MILTON — An as yet unnamed industry that would initially employ approximately 400 people could be coming to Santa Rosa County, the director of the county's Economic Development Office has hinted.
The effort to attract the industry, currently identified only as a wholesale food distributor, has been dubbed Project Runner. Economic development efforts routinely are conducted with some secrecy, as prospective industries want to conceal plans from competitors.
"We've been working on Project Runner for several years," said Santa Rosa County Economic Development Director Shannon Ogletree. "I'm pretty sure there will be (a positive) announcement on this project within a couple of months."
The industry associated with Project Runner is interested in a site at the Northwest Florida Industrial Park @ I-10, immediately off Interstate 10 at Exit 31, U.S. Highway 87.
According to a 2018 report, the county is offering a number of incentives to the distribution company, including a no-cost site at the industrial park and a 10-year property tax exemption. In return, the company, in addition to bringing new jobs to the area, will be making a $40 million capital investment in the county.
In other economic development news, Ogletree said another company is eyeing a spot in the 88-acre Northwest Florida Industrial Park @ I-10. Should that interest become reality, the industrial park is large enough to host that industry and the food distributor, according to Ogletree.
Beyond the Northwest Florida Industrial Park @ I-10, the county also has plans for a second industrial park, the Whiting Aviation Park. The county has purchased 267 acres around Naval Air Station Whiting Field, which trains naval aviators, for the new park.
Santa Rosa County has received $8.5 million from Triumph Gulf Coast for Whiting Aviation Park. According to Santa Rosa County Commissioner Don Salter, there already is some interest in Whiting Park from industries that could come to the area in support of the new Airbus aircraft manufacturing plant in Mobile. Ground was broken for that plant in January, and Salter said other industries are interested in Santa Rosa County, where at least some of the workforce has aeronautical experience.
As a final note, Ogletree said the Economic Development Office is also working on Project Lionheart, an effort that could bring a large Southeastern medical supply firm to Santa Rosa County.