© 2023 | WUWF Public Media
11000 University Parkway
Pensacola, FL 32514
850 474-2787
NPR for Florida's Great Northwest
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Lawmakers Asked To Help Make Whiting Field Aviation A Reality

U.S. Navy

Hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of jobs could be created through construction of Whiting Field Aviation Park. That’s what Santa Rosa County officials are telling the area’s legislative delegation.

County Commission Chairman Don Salter Monday hosted a tour of the county-owned site: 269 acres adjacent to NAS Whiting Field, in search of $8 million from the state to move the project forward. The funds likely would be delivered in two, $4 million increments.

“We’re asking for that to help with the infrastructure,” Salter said. “They seem to be very committed to it, they seem to think it can be done this year with Gov. Rick Scott and his commitment to ‘jobs, jobs, jobs.’ And this has the potential to produce a lot of jobs, not just for Santa Rosa County but throughout the region as well.”

Joining Salter on the tour were Reps. Doug Broxson and Mike Hill, along with former Rep. Dave Murzin, who’s now an aide for state Sen. Greg Evers. Joining the group was Capt. Todd Bahlau, Whiting Field Commanding Officer.

Whiting Aviation Park’s features would include monitored airspace, visual flight rule conditions most of the year, and a limited use agreement between the county and Navy targeting 6,000 ft. of runway aboard Whiting Field. Salter personally negotiated that agreement over a six-year period. For now, plans are for development of the aviation park to be carried out in two phases.

“The first phase would get the infrastructure in – roads, and the utilities which would be water, sewer, potential gas and electricity,” said Salter. “Clearing of the front part of the park, and we would also include building a taxi way from the park through the fence at Whiting Field, making connection with their south runway.”

That, updating construction cost estimates and using much of the current infrastructure aboard the base are all part of the Whiting Aviation Park’s master plan. Salter says the additional features offered by the park would provide the types of jobs that are right in Florida’s wheelhouse.

“Aviation-related jobs are Florida’s number one industry,” said Salter. “Because of the quality of the jobs and the high wages that go along with those type of jobs.”

Santa Rosa County, says Commission Chairman Don Salter, has missed a number of chances the last couple of years to lure sizable aviation firms. One of the main reasons has been the lack of large hangars that provide access to runways such as those at Whiting Field. He and his fellow commissioners are hoping this deal can turn that around.