CRESTVIEW — Okaloosa County Economic Development Council Executive Director Nathan Sparks says the county seat is "a strong partner” for business development.
Sparks says the city already has what he calls "the four P's of economic development."
•People: Sparks praises area school STEM and CHOICE programs for preparing students for technical jobs.
"Those are the types of things that resonate" with businesses seeking to relocate, he says. "Fifteen years ago, it was all about incentives. Now, more and more, it's the people."
•Product: Infrastructure, including "shovel-ready" sites, buildings that can support technological businesses and multiple transportation modes are available in Crestview, Sparks says.
"We do have product, and certainly I would like to see us have more product," he says. "You have an opportunity to capitalize on those assets."
•Partnerships: Cooperation from business and civic leaders is strong in Crestview.
"I find partners at every turn and assistance at every turn," Sparks says.
•Political will, which goes hand in hand with partnerships, Sparks says, praising the alignment of area politicians who share business leaders' vision for economic development.
"If you don't have your politicians and community leaders bought into your vision, you're not going to be successful," Sparks says.
Sounding a familiar refrain, Sparks, speaking Sept. 11 to the Crestview Area Chamber of Commerce's Government Issues committee, said Okaloosa County needs to expand its economic base beyond the "two legs of the stool" represented by the military and the hospitality industry.
He enumerated several Crestview assets that set the town and surrounding area apart from other communities, including its "picturesque downtown" that can attract entrepreneurs.
Other attributes include expansive land assets, the city's ready access to all modes of transportation, a business-friendly community, trained workforce and good quality of life.
Additionally, the Florida A&M University pharmacy school and the possibility of a Florida International University physician assistant program coming to town offer "the basis for a great medical sciences cluster here."
Finally, Sparks said, the EDC seeks ways to tap into another valuable local resource.
"We have hundreds of fully, technically trained personnel exiting our military community every year," he said. "It is truly an asset that we do not fully harness."
Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.