution for the 75th consecutive quarter by BauerFinancial Inc., the nation’s leading bank and credit union rating and research firm. >>  Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa has received the 2013-14 Green Meetings Approved by ConventionSouth certification from ConventionSouth magazine, a leading national resource for meeting planners holding events in the South. >>  Twin Cities Hospital has given its 2012 Dr. Frist Humanitarian Awards to Dr. James Watson, Lois Pellnitz (volunteer) and Richard Dunham (employee). They are now eligible for the nationwide 2012 award, the highest honor an employee, volunteer and physician can receive at HCA, the parent company of Twin Cities Hospital.

New Beginnings >>  Greg Featherston has been named marina manager at Legendary Marine, Boating Industry magazine’s No.1 Ranked “Dealer of the Year” for North America and the Gulf Coast’s largest boat dealership with sales and service locations in Destin, Fort Walton Beach, Panama City and Gulf Shores, Ala. He was previously harbormaster at HarborWalk Marina in Destin.

>>  Richard Ross is the new vice president of sales and marketing for the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa. His responsibilities include shaping and executing all sales and marketing strategies for group and leisure markets; management of public Ross relations and advertising initiatives; and overseeing the sales team. He previously was vice president and director of sales and marketing for Remington Hotels, based at Hilton Fort Worth. >>  Jackson Cherry is the new manager of hotel operations at Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa. >>  IMS ExpertServices has added a new human resources manager, Jason Alderman, and two new associates, Jessie Bowen and Lauren Gutschlag, to its headquarters.  >>  ServisFirst Bank has added Michael Hobbs as an assistant banking center manager. >>  Emerald Coast Title Services Inc. has expanded its services at a second office located in Redfish Village on 30A to accomodate the growing demands of the market. >>  Orthopaedic physician G. Daxton Steele, M.D., has joined the team of specialty physicians at

Business luncheons. Celebratory dinners. Deal-making cocktails. A sampling of the best fare the region has to offer.

A GUIDE TO FINE DINING IN NORTHWEST FLORIDA

Magnolia Grill FORT WALTON BEACH

TOM & PEGGY RICE, PROPRIETORS

(850) 302-0266

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Andrews Institute for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine and Baptist Medical Group. Steele specializes in total joint replacement and reconstructive surgery. >>  Bar Manager Dan Drake is the newest certified sommelier at Seagar’s Prime Steaks and Seafood, Destin’s only restaurant with a AAA Four Diamond rating.

Appointed by Gov. Scott >>  C. Wayne Ansley, Patrick Byrne, Brad Drake, and Michael Flynt to the Northwest Florida State College District Board of Trustees. Ansley, 65, of Baker, is a retired assistant superintendent with the Okaloosa County School Board. Byrne, 57, of Niceville, is president of Valparaiso Realty Company. Drake, 38, of DeFuniak Springs, is owner of Southern Marketing Co. Flynt, 67, of Miramar Beach, is an independent contractor. >>  LuTimothy May to the University of West Florida Board of Trustees. May, 35, of Pensacola, is the community outreach director for the City of Pensacola. He is currently the director of the Pensacola State College Board of Governors. >>  Stephen Riggs to the Board of Accountancy. Riggs, 59, of Destin, is a partner and certified public accountant with Carr, Riggs & Ingram.

I-10

Northwest Florida has declared a patronage refund of $1.25 million. Farm Credit of Northwest Florida is a $292 million locally owned and controlled financial cooperative headquartered in Marianna and is part of the nationwide Farm Credit System. It loans funds and provides financing expertise to farmers, agribusinesses and rural homeowners for land, homes and farm operations in 18 counties across the Florida Panhandle.

Bay Local Happenings >>  Former Florida House Speaker Allan Bense has been elected to the board of directors of Capital City Bank Group. Bense is currently president and CEO Bense of Bense Enterprises Inc. In addition to his own successful business ventures, he is the current chairman of the Florida State University Board of Trustees, chairman of the board of the James Madison Institute and chairman of the Bay Economic Alliance. He is also a member of the Florida Council of 100 and a director of Gulf Power Company.

executive director of the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. He served as ECP’s deputy executive director for three years. >>  Lance Allison has been selected as the new president and CEO of the Panama City Beach Chamber of Commerce. Formerly the president and CEO of the Murray Calloway County Chamber of Commerce in Murray, Ky., in 2012 the American Allison Chamber of Commerce recognized him as one of the top 10 executives in the country for membership retention.

