But the airport, Northwest Florida Beaches International, is also noteworthy because it is perhaps more of a real estate project than an effort to address a pressing transportation problem. Backed by a major Florida landowner, it is part of a plan to create “a new national and international destination,” as one investor presentation proclaims, in a relatively sleepy region of beaches, barrier islands and wetlands.
“Silicon Valley at one point was out in the middle of nowhere,” said Britt Greene, president and chief executive of the St. Joe Company, the Florida developer that donated the land for the new airport and is the driving force behind the project. “We think we can do the same.”
St. Joe, once primarily a timber and paper company, has shifted to development and real estate, and owns hundreds of thousands of acres of land in northwest Florida. The airport property, northwest of Panama City, occupies just a fraction of the company’s 75,000-acre West Bay sector plan, which envisions 27,000 residential units, 490 hotel rooms, 2 marinas and 37 million square feet of commercial space that would bring tourists and entrepreneurs to the panhandle.
Starting May 23, Southwest will operate two daily nonstop flights to Baltimore, Houston, Nashville and Orlando. Delta now flies to Panama City from Atlanta and Memphis, relying on regional partners to operate the flights. “Our job, and our challenge, is to build a market — a market that heretofore has not existed,” said Bob Montgomery, vice president for properties at Southwest. He said the routes were chosen based on research that residents in those markets have second homes near Panama City, which they would visit more often if they could take affordable flights rather than drive.
The Baltimore route would link military personnel and contractors in the Washington area with installations near Panama City, like Eglin Air Force Base, which fits St. Joe’s strategy to attract aerospace companies to the Panhandle, more from this source...........
Cost of construction $318 million.
$0 local tax dollars used
Located at 6300 West Bay Parkway, Panama City Beach, FL 32409
4,000 total acres
10,000 ft. runway
120,000 sq. ft Terminal
1,400 acres for commercial/industrial development
State of the art TSA baggage claim system
•Southwest Airlines Announces Fares & Flights
•Search Criteria: Northwest (Dec 16, 2009 article).
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