PANAMA CITY — The Bay County Economic Development Alliance (EDA) has launched an online tool to help make Bay County ’s offerings more visible to the rest of the world.
During the EDA’s monthly investors’ meeting Wednesday, the board was introduced to a new database system that provides detailed information about the available economic development sites and commercial buildings in the area, coupled with interactive demographic data.
“It thinks like a site selector thinks in finding a community and then looking for the properties,” said Stevie Fields, a national account manager at GIS Planning, who demonstrated the new tool. “Ninety-five percent of site selectors right now start their initial search online.”
Each site page features an interactive map feature and detailed property report, along with meticulous data on the area’s labor force, demographics, consumer spending, wages, nearby businesses and housing market. The user also can choose to see data anywhere from a zero to 60 mile radius or a zero to 60 minute drive from the site’s location.
The database also features a live feed of available commercial properties from the Panama City Multiple Listing Service.
EDA Director Neal Wade said the database will be an invaluable tool for the agency because site selectors base their decisions on numbers. Wade said there are only about 125 to 150 major site consultants in the U.S. and the tool will aid in the area’s visibility.
“What we’re hoping is, they’re sitting in an office in Chicago and they’re going through this database and they’re going to be able to find something that fits the project they’re working,” Wade said. “We wouldn’t have even known they’re looking, but they’re looking at our data.”
In addition to access from the Bay EDA website, www.bayeda.com,Bay County ’s site information will be featured on similar databases from the state economic development organization EnterpriseFlorida and Florida Power and Light, the state’s largest electric utility provider.
“The properties you see here that meet Enterprise Florida ’s criteria will be found on two other locations in the state,” Fields said. “Each property has three opportunities to be found.”
Currently, 84 Bay County sites are listed in Enterprise Florida ’s database of 1,100 sites.
“We’re hoping Enterprise Florida and the project managers are going to use this tool more to help put Northwest Florida in the mix where we haven’t seen as much activity,” Wade said. “We’re hoping technology is going to help get us in the game more than it has in the past.”
In other business, Wade provided an update on the agency’s economic development projects.
One project, he said, will be considered by the Bay County Commission on June 3 and would bring in 30 new jobs at 200 percent of the average wage for the area.
The EDA also is continuing conversations with aerospace manufacturers overseas.
This weekend, four representatives from the Northwest Florida region will travel to Germany for the Berlin Air Show to follow up on an economic development mission in December in which partners from across the region visited the Airbus headquarters in Hamburg .
Wade also was excited to announce a lead about a new project that he learned about that morning from Enterprise Florida . He said it might be the best project the agency has ever added to its project list.
The international aerospace project would bring about 200 jobs to the area. The company supplies parts for both Airbus and Boeing.
“That’s the kind of activity we like to see,” Wade said.