Pensacola's 2015 a big year in business


  • December 28, 2015
  • /   Carlton Proctor
  • /   economy

Construction continues at the Navy Federal Credit Union site in Beulah Thursday, August 27, 2015. (Michael Spooneybarger/ Studer Community Institute)

In terms of economic development, job creation and community vitality, 2015 certainly is a pivotal years in Pensacola's modern history.

And there is little argument over this year's defining economic event: It's Navy Federal Credit Union's commitment to move forward with its $840 million two-phase expansion of its sprawling 308-acre Beulah campus.

"The Navy Federal expansion is at the very top of the list of 2015 events that are shaping the future of the Pensacola community's economy," says Scott Luth, CEO of FloridaWest, the lead economic development alliance for the Pensacola community.

Phase 1 of Navy Federal's expansion got under way in earnest earlier this year, with the construction of two huge buildings totaling 400,000 square feet of office space at a cost of $245 million.

{{business_name}}Construction continues at the Navy Federal Credit Union site in Beulah Thursday, August 27, 2015. (Michael Spooneybarger/ Studer Community Institute)

Construction continues at the Navy Federal Credit Union site in Beulah Thursday, August 27, 2015. (Michael Spooneybarger/ Studer Community Institute)

Both buildings, expected to be ready for occupancy in June 2016, will house an additional 2,000 employees, bringing the total for Navy Federal’s campus to over 5,000.

Phase 2 is a massive $594 million project that will see the construction of two, 6-story buildings with combined floor space of 1 million square feet, enough room for an additional 5,000 work stations.

A groundbreaking for Phase 2 Ground is expected in October or November of 2016, said Kim Aderholdt, Navy Federal's project manager for both Phase 1 and 2.

"The goal is for us to occupy both Phase 2 buildings by the fourth quarter of 2018," Aderholdt said.

When built out, Navy Federal will have invested more than $1 billion in its Beulah campus, and will employ some 10,000 workers.

Downtown’s renaissance

While the Navy Federal project is by far the most expensive and will result in the most jobs created, 2015 also was highlighted by major investments in downtown Pensacola.

Other major downtown projects that began in 2015 include:

— The $7.5 million sale last spring of the Brent and Blount building property to One Palafox Place, LLC.

{{business_name}}The Blount Building is now under new ownership. One Palafox Place LLC, led by Bobby Switzer, has purchased the Pensacola landmark.

The Blount Building is now under new ownership. One Palafox Place LLC, led by Bobby Switzer, has purchased the Pensacola landmark.

Headed by local investor Bobby Switzer, One Palafox Place's plans call for a complete renovation of the century-old Brent Building's upper floors, now office space, into residential units.

The seven-story Blount Building will be first to undergo a makeover of its façade. Several office buildings facing Garden St., will also be given face lifts.

Switzer is working with urban planner Chuck Tessier to guide the development and renovation of both buildings.

— The razing of the old Pensacola News Journal building at 101 E. Romana St., to make way for a $50 million, 260-unit apartment and retail building developed by Daily Convo Inc., owned by Quint and Rishy Studer. The Studers purchased the 5.85 acre site in 2013 for $3.4 million. Plans call for construction to begin in early 2016.

{{business_name}}Demolition of the former Pensacola News Journal on South Romana Street has begun to make way for a Studer Development apartment and retail complex in Pensacola, Fl. Wednesday, May 20, 2015. (Michael Spooneybarger/ Pensacola Today)

Demolition of the former Pensacola News Journal on South Romana Street has begun to make way for a Studer Development apartment and retail complex in Pensacola, Fl. Wednesday, May 20, 2015. (Michael Spooneybarger/ Pensacola Today)

— Accompanying the Studers' apartment project is the current construction of a new, $15 million YMCA on a one-acre parcel within the 5.85-acre PNJ property. Along with a $5 million cash pledge, the Studers donated the parcel to the YMCA. The Studers' pledge was accompanied by several other large monetary gifts from The Bear Foundation, Teri Levin and the Switzer Family.

{{business_name}}The YMCA of Northwest Florida breaks ground during a ceremony for the $15 million facility to be built in downtown Pensacola Thursday, August 13, 2015. (Michael Spooneybarger/ Studer Community Institute

The YMCA of Northwest Florida breaks ground during a ceremony for the $15 million facility to be built in downtown Pensacola Thursday, August 13, 2015. (Michael Spooneybarger/ Studer Community Institute

The proposed YMCA facility, which is expected to be completed in late 2016, will house athletic, educational and health and wellness programs, is expected to get under construction by late fall, will be.

— Construction got under way in February for a 30,400 square foot expansion of the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition's Alcaniz Street headquarters.

{{business_name}}IHMC construction1

The $7.3 million building, expected to be ready for occupancy by March 2016, will more than double IHMC's current work space, and is expected to help with recruitment and retention of its top employees, said Ken Ford, the institute’s founder and director.

