Bergosh: OLF 8 A Win-Win For Escambia Residents

June 12, 2018

by Jeff Bergosh, chairman, Escambia County Commission

This December, the 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 Dollars 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 BCC 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 cyber-security, 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.

9-Mile road will be 4-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-9-Mile Road intersection, Mobile Hwy 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 9-Mile road) to bring restaurant 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 NFCU 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 OLF8… 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!

Jeff Bergosh
Chairman, Escambia Board of County Commissioners


31 Responses to “Bergosh: OLF 8 A Win-Win For Escambia Residents”

  1. David Lamb on June 14th, 2018 10:20 pm

    Sorry but that is exactly my “bellyache ” with OLF8. A value of 17.8 million while everyone tried to make Langley Bell deal sound like the “win-win for 4H. 4H coffers should have been in the 10 million range. I have said all along that the kids took one for the “gipper ” on that deal and Navy Federal , very importantly needed< got a very lucrative deal. I foresaw this happening years ago and watched it unfold as expected!
    I have an Aggie classmate that I visit with. He bought and sold land and houses in Escambia and we both said that the Langley Bell Center was a steal and was a goat rope
    Thanks for proving my point!

  2. Jeff Bergosh on June 14th, 2018 6:27 am

    David Lamb: The County has spent roughly $17.3 Million thus far to acquire OLF 8 (via purchase and build-out of OLF X in Santa Rosa County to swap with the Navy.) The most recent appraisal from over two years ago estimates the value of OLF 8 at $17.8 Million. Jacqueline Rogers: Mid-County Commerce park Phase one is sold out with the exception of one 3-acre parcel. I did not say it was built-out yet, and I don’t consider this a smashing success, however it is not a strikeout either, by any means. It is a solid “single” to stick with a baseball analogy. The tech park, yes, I’ll call that a ground-out. But Heritage Oaks (6000 jobs supported today) Elyson Field (3,600 jobs supported today) and Marcus Pointe (1300 jobs supported today) have been solid home runs. And believe me, if you are one of the nearly 11,000 employees clocking a paycheck at one of our commerce parks, you probably are glad the county had the vision, commitment, and leadership to bring these projects to fruition. And if there was such a nefarious and unethical scoring of this project more than two years ago(which I do not believe)–where was the uproar at that time, where was the protest? Why is this just now being brought up? Seems a bit fishy to me. But back to what is truly important about government. It ain’t perfect. Will everything we touch turn to gold? Of course not, we’re not midas. But economic development is important work that we must continue to conduct, in my opinion. And I am positive, upbeat, and bullish on the future of this county!

  3. David Lamb on June 13th, 2018 10:08 pm

    Can someone tell me how much has been spent on the Santa Rosa land improvements and purchase to date, What was the cost per acre for how many acres?
    How much has been spent on OLF8 to date and what is the value of that land per acre?

  4. Northend on June 13th, 2018 8:25 pm

    Looking forward to the new commerce park in Beulah.

  5. Jacqueline on June 13th, 2018 3:44 pm

    Here is a video that I took today of the Central Commerce Park, north of the paper mill. As you can see, it is not even close to be adequately utilized.
    This was not a successful economic development project.
    Someone, of course, thought it would be and, hopefully, it will be filled in the future.
    But holding it up as a success is quite the stretch.
    Meanwhile, the infrastructure ages and what has the return been to the county?

  6. Wilykyote on June 13th, 2018 12:05 pm

    Jeff Bergosh: There’s been several well informed posters on this thread and
    I’m not seeing/thinking they are against your considerations just
    to be a Mr or Mrs. NO ! I’m thinking most want added jobs,
    shopping convenience, good schools, safety, good housing
    availability, and well thought out and planned ROADS that are
    more than just adequate for today’s needs. The Beulah/I-10 exit
    is a must and I don’t think you even mentioned it. I’d rather not
    read what you’ve done in the past…..but what/where we’re going
    today/tomorrow ! It seems to me Milestone worked out well and
    of course NFCU… looks to be booming along 9 mile rd.
    buts it’s also from the Bay and west towards the Alabama line.
    Appreciate the hard work you guys put in but the opposing side
    should not be put in time-out….after all, they work & live here too.

