PANAMA CITY — Bay Economic Development Alliance Executive Director Neal Wade talked teamwork and promoting Bay County during the agency’s meeting at Florida State University Panama City on Wednesday morning.
He also told the group gathered inside the conference room that he would make a list of the top 10 industries he’d like to lure to the county.
“Aviation and aerospace will be a major target for us,” Wade said. “We don’t have the numbers yet, but we do believe we can be a player in that game.”
There are about 400 aerospace companies that already have a presence in Northwest Florida, Wade said. He went on to say a “major” aerospace company is looking to move to Bay County near the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport. He did not name the company.
Wade also said it was important for the entire county, including the cities, to help lure business to the area. He added he would be working with Panama City Mayor Greg Brudnicki to help fill the 350,000 feet of empty commercial buildings in the downtown. A “start-up” company is looking for a downtown facility, he added.
“Renewable energy is one we seem to be getting some interest in; we are going to play that out and logistics,” Wade said.
Wade, who took over as executive director this month, said a crucial factor in luring business to Bay County is the widening of State 79 to four lanes all the way to Interstate 10. Currently, the highway runs from U.S. 98 to Ebro.
“If you are not on a four-lane, you cut your prospects in half,” Wade said. “A lot of companies are going to say they want four-lane accesses.”
Completing the widening of State 79 will give Bay County “more looks” from larger companies, Wade said.
He also talked about partnering with Port Panama City, the Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport and the Gulf Coast Workforce Center.
During the meeting, executive committee members agreed to develop a subcommittee that would review projects like the one that cost the county about $350,000.
The county fronted Redpine Healthcare Technologies Inc. an estimated $350,000 and lost the money when the company failed. The county is trying to recoup the loss.