Appointed by Gov. Scott >>  Adrien “Bo” Rivard, 41, of Panama City, a partner with Harrison Rivard Duncan & Buzzett since 2002 and past-president of the Bay County Chamber of Commerce, to the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. >>  Glenda Walters, 70, of Lynn Haven, adjunct professor at Gulf Coast Community College, to the Florida Humanities Council. 

Local Happenings >>  The Board of Directors of Farm Credit of

Compiled by Linda Kleindienst

New Beginnings >>  Parker W. McClellan Jr., A.A.E, is the new

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2012

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$

Sold

251

$84,452,193

2013 YTD ( Jan-May) Sold Under Contract

108 35

$46,879,021 $13,296,636

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• 18 dedicated and experienced Realtors • 6 licensed and 5 administrative team members committed to excellence •300+ years of combined real estate experience • Innovative and extensive marketing, publications, and web presence •“First Touch” access to thousands of visitors to our area 850 Business Magazine

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Capital Corridor

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Gadsden, Jefferson + Leon Counties

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The Mentor Steve Evans’ ethical and business advice will leave a lasting legacy in Tallahassee By Rosanne Dunkelberger

When asked why he does what he does, Steve Evans harkens back to a night in the early 2000s, when he boarded a red eye in San Francisco on one of the 300 or so days a year he traveled as an IBM executive.

Redefined ‘Retirement’ Since leaving his executive post with IBM, Steve Evans has shared his wisdom with legions of Tallahasseans, from CEOs to college students.

Photos by SCOTT HOLSTEIN

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Sage Advice “It’s not about numbers, it’s about people,” Steve Evans counsels business leaders.

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“The greatest lesson I learned out of all this was the need to consistently reengineer yourself to stay competitive — the need to have skills that can take you into the future, not just satisfy the needs of today.” Steve Evans

nother manager from the global technology behemoth’s planning department was on the same flight, so they sat together and began to talk shop. Evans, then 55 years old, recalls asking about the future of IBM’s pension plan, because many of his coworkers were nearing retirement age. The manager, Evans said, told him based on the demographics of IBM’s worker population, the average person who works long enough will only collect a pension for five years before dying. Throughout the flight to New York his thoughts were “like an old 1920s movie reel in reverse.” Congratulating friends who were retiring, ready to attack their bucket lists, only to hear that a few months or years later this one had developed cancer, or that one died of a heart attack or someone’s wife was killed in a car accident. “That was a revelation for me. That long flight back,” he said. “So when the time came for me that I could retire, I made a decision that I wanted to. I knew that I’m not the kind of person going out and playing golf every day, or fishing. I’m not a stay-at-home, watch-TV kind of guy but there’s that peace of mind that knew not to worry about it.” He retired in 2003 at age 57. And Tallahassee has never been the same. Now, most mornings you’ll find Evans ensconced in the middle of Tally’s Grill, dressed in business casual; the No. 12 breakfast (oatmeal, egg whites, bacon, fruit and coffee) placed in front of him by a server who knows his regular order by heart. Across from him will be a business owner, nonprofit leader, local politician, up-and-comer, job seeker or a kid with a newly minted college degree listening to the words of what one member of his fan club calls “the wise man on the mountain.” For a decade now, Evans has shared his wisdom with legions of Tallahasseans, sometimes as a paid consultant, but much more often for nothing other than his personal satisfaction. An aficionado of the “dashboard” — his term for the place where goals are visible and people are held accountable for reaching them — at the end of every year, Evans adds up the number of people he’s mentored. Last year the annual total was about 100 people from ages 18 to 80. Evans’ career with IBM began serendipitously in 1973. He was a pitcher working his way around the St. Louis Cardinals’ farm teams when a manager asked for a volunteer to speak at a local Exchange Club. Evans volunteered, mostly for the free lunch, and was approached by a person who asked if he might consider a post-baseball career at IBM. (An aside: This illustrates some of Evans’ most oft-repeated advice: Network. “It’s all about connection I tell people … it’s all about

