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This December, Escambia County will finally acquire the 636-acre, $17.3 million property known as OLF 8.

We must prepare now for the future of this land.

The Restore Act — born out of the devastating 2010 oil spill and providing $70 million to Escambia County over the next 12 years — will soon fund a Master Plan for OLF 8.

The Restore Act Committee (an Escambia citizen’s advisory committee composed of citizens, leaders and experts), after studying over 100 project submissions for 4 years, ranked job creation at OLF 8 their #1 economic development project.

That’s the same plan that the county commission consistently voted to support over the last two years and submitted as a project under the Restore Act last September.

And contrary to what some people proclaim, previous economic development projects have been successful in Escambia County: Heritage Oaks, sold out, incredibly successful. Marcus Pointe, tremendous success (only one small useable lot left). Ellyson Field, beat employment projections early and supports 123 companies and 3600 jobs. Solid success. The Central Commerce Park Phase 1, nearly sold out (only one small 3-acre parcel remains) and downtown’s 9-acre Tech Park will soon house a high-tech center for cybersecurity, advanced manufacturing and robotics in partnership with UWF.

We’re fortunate for our tourist industry jobs, our military jobs, and our robust health-care sector. But to attain further jobs diversification, we must continue to seek new high-tech, advanced manufacturing firms for Escambia County.

Nine Mile Road will be four lanes next year, a new interchange at Beulah Road is progressing, Beulah’s fire station will be renovated and expanded, a library is finally coming to District 1, a grocery store is coming at the Beulah Road & Nine Mile Road intersection, Mobile Highway at Beulah Road is getting a traffic light, and various other road and infrastructure projects are being planned.

Building a new, clean-tech center at OLF 8 would be an additional win for the area.

Imagine an elementary school in the southeast corner (15 acres), a walking/biking trail all the way around this field, and as many as 6-8 parcels (along Nine Mile road) to bring restaurants and other service-related businesses to Beulah (perhaps an urgent care facility and a postal store for two of these spots). We might sell 75 acres to Navy Federal Credit Union for additional jobs they may bring. Maybe we’ll set aside recreation facilities for citizen use. Let’s plan intelligently so everyone can get something from this land — but most importantly, let’s support a “jobs per acre” plan to create diversified employment opportunities going forward.

There’ll be people that HATE this plan; there’ll be pressure to acquiesce to the voices of dissent and opposition.

But just Imagine the devastating loss if leaders 20 years ago, to appease naysayers then, had rejected the Navy Federal Pensacola campus in Beulah?

Some think we should simply leave the field vacant. Others support development that produces no significant revenue or jobs.

Some private sector developers have circulated renderings illustrating a depressing vision for OLF 8 — townhomes, apartments, a hotel, and more low-wage retail development throughout — with another discount store and gas station to boot. They’d love to buy this parcel from the county to quickly double their money off the taxpayers. I’ll never support this.

I’ve owned a home directly across the street from OLF 8 for nearly 15 years. My family, friends, neighbors, constituents, and taxpayers county-wide all have a vested interest in seeing good and beneficial development at OLF 8.

I won’t support smoke stacks, crushing machines, loud noises or foul odors — I will support well-planned, attractive development benefitting ALL of Escambia’s residents!

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