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Florida First Sites Program Attracts Industry Through Site Readiness

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Gulf Power Company has finished the first of ten "Florida First Sites" as part of the company's initiative to have more industrial sites ready for use.

Venture Crossings in Bay County is owned by The St. Joe Company. It is adjacent to Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, and the site is among nine across the Panhandle that’s being made shovel-ready for business and/or industry.

Jorge Gonzalez, a Senior Vice President at The St. Joe Company, said a lot of work went into readying the property for consideration: proper zoning, service to utilities, and other qualifications.

“Road access; water, sewer, storm water ponds, for example,” said Gonzalez. “We have master plans. If a user looks at a particular lot and they want to build a building, they don’t have to deal with storm water on their site.”

St. Joe poured the funds into developing Venture Crossings. According to Gonzalez, no taxpayer money was involved in the plan to build a commerce park there.

While St. Joe went it along in prepping Venture Crossings, the marketing of that and the other sites in the program will be a team effort among St. Joe, local and state economic development agencies, and Gulf Power Company.  

“I think there are two or three that are very close,” said Gulf Power spokesman Jeff Rogers.
“We feel really good about all nine of those (sites). Once they submit all their information, the site consultants have a lot of other questions. So right now, they’re in the process of submitting more documentation that was requested.”

Gulf Power hired McCallum Sweeney, a nationally recognized site consultant firm, to evaluate the properties and identify improvements to be made. If the site meets all the program requirements, the firm certifies it.

Fourteen sites were initially submitted from public and private landowners when the program was announced last year. The other nine are working toward certification, with most of them expected to be ready around the first of March. And Rogers this could be just the beginning.

“We’re going to look at how this all works out in the end, and hopefully be able to continue this program,” Rogers said.

Those nine remaining sites include one each in Bay, Walton and Okaloosa counties and three each in Jackson and Santa Rosa. For more information on all of the sites, visit FloridaFirstSites.com.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.