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Push for Aerospace businesses in Northwest Florida
CRESTVIEW - With an Airbus plant under construction in mobile, there's a push to get related businesses to come to Northwest Florida. Five counties, from Bay to Escambia, have joined forces in the Gulf Coast Aerospace Coalition.
Okaloosa leaders believe Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview could be a prime location.
Laura Hussey says, "This is the runway at Bob Sikes Airport in Crestview. It's eight-thousand feet long, you can land any plane in the world here"
Several aerospace companies are already here...including l-3, BAE systems, and Qwest Airparts. They draw on a large, skilled labor pool from local military bases.
Just outside the airport, Sammy Haskell sells eggs to make ends meet, and hopes more big companies will move in.
Haskell says, "We need more industry brought in here, to bring more money...to where maybe my kids can find a good job, and everybody else's kids round this neighborhood."
Over the last ten years, Okaloosa County has invested seventy million dollars to make Bob Sikes an aerospace magnet.
The location, 15 minutes from 1-10, makes it a logical choice for companies who will supply Airbus in Mobile.
Airports Director Sunil Harman says the county is planning a ten million dollar project to improve roads from the airport to the highway.
Harman says, "So we're looking at a facility that's 80 million dollars and ready to go. I don't know if there are other airports that are as well prepared as Bob Sikes Airport is."
There are two large sites at the airport that already have permits ready to go...they just need tenants.
One business manager says Crestview is ready for the new opportunities.
Frank Susko of Anything Pawn and Auction says, "We were advertising for a position, we probably had one hundred-plus applications, and there are people here who want to work."
Laura Hussey says, "While Airbus in Mobile is top of mind, companies at Bob Sikes Airport would be well positioned to do business with Boeing in Charleston, with Gulfstream in Savannah, or with Embraer in Jacksonville."