Gulf Power also recently has expanded efforts to diversify its power sources by moving to wind and solar energy.

When growing companies, particularly those in the aviation sector, start looking for a new home, Gulf Power wants the Emerald Coast to be at the top of their list.

To make that happen, the company launched its Florida First Sites program in 2013. Three years later, it has nine fully certified industrial sites from Milton to Marianna, spanning five counties. Gulf Power teamed with economic development officials across the region to vet sites that would be considered highly competitive locations.

“We’re on the verge of some announcements,” Gulf Power CEO and President Stan Connally Jr. said. “We’ve got some fish close to the bait. We’ve just got to … get them landed.”

Bob Sikes Air Park in Crestview is Okaloosa County’s one certified site.
Santa Rosa County has three sites: Vic’s of Navarre on State Road 87; Northwest Florida Industrial Park on Interstate 10; and Jeff Ates Road Industrial Park in Milton.

Walton County’s certified site is at DeFuniak Springs Municipal Airport.
Connally said he believes efforts to attract more manufacturing companies to the area will deliver a strong payoff in the long run.

He said Gulf Power is doing its part with a $100 million modernization of its power grid — the largest in the company’s history.

“It’s got more smart technology out on that grid than we’ve ever had,” said Connally, who noted that it’s equipped with “self-healing” circuits.

Gulf Power also recently has expanded efforts to diversify its power sources by moving to wind and solar energy.

Although the most optimal location for solar projects is the Southwest United States, the company sees potential in Northwest Florida.

Gulf Power is placing a large-scale solar project at three military installations — Eglin Air Force Base and the Navy’s Saufley Field in Pensacola and Holley Field in Navarre.

The Eglin project, which is slated to be online in mid-2017, is expected to provide roughly 30 megawatts of renewable energy. The Saufley Field project will provide 50 megawatts and Holley Field will provide 40 megawatts.

Connally said the projects are proof that Gulf Power is committed to investing in the region’s economic health.

“This is where our business was born … and we’re not going anywhere,” he said. “We’re here for the long haul.”