Two projects ensure growth
In separate announcements, GKN Aerospace and Continental Motors announced
projects for Panama City and Mobile, and underscore the growth of the Gulf Coast
aerospace...

David Tortorano
April 2017

The February announcement was a big win for Bay County: A major aviation supply
company, GKN Aerospace, picked VentureCrossing for a multimillion-dollar
manufacturing center.

Then in March, long-time aerospace tenant Continental Motors announced that after
looking at other sites, it decided to remain at the Mobile Aeroplex in Alabama’s port
city and expand into a new facility.

The two projects represent a combined investment of more than $115 million for the
two companies. In the case of GKN, it will mean 170 brand new, high-paying  jobs,
while the Continental Motors expansion/consolidation project is likely to have no
impact on the employment level. But it does ensure jobs remain in Mobile.

GKN Aerospace
GKN Aerospace will make a $55 million capital investment that will create an
estimated 170 new highly skilled jobs. Work is under way on the 135,000-square-foot
plant at the 1,000-acre VentureCrossings Enterprise Center at West Bay, northwest
of Panama City. The center is owned by the St. Joe Co.

The project was originally titled Project Gondola for more than a year while several
partners worked together to help land the deal. Among the groups that worked with
Bay Economic Development Alliance were Enterprise Florida, Gulf Power, University
of West Florida, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Bay County Board of
County Commissioners, CareerSource Florida, CareerSource Gulf Coast and Gulf
Coast State College, according to the release.

GKN is a global engineering business that designs, manufactures and services
systems and components for original equipment manufacturers. It has more than
58,000 employees in 30 countries and has aerospace, driveline and powder
metallurgy divisions.

Aerospace serves military and commercial customers and has 55 manufacturing
locations in 14 countries, according to the company website.

Sue Barnes of GKN Aerospace North America, said the facility with $55 million in
capital equipment should open in 2018. Recruitment will begin in the coming months,
according to the News Herald of Panama City.

Because of customer contractual requirements, Barnes was unable to talk about
what products will be made, processes used or the customers the company aims to
serve from the Bay County facility, which has room to expand should the need arise.

VentureCrossing is adjacent to Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport, to
the west of Tyndall Air Force Base and east and Eglin Air Force Base. It’s also the
home of Excelis, which opened a 105-square-foot mine defense production facility
here in 2012. Harris Corp., of Melbourne, Fla., acquired Exelis in 2015.

VentureCrossings, with 195 developable acres, is a niche business park for aviation
and logistics distribution companies, Hardin said in a story that appeared in the Jan.
26 News Herald.

Continental
The company that has built small piston and turbine engines for 50 years decided
after looking at other sites to stay put at the Mobile Aeroplex.

The operation, spread out over 11 buildings, will retain one of those buildings but
consolidate all other operations in a new 225,000-square-foot plant. It’s expected to
be fully operational by the end of 2019.

The upgrade is not expected to have an impact on the more than 400 workers in
Mobile or the 30 in Fairhope.

The company and its parent, China’s AVIC International Holding Corp., will spend $30
million preparing the site and $40 million on equipment.

For an in-depth look at Continental Motors, see the December 2014 Gulf Coast
Aerospace Newsletter, page 3.

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First Sites
The GKN Aviation project was a feather in the cap of Gulf Power’s Florida First Site
program.

The program was created to provide Northwest Florida with a list of sites deemed
ready for development. There are nine so far, and two have attracted businesses.

“We started our Florida First Sites program back in 2013 with the hopes of attracting
companies just like GKN Aerospace and, ultimately, bringing jobs to the area,” said
Stan Connally, Gulf Power chairman, president and CEO, in a release.

Each site must complete a process developed by McCallum Sweeney, an
international site selection firm. The screening process ensures that pre-work has
been completed, taking much of the risk out of the site selection process.

“Panama City wouldn’t have been in the game if it hadn’t been for this site previously
being certified through Florida First Sites,” said Becca Hardin, Bay Economic
Development Alliance president. “Being able to offer GKN a project-ready site where
they could move forward almost immediately was a huge selling point.”

The first business to move into a Florida First Site location was Fabbro Marine, a
manufacturer of Cape Horn offshore boats. After 20 years in the Santa Rosa
Industrial Park, it had outgrown its facility. It opted last July to relocate to Santa Rosa
Industrial Park East and build a 78,000-square-foot facility. The project was projected
to be a $4 million investment and with plans to hire 10 additional workers in the next
three years.

There are current three Florida First Sites in Milton in Santa Rosa County; two in
Panama City in Bay County; two in Marianna in Jackson County; and one each in
Crestview, Okaloosa County, and DeFuniak Springs in Walton County.

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