16 sites submitted to Gulf Power for certification

Press release: Sixteen potential sites for new industries and commerce parks have been submitted for Gulf Power Company’s new site certification program by cities, counties and private developers.

The electric utility launched the program in early April to help communities prepare locations for business expansions and to entice new industries to Northwest Florida.

“The response has been great,” said John Hutchinson, Gulf Power Director of Public Affairs and Economic Development. “We were expecting 7 to 10 sites, but we have 16 from six different counties across Northwest Florida.”

Through the program — the first-of-its-kind in Florida — a professional site consultant firm retained by Gulf Power will evaluate the sites, make recommendations for preparing a site and then certify that the site is ready to be occupied. The firm, McCallum Sweeney Consulting, is a nationally recognized expert in site preparation and they also help companies looking for expansion or relocation sites.

The 16 sites submitted for the program include five from Santa Rosa County, three each from Jackson and Walton counties, two sites each from Bay and Escambia counties and one in Okaloosa County.

“Having certified sites makes us more competitive for new business projects,” Hutchinson said. “We have a critical need in Northwest Florida for sites prepared for business. Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and other states have certified sites to show prospects. And we’re well on our way of having our first sites in place in the foreseeable future.”

Next steps for the program include a complete evaluation of the sites by McCallum Sweeney. The firm will provide each site with a list of improvements necessary to become certified. Recommended site improvements may include things like acquiring necessary permits, drainage and grading, transportation infrastructure or environmental assessments. Each site will have one year to complete the list of improvements.

Once the sites complete their checklist, they will notify McCallum Sweeney to have them re-evaluate the site and assess whether or not it can be certified.

Hutchinson said large companies today compete in a global market and want to move quickly when they are ready to expand. Having sites with a stamp of approval from a reputable site consultant means Northwest Florida can meet the short timeframes with quality sites that businesses are looking for.

“Gulf Power’s ultimate goal with this program is to help communities think long range about economic development and job creation,” Hutchinson said. “We want communities to be in a continuous cycle of identifying and preparing potential sites and commerce parks for new business. That’s a key element of our future competitiveness.”