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networking,” he said. “You’re not going to make this next step by sitting at home and looking at the Internet. The only way you’re going to get engaged and sharpen up your resume is to start networking. The worst thing you can do is sit at home in front of that computer. You’ll never find anything. People find careers, they find changes in jobs, they find opportunities by knowing people, by sitting down and having lunch with people.”) Evans began in sales at IBM during the off season. When his next season’s contract arrived and he had to decide between baseball and his new company, “it was really no decision at all because I absolutely loved (IBM),” he said. “I found that the teamwork, the camaraderie, the competitive spirit was identical to … what you had in athletics.” He would work in sales for the next six years, move into marketing management and then hopscotch around the U.S. while moving up to the inner circles of the highest levels of management of IBM. He was onboard during IBM’s greatest times of challenge and change in the early ’90s, when the stock nosedived and the word “dinosaur” was often used to describe the technology company. “During that period of time we made a dramatic shift from a company that sold boxes and technology solutions to a company that really focused on services,” he said. “We went basically from a very small services company that wasn’t even in the Top 10 to No. 1 in the world over the course of the next 10 years.” Through that painful “reengineering” process, Evans said he learned a lesson that still resonates today for businesses and individuals: “Change or die. As I look back on it we were probably at the front end of a lot of changes that had to go on,” he said. “The greatest lesson I learned out of all this was the need to consistently reengineer yourself to stay competitive — the need to have skills that can take you into the future, not just satisfy the needs of today.” Evans came to Tallahassee from Atlanta in 1986, with just a few hours notice to head up IBM’s state government operations in Florida. He was underwhelmed by the city’s airport, at the time a cement block building with two gates and no jetways. “I’ve done a lot of flying but I had never in my life walked down to the tarmac,” he said. “I remember thinking, this is the capital of the state of Florida?” Despite that inauspicious beginning, Evans and his family came to enjoy living here, enough so that when it was time to move back to one of IBM’s headquarters for his next promotion, he opted to stay in Tallahassee and “commute” — hence the 300 travel days per year. His family includes his wife, Linda, their Navy SEAL son Chip and daughter Stephanie, who is now moving back to Tallahassee with her husband.


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Evans’ advice: On older workers:

On creating business plans:

More and more, companies are looking for the older worker because they bring something they are not finding in the younger worker — work ethic — and they are great team players.

What I’ve often found is that you can over study something. Nine times out of 10, if you get the right people and you really get down to a point of honesty and integrity, your gut instinct really tells you what the right thing is to do. Especially if your focus is really clear, it’s not that tough to do.

On younger workers: I have a tremendous amount of faith and hope for this generation, I really do. This generation is coming out with more skills and more knowledge than any generation we’ve ever had. I’m talking about technical skills, critical thinking skills, but they’re coming out with something we’ve not had in several generations and it’s a commitment for some type of social change. These kids … all want to make a difference, some kind of societal difference. They’re not so much committed to companies as much as they are in using their skills to make a change.

On life balance: I ask people: “How many funerals have you been to? How many times have you heard somebody get up and talk about how much money they had?” Zero. If anything, what you enjoy and appreciate hearing is the difference that person made in their life. That you remember.

On being a good manager: It’s not about numbers, it’s about people. I don’t care how complex the industry is, how tough the political climate is, when it’s all said and done, it’s all about people. If they don’t sense you can do miraculous things, if they think it’s all about numbers (and) what you’ve done for me today, then all your gains are short term.

On technology: Technology is having an impact on every aspect of life. It’s no longer what state you live in or what country; you’re competing with people all over the world every day.

On counseling people who have lost a job: Sometimes they just need an arm around the shoulder, other times they need a kick in the rear. But every time you do it you do it with a lot of respect.

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On who he invited to create a new plan for IBM: Crusty people I knew did not want to change. Those are the people you want to have (not just those who agree with you). If you’re really going to transform something, you have to see who gets it and who doesn’t and eventually deal with it.

On being practical: People come to me with inventions and say, “Steve, if IBM will just invest a million dollars you guys will control the middle … market.” I learned to ask one question: “Did you ever sell one?”

On life: (Retirees) work through the bucket list in about three months. They’ve bought the boat, they’ve done the fishing, they’ve played all the golf they can play. They’ve taken the trips and all of a sudden they wake up one day and … there’s an old Peggy Lee song — “Is that all there is?” I use that so many times when I mentor people. One day everybody wakes up and they think, “Is this all there is to life? There’s got to be something more.”

