This issue features an article by Nathan Sparks, EDC Executive Director, recapping the decisions of the Florida Legislature and how it impacts economic development.
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Okaloosa County, Florida – October 21, 2013 — Today, Governor Rick Scott along with Enterprise Florida, the Office of Economic Development & Engagement, and the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County announced that Bit-Wizards Information Technology Solutions, Inc., based in Fort Walton Beach, is preparing for a multi-year expansion that will result in 20 new jobs in software development, account management and advertising and a $1 million capital investment.
Bit-Wizards is an innovative technology company that provides professional software development, software integration, web design, e-commerce, graphic design, and information technology consulting. The company will enhance and move into a 15,000 square-foot building at the end of the year.
Governor Scott said, “Having Bit-Wizards expand in Okaloosa County is great news for Florida families. Florida is becoming the best state in the nation to do business and with our economic turnaround, we are seeing direct results. We have created nearly 370,000 private-sector jobs in the last two years and our unemployment rate is again below the national average, dropping last month to 7 percent. We know IT’S WORKING in Florida.”
Before selecting Fort Walton Beach for the headquarters expansion, Bit-Wizards considered Austin, Texas. Florida’s business-friendly environment, support and superb quality of life helped secure this expansion. Additionally, property tax exemptions was of significant importance in Bit-Wizards’ decision to expand in Okaloosa County.
“The availability of class A office space and recruits in Austin, Texas made it an attractive option for our expansion, but the IRREF grant allowed us to offset the costs of having office space renovated here in Florida as well as accounting for the increased recruiting costs and we were able to keep our core team together in the business friendly environment here in Florida. The IRREF Grant was essential in the expansion of our office and staff here in Florida,” said Louis Erickson, Chief Operations Officer of Bit-Wizards Information Technology Solutions, Inc.
The company received a $255,498 grant from the Industry Recruitment, Retention & Expansion Fund (IRREF) Grant Program, which is administered by the University of West Florida. The IRREF Grant Program was created as a result of S.B. 2156, authored by Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville). The Oil Spill Recovery Act was an important component of S.B. 2156. The Act allots $10 million per year for three years to eight Northwest Florida counties for the purposes of research and development, commercialization of research, economic diversification and job creation.
Senator Gaetz said the Bit-Wizards expansion in Okaloosa County is “exactly the kind of economic development initiative contemplated by the Oil Spill Recovery Act – quality jobs paying good salaries in a diversified industry.”
Florida's IT strengths include diverse sectors such as digital media, modeling, simulation & training, photonics/optics and mobile technologies. Some 25,000 information technology companies employ nearly 245,000 people in Florida.
“We are excited for the expansion of Bit-Wizards in Okaloosa County,” said Secretary of Commerce and president & CEO of Enterprise Florida, Gray Swoope. “Florida is fifth in the nation in high-tech employment and ranks at the top for employment in many of the IT divisions. This expansion by Bit-Wizards demonstrates Florida’s ability to retain and grow leading IT companies. We look forward to seeing the company’s continued success.”
This project was made possible through strong partnerships between Enterprise Florida, the University of West Florida, the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County, Gulf Power, Cox Communications, the City of Fort Walton Beach and the Department of Economic Opportunity.
“We are excited to see one of our local entrepreneur companies expand and create new jobs in information technology. Growth of the information technology sector goes right in line with our county’s industry diversification efforts,” said Don Amunds, Chairman of the Okaloosa Board of County Commissioners.
“Bit-Wizards is precisely the type of high-growth, technology-driven company that economic developers love to assist. The company could have chosen to undertake this project in any number of communities. However, thanks to value-added incentives like the IRREF Grant Program and Okaloosa County’s voter-approved ad valorem tax exemption program, they chose the City of Fort Walton Beach and Okaloosa County,” said Nathan Sparks, Executive Director of the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County. Community partners such as Gulf Power, Cox Communications and the City of Fort Walton Beach provided additional support for this important project. The site is also located in the City of Fort Walton Beach Hollywood Brownfield Area.
“Getting Bit-Wizards to move into the City of Fort Walton Beach is a testament to the new business friendly environment of the City and the partnership with the EDC as we were able to offer an incentive package related to utilities as part of the relocation efforts," said Mike Anderson, Mayor of the City of Fort Walton Beach.
“Bit-Wizard’s expansion shows that Florida is a great choice for the technology businesses looking to grow,” said Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Jesse Panuccio. “The policies and initiatives of this administration are enabling new businesses to invest in our state’s talented workforce.”
Bit-Wizards Information Technology Solutions, Inc. provides custom software solutions. Bit-Wizards was founded in 2000 by Vince Mayfield and Louis Erickson. Their vision of creating a company where innovation and creativity could flourish while adhering to proven engineering methods has helped Bit-Wizards become a leading IT company in the southeastern United States. Their client list includes everything from Fortune 2000 Companies such as ExxonMobil, Motorola and General Dynamics to churches, health care, legal, manufacturing and non-profits.
The Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County, Florida is a non-profit, public-private partnership serving Okaloosa County as its primary economic development organization committed to continual growth and diversification through existing industry retention and expansion, workforce development and expansion of key industry clusters.
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