Florida First Sites

Gulf Power's Florida First Sites helps draw major aerospace manufacturer

March, 2017

PANAMA CITY, Florida – Gulf Power's Florida First Sites program pays off again helping to land a major employer in Northwest Florida – GKN Aerospace.

It took a regional effort to attract the international aviation supply manufacturer to Bay County. It will be the first company to locate on The St. Joe Company's VentureCrossings certified site. The VentureCrossings site is one of nine industrial locations that have been certified through Gulf Power's Florida First Sites program. This will be the second out of the nine sites to attract a manufacturing business.

Launched by Gulf Power, Florida First Sites are certified project-ready industrial sites located across Northwest Florida. The program was originally created in 2013 to help communities prepare locations to attract new industries and new jobs to the region.

With this project, GKN Aerospace will make a $50 million capital investment that will create an estimated 170 new highly skilled jobs for the region.

Gulf Power chairman, president and CEO, Stan Connally, expressed how this announcement highlights how long-term investments like the Florida First Sites program can produce big results for the region.

“We started our Florida First Sites program back in 2013 with the hopes of attracting companies just like GKN Aerospace and, ultimately, bringing jobs to the area,” said Connally. “Two out of the nine sites that were certified through the program will now be occupied with thriving businesses offering high–quality jobs and creating a positive ripple effect throughout our local economy.”

The project was originally titled Project Gondola for more than a year while several partners worked together to help land the deal. Among the groups that worked with Bay Economic Development Alliance to attract the global engineering business were Enterprise Florida, Gulf Power, University of West Florida, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Bay County Board of County Commissioners, CareerSource Florida, CareerSource Gulf Coast and Gulf Coast State College.

Becca Hardin, Bay Economic Development Alliance president, was key to helping the project get off the ground.

“Panama City wouldn't have been in the game if it hadn't been for this site previously being certified through Florida First Sites,” said Hardin. “Being able to offer GKN a project–ready site where they could move forward almost immediately was a huge selling point.”

To be designated as a Florida First Site, each site must complete a rigorous certification process developed by McCallum Sweeney, an international site selection firm. This screening process ensures that pre–work has been completed, taking the majority of the risk out of the site selection process, and providing customers with speed to market.

The VentureCrossings location, owned by The St. Joe Company or its subsidiaries, has a total of 190 acres on the property, meaning the site will still have occupancy available after GKN Aerospace moves in.

“Florida First Sites allowed us to take away several of the concerns that businesses have when moving or expanding, and put our site on the map,” said Jorge Gonzalez, The St. Joe Company's president and chief executive officer.

Currently, there are two Florida First Sites industrial parks in Bay County, including the VentureCrossings site and the Panama City Port Authority's Intermodal Distribution Center. Both received site certification through Florida First Sites, paving the way for future economic and industrial development. Other sites are located across Northwest Florida in Crestview, DeFuniak Springs, Milton and Marianna, resulting in nine total sites.

Florida First Sites was designed not only to help bring new businesses to the region, but also to help keep and grow our own local businesses. The first business to occupy a Florida First Site location was Fabbro Marine, a local manufacturer of world–renowned Cape Horn offshore boats.

After 20 years of successful operations in the Santa Rosa Industrial Park, Fabbro Marine had outgrown its current facility. With options to either move operations –and jobs – outside the area, or find a larger property in Santa Rosa County, they found the perfect fit with one of the Florida First Sites.

Last July, they announced they would be relocating to Santa Rosa Industrial Park East and constructing a 78,000-square-foot facility. The project was projected to be a $4 million investment and with plans to hire 10 additional workers within the next three years.


Florida First Sites welcomes Cape Horn

August, 2016

MILTON, Florida – While driving around Santa Rosa County looking for an industrial site suited for relocation and expansion of his business, a local boat manufacturer noticed a large “Florida First Sites” sign and wondered what it was. But once he took a closer look, Chris Fabbro knew he found his new home.

“We had no idea when we came across it what it was, but we decided to look at the property and glad we found it,” said Fabbro, president of Fabbro Marine. “We were looking to expand our growing business. We live here, we love it here, and we intend to stay here.”

Fabbro Marine, a local manufacturer of world-renowned Cape Horn offshore boats, broke ground Wednesday on their new facility at Santa Rosa Industrial Park East, in Milton, just two miles from his current location. The boat maker is the first company to build on the Santa Rosa certified site, and the first to build on one of Gulf Power's Florida First Sites.

Launched by Gulf Power, Florida First Sites are project-ready industrial sites across the region that have been certified. Each site undergoes a screening process developed by McCallum Sweeney Consulting, which offers an objective, third-party analysis to ensure the they are ready for development.

After 20 years of successful operations in the Santa Rosa Industrial Park, Fabbro Marine had outgrown its current facility. With options to either move operations –and jobs –outside the area, or find a larger property in Santa Rosa County, they found the perfect fit with one of the Florida First Sites.

“Once we found out about the program with the help of the county's Economic Development Office, we were all in,” added Fabbro. “We hope by being the first industry to build on one of the certified sites, it will attract new business to do the same.”

Fabbro Marine will relocate to the Santa Rosa Industrial Park East on 20 acres, which includes 10 additional acres for future expansion. Construction of the 78,000-square-foot facility – a combined investment of $4 million – will begin soon with completion expected in January 2017. The company, currently employing 30 technicians with wages of 115 percent of the local area, expects to hire 10 additional workers within the next three years.

Stan Connally, president and CEO of Gulf Power, said the community is excited to welcome Fabbro Marine to its new home, and hopes the boat manufacturer will be able to show other businesses the advantages of doing business in northwest Florida.

“Florida First Sites has allowed northwest Florida to be a more competitive player in site selection decisions,” said Connally. “The occupation of this first site by Fabbro Marine will hopefully put this area on the map and attract more out-of-state business. Today, we're not only celebrating new jobs and investment in Santa Rosa County, but also the first success story of this site certification program.”

Currently, there are three industrial parks in Santa Rosa County to receive site certification through Florida First Sites, paving the way for future economic and industrial development. They join additional sites in Crestview, Defuniak Springs, Panama City and Marianna, resulting in nine sites across northwest Florida.

“Each Florida First Site has undergone a rigorous screening process to ensure it is ready for development and all pre-work has been completed,” Shannon Ogletree, director of the county's economic development office. “This takes the majority of the risk out of the site-selection process. We are pleased to keep Cape Horn boats in Santa Rosa County as the ‘anchor’ in our industrial park and excited about their expansion.”