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.

For more information on the Florida First Sites certification program and other available certified sites, visit FloridaFirstSites.com.

Related:

GKN Aerospace unveiled as long sought ‘Project Gondola’

Local colleges, stakeholders teamed up to land GKN

KN could spur more job creation