On things you’re not good at: I hated to speak in front of people. You force yourself to work through your weaknesses. Over the years I had to work on it. Still do.

On work skills: Do you have the right skills to take it to the next level? Can we reengineer those skills; or do we need to basically go back to the well and acquire those skills?


Evans sat on the boards of several businesses and nonprofits during his working years, including Florida TaxWatch, where he has served for the better part of two decades. In the process, he became a mentor and friend to President and CEO Dominic Calabro, who unabashedly sings Evans’ praises. “Because of his extraordinary training, I call him the $6 million-dollar man,” Calabro said. “He’s helped me become a better president.” Evans has served on the Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce’s executive committee for several years and was honored with their Servant Leadership award in 2005. Chamber President and CEO Sue Dick explained the unique and practical talents he has offered over the years: “With his corporate background he provides an excellent perspective not just from a vision/strategy (perspective),” she said. “He offers specific tactics to obtaining your goals. He also brings with him knowledge from the market. He brings his corporate experience along with the strategic thought process of how to move forward.” But Evans’ greatest gifts transcend his business acumen, according to Calabro. “His understanding of human nature is second to none,” Calabro said. “He’s not out to sell you his services, he’s out there to do the best for you and the community. Almost always you cannot help but take his advice. He has right and proper intentions (and his suggestions are) always well thought out. His reach is much farther than Tallahassee. He’s also pretty endearing … a very, very gracious soul.” Lee Hinkle was able to convince Evans to set aside his retirement and serve as interim director of The Florida State University Foundation for a critical year of transition in 2009. “He is smart, he is ethical, he’s just got almost an intuitive judgment about people,” she said. “He is able to read people really quickly and really accurately. He is very good at getting people to do things that they’re good at. He’s a very creative and motivating individual.” Community leader Marjorie Turnbull mentions the literal takeaways she gets from meetings with Evans. “We’ll start talking about something and he’ll take the placemat or a napkin and begin writing and drawing, outlining approaches and jotting down questions to be asked,” she said. “I’ll just take it home.” While he’s LinkedIn to every mover and shaker in the area, Evans is not particularly high

profile in the broader community. And that’s no accident. Almost to a person, one of the appellations most often applied to him is “humble.” “He’s not out there for the glory; he wants to help people, he really wants to,” said Randy Nicklaus, chief executive officer for the nonprofit 211 Big Bend. When Rick Kearney, CEO of Mainline Information Systems, was honored as a business leader by the Tallahassee Chamber, one of the people he thanked by name was Evans. “I relied on him quite a bit for advice and counsel,” said Kearney, who had worked for IBM himself for five years in the early ’80s and started Mainline in 1988 when he was in his late 20s. “He was really a business mentor to me during the early years of our business. When you’re young in age and business experience, you don’t always know the right choices. He was always right on the money as far as what to do.” While he was still working for IBM, Evans invited Kearney to invest “in a big way” as an IBM business partner, and it has paid off with a company now one of IBM’s top partners in the world. “Steve not only provided me good business advice, but he provided good ethical advice,” said Kearney. “When you’re young and growing a company … you see your competitors doing things that (make) you wonder, ‘Well, should I do that?’ ” As an example, Kearney talked about price wars in Mainline’s early days, when companies would “swoop in at the last minute” and make lowball bids “to make the competitor look bad” and seal a deal. “Steve said ‘Look, first of all you wouldn’t want to do something that you wouldn’t want somebody to do to you and, secondly, that’s no way to start a customer relationship. Spend your time focusing on doing the right thing in the right way, and you’ll reap long-term dividends both to your employees and your customers.’” Evans’ effect on the region is large and lasting, his proponents say. “When you look at communities and you try and match where their success or … the turning point or where some real opportunities were had, oftentimes it points to a specific event or a specific leader,” said Chamber exec Dick. “In this case, we’re going to … realize a lot of opportunities moved forward because of Steve’s willingness to get involved and really give of his time — for nothing more than to advance the overall community.”