— Beck Partners' completed and moved into One51 Main, a 24,000 square foot, three-story office/condominium just weeks away from completion at a site within the Community Maritime Park.

{{business_name}}One51 Main, the development that will house Beck Property Co., retail and condos, at the Community Maritime Park is nearing completion as of Aug. 14, 2015. Photo credit: Shannon Nickinson

One51 Main, the development that will house Beck Property Co., retail and condos, at the Community Maritime Park is nearing completion as of Aug. 14, 2015. Photo credit: Shannon Nickinson

Beck Partners' President Justin Beck said the building features commercial offices on two of the three floors facing Main St. At the rear of the building, on the top two floors, four condos have been built facing Pensacola Bay.

— A Tennessee firm announced plans to build a 100-room Holiday Inn Express on Main Street. Plans call for completion of the hotel building and occupancy to take place in late 2016, or early 2017.

The Bluffs, workforce development

This year saw significant progress in efforts to enhance workforce development and industrial site assets.

This fall FloridaWest announced plans to develop The Bluffs, a proposed, four-parcel, 1,750-acre industrial park site near Cantonment.

{{business_name}}Live Oak Bluff is one of four linked industrial development sites that FloridaWest hopes to develop to accommodate manufacturing and industrial companies. Photo credit: FloridaWest

Live Oak Bluff is one of four linked industrial development sites that FloridaWest hopes to develop to accommodate manufacturing and industrial companies. Photo credit: FloridaWest

The Bluffs is projected to host up to 60 individual industrial sites and make room for some 5,000 new jobs, Luth said.

The project is a collaboration among the University of West Florida, Emerald Coast Utilities Authority, Ascend Performance Materials and Gulf Power.

FloridaWest also is working on a plan to development a large site in Santa Rosa County as a replacement for a 600-acre Navy landing and training field, called OLF 8,  in the Beulah community adjacent to Navy Federal's campus.

Plans call for that Beulah site to be developed into a state-of-the-art commerce park.

"We've always said that asset development is a big challenge for us," Luth said. "To move forward on The Bluffs, and the OLF 8 site in Beulah are major steps."

Cybersecurity, aviation sectors key

The past year also has been defined by substantive efforts to enhance the community's position in the field of cybersecurity.

"I think 2015 was the year when we began setting the stage for economic development in the field of cybersecurity," Luth said.

Luth predicts Pensacola's Corry Station and its Center for Information Dominance will see a lot of work as the result of a $1 billion contract awarded to Raytheon by the Department of Homeland Security.

To meet that growing demand for cybersecurity workers, both the University of West Florida and Pensacola State College have launched training programs in the field.

{{business_name}}ST Aerospace lease coming to council

Luth says Pensacola is establishing itself as a budding aerospace hotspot as a result of a contract with VT Aerospace to build a $38 million aircraft maintenance and overhaul facility at Pensacola International Airport.

The Singapore-based company is working on the engineering and design specifications for the large hangar facility that is expected to get under way by the first half of 2016.

Supporting entrepreneurs

The Pensacola community also is establishing a favorable climate for entrepreneurship.

FloridaWest and Pensacola State College are collaborating to support the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, founded in 2008 and located in the heart of downtown Pensacola.

The Studers gave a $1 million donation to UWF to boost the development of the UWF Center for Entrepreneurship, a community-centered entity, aligned with the university’s college of business to make business development part of the fiber of Pensacola.

{{business_name}}EntreCon Day 1-097

2015 also saw the successful launch of EntreCon, a two-day conference for entrepreneurs hosted by the Studer Community Institute and UWF at the Rex Theater.

EntreCon featured 45 speakers from all ages and stages of the life cycle of an entrepreneur to share wisdom, give advice and help would-be business owners get the tools they need to make the leap.

Some 225 people attended the event this year. EntreCon 2016 is already set for Nov. 3-4.

"I think that's the top three things in our economy that I see as real growth opportunities: Entrepreneurship, cybersecurity and aviation," Luth said.

Setbacks

The past year also had a few setbacks, the most prominent of which was a halt in March in construction of the $50 million DeepFlex manufacturing facility at the Port of Pensacola.

{{business_name}}Construction as it was underway in November at the DeepFlex Manufacturing facility at the Port of Pensacola. Michael Spooneybarger/ Pensacola Today

Construction as it was underway in November at the DeepFlex Manufacturing facility at the Port of Pensacola. Michael Spooneybarger/ Pensacola Today

DeepFlex blamed the halt on the sharp, sustained drop in worldwide oil prices. DeepFlex manufactures flexible, submersible pipe to connect offshore drilling sites to mainland refineries and storage site.

Port Director Amy Miller said the DeepFlex building was about 90 percent complete when construction stopped.

"Because DeepFlex is capitalizing its corporate growth through private equity investment, current market conditions require that DeepFlex restructure their financing," Miller said.

The contract the port has with DeepFlex gives the company until June 1, 2016, to complete the project.