Northwest Florida, or Florida’s panhandle as some may know it, is a vibrant destination for several industry sectors, some which may surprise you. From its western edge in Pensacola stretching eastward along the beautiful emerald coast to Apalachicola and reaching to north beyond Interstate 10 to border Alabama and a part of Georgia, you will find more than 1.1 million Northwest Floridians.
Located in Northwest Florida are six aviation-focused military bases that employ more than 56,000 individuals. These military operations include aviation activities such as unmanned aerial systems, weapons testing, pilot training and aerospace systems research and development.
This specific military influence on the region has fostered an aerospace and defense cluster of nearly 500 companies. Northwest Florida’s aerospace cluster includes aerospace parts manufacturers and aviation maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) firms, as well as innovative research institutions that transfer military aerospace technology to the private sector.
Aviation leaders such as ST Engineering and Leonardo Helicopters have recently started to develop new facilities in Northwest Florida because of the outstanding aviation workforce, welcoming business climate, exceptional quality of life and unprecedented financial resources available.
The untold story is that Northwest Florida’s military installations offer much more than the direct economic impact they bring. They also form a hidden talent supply of exiting military members with aviation experience with skillsets in areas such as avionics, aircraft maintenance and engineering who are ready for a new civilian career within Northwest Florida and have the soft skills of commitment, punctuality and determination that can’t easily be taught. On average, more than 3,000 active duty military personnel separate from these six installations each year and 130,000 veterans call Northwest Florida home. Better yet, Veterans Florida offers major incentive dollars in training for every veteran hired.
Educational institutions in Northwest Florida are continuously enhancing ways to grow the aerospace talent pipeline. Many high schools already offer aviation technology and manufacturing career academies which prepare students for the next level, such as attending any of the region’s three FAA-certified Airframe and Powerplant (A&P) programs.
Project-ready industrial sites, another important component to any competitive location, are abundant in Northwest Florida because of visionary planning for industrial growth well into the future. Many of these sites have direct access to runways up to 10 linear feet and other infrastructure in place to reduce speed-to-market demands for aerospace firms.
The supply chain linkages are also strong within the great Southeast US, offering immediate access to six aerospace and 12 automotive OEM manufacturers as well as 1,700 aerospace parts manufacturers. Companies such as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and BAE Systems are utilizing the region’s aerospace supply chain to their advantage.
Northwest Florida also offers unprecedented financial resources which may assist in offsetting startup costs for companies looking to locate or expand. One example is the $1.5 billion economic development fund, Triumph Gulf Coast, which was established after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The City of Pensacola partnered with ST Engineering to develop an MRO campus, which was made possible by a $66 million grant award for the project from Triumph Gulf Coast.
Northwest Florida has developed a robust aerospace and defense cluster not only supported by an established aviation workforce and a business-driven economic climate, but also because you’ll find peace of mind that you are in a safe and beautiful place to live and raise a family. So, what is stopping you from living, working and playing in Northwest Florida?