CRESTVIEW—The city of Crestview heard updates about economic potential during Monday’s City Council meeting.
The Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County presented its quarterly report to city officials and Executive Director Nathan Sparks applauded Crestview officials for what he believed to be significant efforts at bolstering the city’s economy.
“Crestview is a good city, aspiring to be great,” Sparks said. He opened his presentation by expressing disagreement with Larry Harris and Mason-Dixon Polling Research, who gave a dismal report on the city’s economic future earlier this year.
Sparks insisted the city “has a lot of potential” and that it’s “heading in the right direction,” despite the need for some improvements.
The EDC is a non-profit organization that facilitates growth, retention and expansion of select target industries in Okaloosa County. These industries include manufacturing, aerospace and those that “move the needle” or offer high-paying, skilled jobs, according to Sparks.
There are 24 projects the EDC is actively working on to bring jobs and industry to Crestview, Sparks said. However, he couldn’t disclose what each of those projects was due to confidentiality agreements. The projects could include companies that are committed to moving to Crestview or ones considering the area among a pool of possibilities.
Four of these projects include an expansion of Okaloosa County operations, according to Sparks. The furthering of local businesses is the EDC’s first priority, he added. Sixteen of the projects were “locally generated” as opposed to ones stemming from regional or state partners.
Although the EDC doesn’t focus on retail or restaurant development, Councilman Doug Faircloth asked for Sparks’ insight on how these investors select a city for expansion. Companies look for per capita income levels, the number of people who shop in the city and the success levels of other businesses in the area, Sparks said.
Faircloth asked if consumers play a role in a company's decision to move to an area by dictating if they spend their money at local establishments. Those decisions are a portion of the equation, Sparks responded.
“How well [local businesses] do factors into other future decisions,” Sparks said.
He suggested the city be responsive and use comprehensive data sets to help lure companies to the area.
This was supported by data presented by Sparks that showed the top three demographics businesses were looking at in Crestview were consumer spending, wages and housing. This information was compiled using web traffic data on the website www.okaloosasites.com, which details available office, industrial and retail space in Okaloosa County.
Despite claims of success, Crestview was the least researched community, behind the EDC’s four other partner cities, according to the same data. Detailed reports on the website were requested 17 times for both Valparaiso and Destin, 13 times for Fort Walton Beach, 10 times for Niceville and eight times for Crestview. There were 25 general county report requests.
Councilman J.B. Whitten requested a summary of how certain data was collected concerning average commute times but no further questioning regarding research or findings were asked.
The council heavily scrutinized other presentations of economic and industry data from Retail Strategies and Mason-Dixon Polling and Research.