Steve Evans’ Ongoing Community Involvement in Tallahassee: Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare Foundation, Board of Directors — 9 months Leon County Sales Tax Committee, Chairman Community Foundation of North Florida, Board of Directors and Executive Committee — 7 years (termed out in 2012) Prime Meridian Bank, Board of Directors — 5 years, 6 months Municipal Code Corporation, Board of Directors — 3 years, 10 months MGT of America, Board member — 6 years Greater Tallahassee Chamber of Commerce, Board of Directors and Executive Committee — 7 years, 10 months Florida State University’s Jim Moran Institute of Global Entrepreneurship, Board of Directors — 8 years Applied Fiber Holdings, Board of Directors — 9 years Florida TaxWatch Research Institute, Senior Advisor, Former chairman, Board Member — 18 years Florida State University Foundation, Interim President (2009–2010)

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EMERALD COAST Corridor

Coastal Escambia, Santa Rosa, Okaloosa + Walton Counties

A Line in the Sand

Despite all odds, beachside bar on the Florida-Alabama line keeps growing

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t is a bar built on a line in the sand, fit for a line in a song. When the music stops and the mullet have been tossed, the Flora-Bama Lounge and Package Store is just another bar. Ink pen graffiti on the bathroom stalls, old men huddling to talk over days gone by, the stale smell of beer and floors that stick to your shoes. But the music never stops at the Flora-Bama. And its annual Mullet Toss just keeps getting bigger and better. So the owners’ dream plays on another day — as persistent a melody as floats on the salt air, well into any given morning.

A Brief ‘Two-Beer’ History It was 1962. The Tampary family of Pensacola owned the strip of pristine white beach that would become the site of the “World Famous Honky Tonk.” At that time, there was no access to the land, so the Tamparys lobbied the states of Florida and Alabama to build half a bridge each over the Perdido Pass. Alabama ultimately built

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the entire bridge in exchange for two miles of coastline, and Florida constructed a road leading to the new state line, where the original FloraBama was built in 1964. It burned to the ground the day before it opened. But the Tamparys’ vision did not. Theodore “Ted” Tampary, along with sons Connie and Tony “Bubba” Tampary, officially opened the Flora-Bama in the fall of 1964, just a few months after its scheduled debut. As the sole seller of liquor in the area, the bar kept busy servicing thirsty fishermen and construction workers. You could say they poured more than they could swallow; the business was growing too quickly to maintain while raising their growing families. In 1978, Joe Gilchrist, real estate entrepreneur and schoolmate of the Tampary boys, acquired the wave-soaked watering hole. A one-time liquor distributor for Pensacola’s Lewis Bear Company, Gilchrist brought beverage sales experience, along with a deep appreciation for

original music and the people who sang it. He hit a high note in 1979, when he first expanded the bar to include a stage and pool hall. By 1984, a burst of development on Perdido Key called for all-hands-on-deck to build upon the Flora-Bama’s growth and prosperity. Gilchrist enlisted former Naval Public Affairs Officer Pat McClellan for his expertise in advertising and event planning. (He can also be credited with the addition of the first toilets to connect to the municipal sewer system.) McClellan was the creative spark behind the Flora-Bama’s beloved calendar of annual events, including the “Polar Bear Dip” — when participants jump into the frigid Gulf of Mexico on New Year’s Day — and The Mullet Toss — when dead fish are chucked from one state to another for local youth charities, a display of humanity so odd it could only happen here. The Flora-Bama enjoyed two decades of seaside success before Hurricane Ivan hit in 2004. Then came the economic downturn, followed

Photos courtesy of flora-bama

By Ashley Kahn


by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Suddenly, the landmark found itself in deep financial trouble. Despite everything, the bar wears its scars proudly, like war wounds, each plank of wood numbered and pieced back together like a puzzle; the water line marked as a sign of remembrance. There’s one hell of a party every night. In 2011, John McInnis III of Orange Beach, Ala., whose family’s McInnis Company has made a life of building roads and bridges, himself became a bridge to the future of the Flora-Bama. Along with new General Manager Cameron Price, graduate of West Point and M.I.T., McInnis joined the ownership team to rescue and rejuvenate the struggling business, preparing it for its next 50 years. With a new cast of characters in place, the bar — celebrated in song, on screen, on palette and page — is poised for success and loving every minute.

