OKALOOSA ISLAND — The military and tourism are the region’s two biggest economic drivers, and the goal of the new chairman of the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County is to preserve them while also diversifying the local economy.
The EDC on Thursday evening held its officer installation banquet for fiscal 2013. Jim Heald, general manager of the defense contractor InDyne Inc., was appointed chairman for the new year.
“(Protecting the local bases and military missions is) going to be a large part of what we do, but it’s not going to be the only part,” Heald said at the banquet. “(We need to) preserve the infrastructure and the companies that we have, but let’s diversify with compatible activities.”
Heald said one of the biggest things he wants to stress this year is that members of the EDC are investing in the community and its future.
He encouraged more people to get involved with the organization, and said it was important for the EDC to receive continued support from the local school system and area colleges.
“It’s so important as you’re looking at the future of Okaloosa County to make sure you have a close tie with the education system,” Heald said. “Industry needs it. We need to be able to train the workforce so that we have the people. They’re the ones that actually make our jobs easy.”
The past year was a busy one for the EDC. The organization assisted in creating 610 news jobs for new and expanding businesses, activated 35 new projects and expanded its business incubator at the W.E. Combs Campus on Lovejoy Road in Fort Walton Beach.
“Nothing gets done without a team effort,” said EDC President Larry Sassano. “We’re able to activate these numbers of projects because we’re working together. We’re going to call on more of our leadership in the future because I feel this economy is really strengthening in Okaloosa County and our surrounding communities.
“We’re going to need your support making sure we’re on the right track at all times,” Sassano added.
David Goetsch, the outgoing chairman, was named a lifetime honorary member of the EDC at the banquet.
“He was one of the original founders of the economic development concept,” Sassano said.
Other appointees for the EDC’s executive committee are vice chairman Dwight Howard of J&P Khamken Industries; treasurer Angela Balent of Warren Averett O’Sullivan Creel; and secretary Ron Moliterno of BancorpSouth.
Contact Daily News Business Editor Dusty Ricketts at 850-315-4448 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DustyRnwfdn.