  7. Theresa Blackwell on June 13th, 2018 11:33 am

    It has been the dream of a few developers to create a high-end commerce park on OLF 8 for 20 years or more. All that lovely land sitting vacant.They got the deal started and think that entitles them to directing the project – but this will be public land. Times change, and a commerce park out in Beulah never really made sense (as you can see from the traffic problems we have already). Once Navy Federal’s campus for 10,000 was built, a large commerce park next door made even less sense. That time has passed. To proceed with the old plan will just sacrifice the quality of living even more for Beulah residents besieged by new cul-de-sac neighborhoods sprouting in the middle of every block.

  8. David Lamb on June 13th, 2018 10:28 am

    OLF8 has been a dirty little secret for many years. There are a group of elite (they think that they know best) chomping at their bit to get on the money band wagon.
    When many of us suggested that OLF8 be used for Navy Federal and save the Langley Bell Center, they rebelled and said “it could never happen”. Why not? Because they were already scheming and frothing over the money to develop it into something more lucrative and were already planning back then. Now that 4 H got a poor deal that they tried to push as a great deal , they are on their way to doing what they intended to do all along,,, ie … get richer,. This OLF8 deal has politics all over it!

  9. Jeff Bergosh on June 13th, 2018 6:47 am

    There will always be conspiracy theorists among us that believe the fix is in–I don’t buy that. I take A;an McMillan at his word and I believe his explanation about learning more about the project and indicating that on his score. But some people will find a conspiracy behind every disagreement, and that is sad. That’s what the other side is espousing because they lost the last presidential election. They are still trying to figure that out and they think it was Russia. Those same tin-foil hat wearers believe in Bigfoot and UFO’s….Back to Escambia County and Economic Development and what is truly important, though: I am bullish on the future, and I believe we have done a good job with our commerce parks. Not perfect, but a good job. Let’s put it in Baseball terms for you…If you are the manager, would you, or would you not let this batter keep coming to the plate if his last 5 at bats were the following: Grand Slam Home Run (Heritage Oaks), Home Run (Marcus Point), Home Run (Elyson Field), Single (Phase one of Mid-County nearly sold out) and ground-out (tech park)? Would you bench that batter? Look: there are no guarantees, but if you are not out beating the bush trying to create opportunities and bring better jobs, then you are not doing your job so far as I’m concerned. That’s why in 2013 on the School Board I voted to align some of our vocational programs to increase aerospace technologies (ahead of the then-planned VT MAE project), and as a Couty Commissioner I voted to front the $8 Million from the county to help the City finish the hangar–and why last Friday I was there on the stage thanking everyone in attendance for the leadership displayed to bring that project to fruition (and 400 more good jobs for Escambia County). It takes, vision, leadership, and focus to do this work and there are no guarantees. To answer one poster below–yes, I have personally been to every park. and to answer Bob C–yes we have received approval from Restore for several environmental remediation and stormwater projects. I don’t have the exact dollar figure but I’ll get it.

  10. Alan on June 13th, 2018 5:22 am

    “9-Mile road will be 4-lanes next year, an interchange at Buelah road is progressing”

    In other words, 9 mile road might be complete in 18 months, the end of 2019. Looking at the pace of construction on numerous FDOT projects around Pensacola, don’t hold you breath.

    And the last I had heard, an I-10 interchange at Beulah Road was not likely to happen anytime soon. The progress being mentioned is probably a study costing 100’s of thousands of dollars for information one could guess at with an internet connection and google maps. Approval to build, permitting, and construction is 2025 at the earliest.

    Why road infrastructure seems to be an afterthought or take 5-10 years to study,
    permit, and build, I have no idea. Why don’t we try and put it in place this time BEFORE anything is built on OLF-8 that will increase traffic by one car. Somehow I doubt that happens as the cart always seems to precede the horse.