Making Sweet Music The owners attribute the Flora-Bama’s resilience to one thing — the people. Its patrons run the gamut from young to old, wealthy to humble, famous to common, local to international. “It’s always been about people, from all walks of life, who have returned again and again, generation after generation, to enjoy the camaraderie, fun, food, music and great times on one of the most gorgeous beaches anywhere,” says McInnis. Of course, like any well-run business, the focus is not only on the people who stop in, but also those who serve them. Flora-Bama employees are family — a team so loyal, only one new bartender has been hired in the last three years. “It’s a family-run, feel-good place to work,” says Candice Blake, a new addition to the management team. “We take care of each other, and we take care of our guests. It’s hard not to be happy here.” That happiness pours in to everything the Flora-Bama does. “The employees and owners have sacrificed a lot of their lives to make sure that when visitors come to the Flora-Bama, they feel at home and are able to escape reality for a while,” says McClellan. It is evident the team’s sacrifice has paid off. In 2012 alone, CNN Travel named Flora-Bama the 17th Best Beach Bar in the World, while Playboy Magazine has named it the No. 1 U.S. Beach Bar.

“There are few places left where you can be yourself and not be judged. At the Flora-Bama you can, and we aim to keep it that way.” general manager Cameron Price (A full listing of awards can be found on the bar’s website at florabama.com.) Blake attributes the Flora-Bama’s success to another feature of the bar — the featured acts. Music has always been a cornerstone of its legendary, oft-misunderstood attraction. There is always a band, from morning to night and back again, and many artists who regularly play the bar have written songs for big stars. Today, the lineup strikes a balance between new artists and the musicians who helped build the place. Stars not only get their hits from the FloraBama’s singer-songwriters, they also visit for “inspiration” of their own. Celebrities from Vince Vaughn to Kid Rock have dropped in for a Bushwhacker — the creamy Kahlua-based cocktail for which the bar is known — and they’re treated like anyone else.

“People come for the anonymity,” Blake says. “They stay for the experience. The Flora-Bama is not just somewhere to go, it’s something that stays with you. Who did you see? What did you write on the walls?” Adds McInnis, “At the Flora-Bama we are all the same. Our motto is to give equal respect to all who enter, only asking in return that they give the same equal respect to all within.” With a great respect for the Flora-Bama’s storied history, the owners have plans for an even more colorful future. Besides an increased number of top notch musical acts, they plan to enhance food and bar operations at Flora-Bama Yacht Club; grow the selection at Flora-Bama Liquor & Lotto; and offer a diverse assortment of beach activities from volleyball and kayaking to jet skis and parasailing at Flora-Bama Watersports, with deep-sea and in-shore fishing, pontoon boat rentals and dolphin cruises at Flora-Bama Marina. The simplicity of its formula is quite possibly the secret to its success. The owners chalk it up to their focus on the community and the people who visit. If they keep doing that right, they figure the business part will just work itself out. “We have a deep appreciation for the community around us, with the eternal optimism that folks will always flock back to the place where fond memories will endure,” Price says. “There are few places left where you can be yourself and not be judged. At the Flora-Bama you can, and we aim to keep it that way.”

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forgotten coast Corridor

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First Class and Customer Service Crystal Air is helping Apalachicola airport soar to new heights By Lee Gordon

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Providing TLC Taylor Newman, Crystal Air’s director of operations, is working to spiff up the Apalachicola Regional Airport and boost traffic.

Photo by SCOTT HOLSTEIN

palachicola-based pilot Randall Terry couldn’t believe his eyes one random winter Tuesday afternoon at the regional airport. A Leer jet from New York City made an unscheduled landing on the airport’s runway. Five people deplaned, asking for some local cuisine. The four men and a woman jumped in a courtesy car, filled up on local seafood and then flew back to New York. “They weren’t even scheduled to come in,” remembers Terry of the group from NYC. “They flew in, ate lunch and bought 250 gallons of jet fuel. That’s saying something about our community and airport. This is a $5 million jet that came in; that’s saying something.” What Terry is saying is that the new regime at the Apalachicola airport has re-energized this coastal town. On Nov. 1, 2012, Crystal Air of Chattanooga, Tenn., was hired as the new Fixed Base Operator (FBO) for the facility. It is a five-year contract to make the airport relevant again and provide a forum for employment and good will to a struggling community. Crystal Air’s arrival came without much fanfare, but that’s only because of the drama that ensued before they came on board. The city had flirted with other companies, but none panned out for a variety of reasons. So when the vote was put on the table to recommend Crystal Air it was approved in one day. Among the many “chores” given to Crystal and its Apalachicolabased team is to improve the aesthetic look of the airport and improve its customer service — two areas that had been lacking in recent times. Bottom line, the airport was in need of some TLC. “Pilots check websites like Avnet.com and Foreflight.com to pick what airports they will get the best service at,” said Crystal Director

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Spreading the News Local pilot Randall Terry is spreads the word to fellow pilots about improvements and changed attitudes at the airport.

