CRESTVIEW, Fla. (WKRG) — Okaloosa County will spend nearly $5 million over the next few years to build a giant infrastructure site for new business and jobs near Crestview.

Shoal River Ranch sits just 7 miles from Crestview on Interstate 10. The ‘giga-site’ is 10,000 acres with space on both the North and South side of the highway.

“There’s no other piece of land like this in Florida that has this much Interstate frontage, so it’s a great win for our area,” said Board of County Commissioners Chairman Mel Ponder.

Ponder said the county will add the infrastructure such as water, sewer and railing systems to make the site enticing for incoming companies. The county expects companies related to aerospace/defense and manufacturing to come into the area.

“It does allow us to diversify our economy a little bit,” said Ponder. “Never get away from military, it’s our #1, obviously, tourism is more on the southern end. But really diversifying in manufacturing, and adding Aerospace and defense I think are great wins.”

The new site could bring in 4,000 new manufacturing jobs alone. The state expects the entire site to bring in more than 11,000 new jobs. The county hopes these jobs can come from Okaloosa County school kids and transition military members.

“When companies start coming to our area in the years ahead, there’s work opportunities, job opportunities,” said Ponder. “Perhaps if I get a certification or maybe some training through high school. or maybe on my need a degree through a university, I can come home and work here in Okaloosa County as opposed to going to some other city.

“Even our transitioning military. They’re all technically skilled and technically trained where you know about 50% give or take the leave to go to another area when they transition. I’d love to keep more from here. But hopefully, for the students coming through K through 12, it’s an opportunity of hope of them having a job when they either finished high school or college or any point in between.”

Ponder said the county already has potential businesses interested in the site. The major infrastructure work will begin in 2023 with the hope to have new construction in the area by 2024.

“The county has taken down some acreage within the footprint, this allows us to actually do the things that we have heard back from companies that are looking at our area that needed to get done,” said Ponder.

The Shoal River Ranch off Interstate 10 is a longtime-coming project for the county. Governor Ron DeSantis presented a $3.2 Million grant Wednesday in Crestview to back the infrastructure development. The county will add $1.7 Million to the funds.

The Job Growth Grant funding is distributed by the Governor’s office. The Florida State House and Senate set aside funds for this account in the legislative session.

To find out more about the county’s economic development plan, click here.


ORIGINAL STORY — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is scheduled to appear in Crestview Wednesday morning. The governor’s office said he will appear with Dane Eagle, secretary of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO).

The press conference is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Central Time at Hub City Smokehouse & Grill.

WKRG News 5 will stream live coverage of the event our Facebook page. We will update this story as we learn more about the governor’s visit to northwest Florida.