    Finally, I think Ellison Field was a great idea. What I don’t like is there is still a lot of undeveloped land held by owners who want to build and then lease, once the leasee is found. There needs to be a timeline for development by whoever buys the land in these types of projects or it should revert back to the county at what was paid for it. Remaining undeveloped for 20+ years employs no one.

  11. Jacqueline on June 13th, 2018 1:32 am

    Comm. Bergosh said: “The Central Commerce Park-phase 1- nearly sold out (only one small 3-acre parcel remains) ”

    “Sold out”, as in, it is being ‘landbanked’ for years (speculated on.)
    Have you actually driven through there? Or try Google Earth.
    I know there are some plans in Development Review for a couple more companies to locate there but it is hardly the “Jobs, Jobs” Jobs” that it was hyped up to be by the past commissioners; very few operating businesses there at the moment, mostly vacant land.
    Somebody got the government contracts to develop that site at taxpayer expense and there it has sat all these years, with aging infrastructure, underutilized.

    There will be a new industrial park off Becks Lake Rd/Muscogee Rd. called The Bluffs that the State has already heavily invested in.
    Escambia County has indicated that it will also develop the Midtown Commerce Park , former Superfund site now cleaned up, off of Palafox, near Brent Lane.

    In the southern part of the Mid West Sector Plan (15,000+ acres on the west side of Highway 29, north of the Interstate, south of Barrineau Park RD.) there is already an area dedicated for a business/commerce park and that area is very close to District 1 and Beulah.

    Why do we propose all these competing uses and why is there no coordinated plan for the entire county so that we don’t keep doing things that do not work?

    Please have a Town Hall meeting specifically about this issue with all commissioners there and hear from the people that live there.
    Include the plans for the Navy OLF8 field in any proposed master plan of Beulah and hire professional planners to craft the plan like Perdido Key successfully did for their Master Plan. Beulah deserves it just as much!

    Let the public see the studies that show that a commerce park in that location is the highest and best use of the land.

    Many things have changed since this commerce park idea was originally proposed by an unidentified committee of developers and, if it was a good idea at one point, it might not necessarily be a good idea now.
    Beulah is blossoming rapidly without adequate planning or provision for the things that this community needs.

    We know that the RESTORE Committee Vice Chair, Mr. McMillan, doubled his scoring (from 40 to 80) on the OLF8 project right before the last meeting, after many years of meetings. He seemed very reluctant to explain the huge difference but this suddenly made this project viable despite the large amount of negative feedback it received from the public. And now he is running for office, heavily supported by the chief proponents of the commerce park idea.

    The development of the field in Santa Rosa County intended to swap for OLF8 is way off the projected budget, leaving citizens to wonder how many of the assumptions about this project are also way off.

    A quick check of the current campaign finance reports might better explain why the hard sell for a commerce park.
    And added to the donations, both personal and from the multiple businesses of the development community, there sits a Political Committee (“Escambia Citizens for Better Government”) funded by some of the same developers, at over a $100,000, ready to further influence which commissioners will be elected.
    (Hint: similar contributors who funded Comm. Bergosh’s campaign and PAC.)

    It is becoming all too clear as this commissioner dismisses anyone that disagrees with him as a ‘naysayer’ and ‘peanut gallery’ on his blog.
    It’s not too late to have open dialogue and listen to what the community really wants and needs. The development of the OLF8 field will also affect District 5 residents, especially those located in the Sector Plan boundaries.

    Growth is here, no turning back. But it is how we adapt and plan for that growth that will determine the success of the community going forward.

