An offer by Navy Federal Credit Union to purchase land next to its campus in Beulah could mean new jobs and a leg up in acquiring BP oil spill money.
Navy Federal is offering $4.2 million for the 100-acre parcel, a part of what was known as Outlying Landing Field, OLF-8, for choppers flying in and out of NAS Whiting Field. Spokesman Bill Pearson says it’s an opportunity to finalize their campus build-out project.
“It would allow us to add some much-needed parking; that will in turn allow us to add another 300 positions to our campus,” said Pearson. “We also would have the opportunity to add some recreational space that would be available to the public when not in use by Navy Federal.”
The 100 acres are part of a total of 636 acres in a land swap between Escambia County and the Navy. Pearson says the deal — Navy to County, then County to Credit Union — is in the final stages of completion.
“[Escambia] County is expected to take ownership of the property later this month; and that’s why we’ve in in negotiations with them for at least six months or so,” Pearson said. “That’s gone very well, they understand the need we have from a business perspective. They like the opportunity to help tie some new job creation to OLF-8 right off the bat.”
One of the bargaining chips from Navy Federal is that promise to create 300 new jobs in relation to developing the property. The current average salary at Navy Federal is $55,000 per year. As for the types of jobs, Pearson says – stay tuned.
“It kind of depends, to be honest with you, in terms of timeline and where we are from a business perspective,” said Pearson. “But we have a very large, dynamic workforce here, and so it would be a variety of different roles I imagine.”
“I believe the taxpayers here in Escambia County will come out very well in this deal because the value of that land is going up, and because that area is growing,” says Escambia County Commissioner Jeff Bergosh – whose District-1 includes OLF-8. But, he was not very happy with the way the deal began before his election to the panel.
“I think we’ll come out OK; it’s called ‘stepping into something and coming out smelling like a rose.’”
At issue, Bergosh contends, was the open-ended price tag involving undeveloped land in Santa Rosa County. That tract was swapped for the Beulah site, after years and millions of dollars trying to develop it to Navy standards for its choppers.
“[The Commission] had this idea they could do it for six million dollars,” said Bergosh. “And then the Navy upped the standards and the requirements and then the price tag started going up and up and up. That’s when I joined the [Commission] and we’re at that point that we’re at the point where we have so much into it, that there was nothing really left to do but to finish the process.”
But it’s not just Navy Federal in the mix. Its 300 jobs would be part of an overall goal of 1,000 new jobs. That would enable the county to secure a $30 million grant of BP oil spill money from Triumph Gulf Coast. That, in turn, would help fund development of the remaining OLF-8 acres into an industrial park.
“We have a pre-application to Triumph Gulf Coast; and the only reason it’s a pre-application is because we could not submit the full application until we actually owned the property,” Bergosh says. “If we can create a minimum of 1,000 jobs that pay more than the mean annual wage in Pensacola, we stand a very good chance of getting up to $30 million.”
Meanwhile, the final phase of construction is nearing an end for Navy Federal’s new expansion, which was begun in late 2015. Spokesman Bill Pearson says that will go far in fulfilling its goal of 10,000 new jobs.
“Buildings 7 and 8 will have space for about 5,000 employees; hopefully. Building 7 [will be completed] by the end of this summer, and then Building 8 would be [finished] by the end of this year, first part of 2020,” said Pearson.
Escambia Commissioner Jeff Bergosh says the deal for OLF-8 could be just one idea among those the county has up its sleeve on how to save tax dollars.
“If we could sell off some of the other frontage acreage on Nine Mile Road, that would further cut our price tag,” said Bergosh. “And then if we get the grant from Triumph, the taxpayers could be fully made whole and put some money back into our Local Option Sales Tax fund, that can help infrastructure throughout the entire county. And if we’re to do that, we’ve got a ‘win-win-win.’”
And another player is joining the game. The Pensacola News Journal reports Hemmer Consulting of Pensacola and 68 Ventures of Spanish Fort, Alabama are offering $18 million for 530 acres of the land, with tentative plans for a “mixed-use” site.