Eight new employers wooed by Santa Rosa

Ogletree

From a 500-employee gun manufacturing plant to a 300-worker distribution center, Santa Rosa County is seeking to attract a diverse list of potential employers to its three industrial parks or other locations.

But Economic Development Director Shannon Ogletree said on Thursday that his efforts are hampered by a lack of financial incentives, starting at the state level.

Pointing out that Gov. Rick Scott’s new economic “Growth Fund” totals $85 million, an amount lauded by many legislators, Ogletree said it’s too small to compete with, for instance, Mississippi, which recently authorized a $275 million incentives package to land a 2,500-employee Continental Tire plant in Jackson.

“By comparison, Florida is at a disadvantage,” Ogletree said while speaking to about 50 people at a meeting of the Gulf Breeze Chamber of Commerce.

Ogletree also revealed details of why a recent prospect declined to bring about 700 call center jobs to an available building that could accommodate them at the Santa Rosa Industrial Park. That building previously was the temporary workplace of about 400 Navy Federal workers whom the company moved to Pensacola last year.

The company that considered putting a call center in the vacant building—which has hundreds of desks among other office equipment—decided it couldn’t find enough workers in the area. Ogletree explained that because the call center projected a “high turnover rate,” the company decided it might need a pool of up to 1,400 prospective employees during the first two years. He said, “They just didn’t believe we had the people.…”

Still, Ogletree said he is currently working with at least eight companies that are likely prospects to expand or relocate to Santa Rosa: “Does it mean they’re coming? No. It means they’re shopping around.”

Read the full article in the Aug. 17 issue of Navarre Press. Subscribe online at navarrepress.com for as little as $38 per year.

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