  12. Dorrian on June 13th, 2018 12:25 am

    So it keeps getting thrown out there that the Restore Act committee put this as #1 economic development project. It wasn’t though. It wasn’t until the final hour when Alex McMillian changed the amount of points he gave to the project. When asked why he doubled his points, he told the others members he didn’t have to explain himself. Him doubling his points brought this project from #11 to #1 economic development. It was at #37 overall. Not to mention out of ALL the projects brought to the table of the Restore Act Committee this was the ONLY ONE that had more negative comments than positive. More cons than pros. So what is so significant about McMillian changing his points. You have to go back to when OLF8 first was brought to the Countys attention. Make no mistake there was never a collaboration on the BOCCs part 10+ years ago to go after this piece of property. With the vast amount of land and the upcoming growth for Beulah, developer Jim Cronley saw a way to cash in on it. He, along with Admiral Robert Kelly, approached a lumber company out of Birmingham or Huntsville AL (forgive me bc I don’t have my notes right in front of me) to purchase a similar piece of land near Whiting field in SRC. With this land so close to the helicopter base (who is using OLF8 in Escambia county for training) Cronley, Kelly and two past BOCC members felt it was the best way to obtain Olf8 for Escambia. There idea was to build OLFX in SRC to be what OLF8 is so that they could than approach the Navy about a possible land swap. So the lumber company bought the land and approached BOCC asking for the swap to happen. It’s been a long time coming for these BOCC members and developers like Cronley. Now back to what this all has to do with Alex Mcmillian and his change of points. When seeing the project not reaching where they wanted it to be, Mcmillian changed his point system. What choice did he have??? He’s running for District 2 and has already amassed quite a bit of campaign financing from none other than Cronley and subsidiary companies. Cronley and his partners are making sure to finance anyones campaign that is running against BOCC members that are not 100% behind a high tech commerce park on OLF8.

  13. Sandy on June 12th, 2018 11:11 pm

    Almost 25 years ago, we built in a quiet area in Pensacola…Beulah. We loved the fact there was no big business here but close enough to get to town quickly. So we built our dream home. But now, thanks to Navy Federal and what is going to happen to the airfield across from Bell Ridge I don’t feel that I can stay here anymore. It is more Industrial or commercial.

  14. Miriam Blanche on June 12th, 2018 9:46 pm

    They are ruining Beulah piece by piece so maybe this will finish it off. That way the traffic can be utterly unbearable. I would not live there now no matter if they were giving away a house. Horrible on 9 mile already and now they are building a Sacred Heart to clog it up some more. Must have the worst engineers in the world in Esc Co. Gonna 2 land and the comment above is correct…. 3 lanes at least per side just to make traffic flow. Ugh.

  15. Sid on June 12th, 2018 9:26 pm

    Yes and there will be a chicken in every pot.

  16. Stumpknocker on June 12th, 2018 7:39 pm

    Not that this is a bad idea, can’t say because I’m sure there’s many small details none of us know. What I would like to see is a real vocational school that can provide knowledge and skills to anyone including high school students that are still in high school making the transition into the work place. I heard Adam Putnam say on tv the other night college is not for everyone, he is correct. I heard those same words in 1976 while in elementary school as well as the man predicting that from Panama City to Pensacola on Hwy 98 would be connected by business and condo, homes by the year 2000,and he was correct. College graduates have went up in numbers more then what we need while skilled tradesman have declined and have been lost.

  17. M in bratt on June 12th, 2018 7:29 pm

    If rampant growth is so good, why does it cost the rest of us so much money?

  18. Charlie Dillard on June 12th, 2018 3:05 pm

    Wait for the roads to handle the cars. Then build or just let Navy Federal buy it all.

  19. Angelique on June 12th, 2018 1:38 pm

    With an industry like that, our children as students have a new and excellent reason to AIM HIGH! Let’s encourage them, and the schools. Thank you for improving our region. I will always love Pensacola.

  20. Mike Honcho on June 12th, 2018 1:18 pm

    Yes tech jobs
    Speak for yourself michelle. Yes there are skilled professional workers in this little peace of heaven we live in. It would be good for the community but I hope it doesn’t turn out to be another bad deal like Willy and WD did the last time.