By the Numbers: Financial Impact of the Apalachicola Regional Airport

Direct Impacts:

$2,123,800 Indirect Impacts:

$1,552,500 Multi-Year Impacts:

$3,000,700 Total Employment:

70 jobs Total Economic Activity:

$6,677,000 Source: F  lorida Department of Transportation

of Operations Taylor Newman. “It’s similar to a hotel rating. We want our airports to be running at four to five stars. The four other airports that we manage are all four or five stars, and we want the same for the Apalachicola airport.” Pilot Lloyd Webb posted about his experience on Avnet.com on Dec. 31, 2012, and gave the airport and the FBO five-stars. “This was my first visit to KAAF and Crystal Air. First Class Service! The FBO has a great bunch of people. The flight line crew person was right on the spot as we taxied in and ready to provide us what we needed. Our Hertz rental car was ready to go, and we were tied down and on our way to our hotel

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right away. On our departure, our plane was filled up and ready to go.”

Focusing on Customer Service Newman and his team are going door to door in the community, asking questions and shaking hands — politician style. There is no election to run but there is good will and promotion to be had. Crystal Air currently runs airports in Dalton and Suwannee, Ga., and Cleveland and Sparta, Tenn. All four airports are well respected in the aviation community for their customer service, and that same type of service will be part of the culture in Apalachicola. Beverly Burke, manager of the Apalachicola River Inn, says she’s already noticed a difference in the number of people coming in and out of town because the reputation as a tourist destination is slowly returning. And the idea of premier customer service is trickling down into the community. “It’s helped a lot,” Burke says, “They are coming in from Atlanta, even had some in from Germany. We’ll send a car to pick them up and bring them back to their plane.” Adds Newman, “We have carpets that we are laying down for people who land here and providing courtesy cars. We pride ourselves on customer service. That is what is going to get people coming back for more. We are hiring people out of the community and going through our Workforce program to help lower income people, trying to help the community.” The airport already has a contract with Thrifty and Hertz car rental to come on board as well. Even in the down economy, Newman said he plans to bring in at least a handful of new employees, ranging from a mechanic to groundskeepers. “Mowing season is about to take off, and we have three tractors that will have to run 6-8 hours per day because we have so much land,” Newman said, “We’ll hire between 3-5 people, including a mechanic and two others to help with the grounds.” Newman and Crystal are in charge of 1,100 acres — that’s a lot of mowing. There’s also the issue of TLC, which the airport is in dire need of. During their first few weeks in town, Crystal employees — all two of them at the time — painted the gates and the fence-posts, but the

parking lot needs a new paint job, the deck needs re-staining and Crystal plans to bring in furniture to create a lounge for the pilots. First class and customer service — the new motto of the Apalachicola airport. “I’ve been telling a lot of other pilots about the Apalachicola airport and what these guys are doing,” Terry said. “They are extremely committed. They are doing a lot to make it better, and their attitude is great.”

Creating Jobs and Enthusiasm Terry says on an average day around 10 planes will come in to the Apalachicola airport. He remembers a time in late December when he counted 27 planes on the runway. He was so blown away that he took a picture with his phone so he could show his friends. “I’m excited about what’s happening here,” said Terry. “I mean, these FBO guys are loaning out their personal vehicles to pilots coming to town. That’s saying something.” Eventually, Crystal wants to bring in more hangar space and expand the airport. On Jan. 2, the county commission voted unanimously to build another corporate hangar at Apalachicola Regional Airport, another sign that the community believes in the new team in charge of the airport. Apalachicola is one of the largest regional airports in the Southeast in terms of landing space. Newman and Crystal have dreams of bringing in a charter, flight instruction school and providing sightseeing opportunities up and down the beach. All that will come in time, but for now, he’s putting on the hat of a politician and pounding the pavement. Not so much to remind people that there is an airport, but to let them know that they are there to help. Crystal Air even held a fly-in community open house in April to coincide with the annual National Fly-in held in Lakeland. The company offered discount fuel for pilots and airplane rides to the community at large. “We are really getting out in the community,” Newman said, “We’ve been going to the restaurants saying we want to help promote you. We want to encourage people to come in and out of our airport and let them know that we are sending business their way.”