    Poor Willy

  21. Wilykyote on June 12th, 2018 1:08 pm

    1 st thing is get verifiable garantee that on/off ramps to Interstate 10 on
    Beulah (99) rd and Interstate 10 before further money is spent. That on/off
    access is vital for the area notwithstanding this added almost section of land
    which is almost a mile square . This western most area is gonna explode
    in housing and business development and probably very quickly . Can invision
    a middle School and High School within a few years . The anticipated expansion
    north of this area is well known and the on/off ramp (interstate) is vital to the
    citizens and Businesses around this area !

  22. Michelle Henderson on June 12th, 2018 12:44 pm

    High tech manufacturing jobs!? Has this commissioner lost his mind? The residents of this county are the poorest and most uneducated due to a FAILING school system. The residents here are NOT going to fill those jobs. Commissioner Bergosh has forgotten about the residents he serves in his own county by trying to bring high tech advanced manufacturing firms here. These “jobs” are not jobs at all as the high tech advanced manufacturing is quickly being replaced by automation. Failing to realize this known fact is a FAILURE by the commissioner. FAIL.

  23. SOUTHERNER on June 12th, 2018 11:05 am

    By the way, I do realize that the article did state that “we must continue to seek new high-tech, advanced manufacturing….”. More big government.

  24. SOUTHERNER on June 12th, 2018 10:56 am

    This a pro-socialism article.The last sentence seems to indicate an anti-manufacturer attitude toward the use of this property. Escambia County might benefit greatly from businesses that actually produce products(as the paper mill has done for years).

  25. Bob C. on June 12th, 2018 10:55 am

    Mr. Bergosh – because we know you read this Great Informative site:

    Mr. Bergosh, of the heaps upon piles of “BP Money” how much of that has Actually been Approved for Escambia County and How much has really been Received to fund projects?
    Seems to me there is a lot of Millions of US $$$$ being talked about before the funds are available.
    Not being critical, just asking for a real honest answer the average guy can understand. Thank You.

  26. Mr bean on June 12th, 2018 10:05 am

    I wonder if Bergosh has ever been to any of these “successful” commerce parks he speaks of. Heritage oaks, Marcus Pointe and Ellyson might be successful, yes. But the Tech Park has been vacant for over 7 years now. How many times have we heard that a company will be “coming soon” to the tech park. And he’s obviously never taken a drive through the central commerce park in Cantonment. That place is a ghost town. We don’t need another government subsidized commerce park to sit vacant at the cost of the escambia county taxpayers.

  27. GMH on June 12th, 2018 9:20 am

    4 laneing of 9 mile will prove to be woefully inadequate. Should have gone to 6. The old saying, if you build it, it will come, will make this road obsolete very quickly.

  28. Klondike Kid on June 12th, 2018 8:42 am

    Maybe they can skip all the preliminaries & just go ahead & give Navy Federal the OLF 8 property. Might as well finish the job of ruining the quality of life in that part of the county. Anything for a buck ….

  29. Me... on June 12th, 2018 7:27 am

    Wow, this sounds awesome! Big Vision! More Employment!
    Thanks for all the info, Bergosh!

  30. Beulah Girl on June 12th, 2018 7:09 am

    I wish Beulah would’ve been left alone. The quietness will be forever gone. Now the crime will indeed be increased. Others properties will be bought just so the county can use it. The elders out here who have worked hard for years for their property just to be bought piece by piece or even as a whole. The Mobile Hwy and Beulah Rd intersection, it’s not so much the drivers but the angles of the roads that could be straightened out a bit making it easier for the drivers to see. The main problem is if you’re on Beulah Rd headed North. Extremely hard to look both ways. I know Navy Federal has brought what it has to Pensacola but it’s in a terrible spot. Traffic lights are so misplaced. Navy Federal would’ve been better somewhere else. As far as the elementary school, there’s already 2.

  31. anne 1of2 on June 12th, 2018 6:57 am

    Housing has to be #1 on their list with a super easy transit system to use. Wouldn’t it be great if people didn’t have to drive to work in single vehicles? Traffic right now is a nightmare and all of these ideas will cause even more traffic jams to sit in. Look at the people movers in other cities that go around a circle all day and night.

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