Photo by SCOTT HOLSTEIN


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I’ve had the pleasure to meet a lot of interesting people in my journalism career, from presidents to actors to movers and shakers in politics and business to regular folks just trying to do a good job or battling to overcome adversity. In short, being a journalist is anything but boring. Since I became editor of 850 in September of 2008, I’ve met an endless string of dynamic men and women in our region who are working hard to promote their businesses, their cities, their counties, Northwest Florida as a whole. One of my most treasured “finds” — in what I had at first considered an unlikely locale — has been Art Kimbrough of Jackson County, a Renaissance Man with deep roots in Northwest Florida who left the region for corporate work and then returned. “I spent my life as a young man aspiring to go to the big city and become somebody,”

he said when we featured him in the February/March 2011 issue of 850. “But I realized I was running away from a real treasure.” Hired on as the president and CEO of the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce, one of his top jobs was to convince the world that Northwest Florida’s growing Jackson County is a darned good place for families to live and work — and a great place to do business. And the county could not have had a more enthusiastic cheerleader. The

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proof can be found in the pages of 850, where we have written story after story of business successes in Marianna and Jackson County. Now, at the age of 65, he’s decided to retire from his Chamber job. What will he miss most? No surprise answer from the affable and sociable Kimbrough — the people. “A Chamber CEO sits at the intersection of business, community and government. From that vantage point, you have a firsthand view of what is going on in each. That gives you the ability … to jump in quickly and shape the outcome of events,” he explains. “It’s just plain fun!” A Chamber of Commerce equivalent of the Energizer Bunny, Kimbrough has not let any grass grow under his feet. His proudest accomplishments? Doubling the Chamber’s membership; creating the First Friday Power Breakfast program; growing the annual Chamber banquet into a major source of income; increasing corporate support; establishing political connections with state and legislative leaders (“Seeing them take action based on what they learned from us is even more satisfying,” says Kimbrough); and building media relationships. When I wanted to know more about Jackson County, Kimbrough brought community leaders together for a meeting where I learned about a myriad of success stories in the county. Now Kimbrough heads into a new phase of his life after buying out his partners and investors in The Overstreet Company, a regional owner/operator of funeral homes and cemeteries. His flagship location is Abbey Funeral Home and Tallahassee Memory Gardens on North Monroe in Tallahassee. His goal: Grow from four to 20 locations across the Southeast over the next decade. It’s a clear sign Kimbrough doesn’t intend to slow down his pace in the coming years. (What do you expect from a man who got up at 4 a.m. on his first day of retirement to pay bills and make breakfast for his wife?) “I love the game of business and don’t plan to give it up in retirement, whatever that is!” he says. “I’m retiring from the Chamber, not retiring from business or life.” And, hopefully, he’ll keep playing his trombone while he’s at it.

LINDA KLEINDIENST, EDITOR lkleindienst@rowlandpublishing.com

Photo by kay Meyer, Photo by scott holstein (inset)

The Last Word


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At UWF, We Do Business the Right Way—Person to Person

One of the most beneficial lessons I have learned from my mentor is how to analyze opportunities and reach an optimal decision. It is very important to have the skills to decipher which choice will give you the greatest return.—Kristin Doby

Pictured Left to Right: Mentor Bentina Terry, Vice President, External Affairs and Corporate Services, Gulf Power with mentee Kristin Doby, Marketing/Logistics student, UWF Emerald Coast SGA President.

The UWF College of Business is pleased to offer a mentor program that provides Pensacola and Emerald Coast students the opportunity to learn directly from area business leaders. The Executive Mentor Program seeks to shape today's students into tomorrow's leaders, equipping graduates with exceptional professionalism, critical thinking and networking skills.

UWF.EDU/EMERALDCOAST

850 Business Magazine | june – july 2013 | 1170 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd., Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547 | 850.863.6565

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2013 June-July Issue of 850 Business Magazine